Don’t Waste Your Time or Money on These Cruise Ship Letdowns

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Today’s cruise ships are packed with attractions and amenities designed to tempt you into booking and spending more money while onboard.

However, with so many options available, it’s hard to try everything unless you’re on a long cruise with many sea days. So, which attractions aren’t worth your time? Whether due to high costs or lack of excitement, some features simply don’t live up to their hype.

1. Cruise Line Shore Excursions

Whenever you visit a port during your cruise, you have two main choices: explore on your own or join a shore excursion. You can book these excursions directly with the cruise line or opt for a third-party company. 

A cruise concierge assists a couple with their travel plans, providing information and brochures at a cruise terminal. A poster behind her highlights services such as future destinations, expert cruise planning, and bonus credit options, enhancing the vacation experience for travelers.

Booking through the cruise line ensures you’ll return to the ship on time, but it can be quite expensive. The same excursions are often available at a lower price through third-party companies.

You can save money by choosing a trusted third-party company while enjoying the same exciting experiences. Or you can explore on your own terms and save even more.

2. Afternoon Tea

Going to a posh hotel or a cute café for afternoon tea on land is a lovely treat with tasty sandwiches and cakes. On a cruise, though, is it really worth paying extra?

You can often find the same food in other parts of the ship without any extra cost. It may not come on a fancy stand, but does that really matter to you? Sometimes, the quality isn’t even that great.

A beautifully arranged afternoon tea setup on a Marella cruise ship features a three-tiered stand filled with an assortment of savory and sweet treats. The top tier includes delicate pastries and colorful garnishes, the middle tier offers scones with clotted cream and jam, and the bottom tier displays a variety of finger sandwiches and savory bites. The table is elegantly set with teacups, saucers, a teapot, and glasses of a vibrant pink beverage, creating a luxurious and inviting atmosphere for guests.

Instead, head to the ship’s complimentary café or buffet. There, you can choose what you like best – and you can have seconds!

3. Slides

Several cruise ships now have slides that cover multiple decks. An example you may know is the Ultimate Abyss on Royal Caribbean, though MSC and NCL also have some large ones.

The Ultimate Abyss slide entrance on Royal Caribbean's Harmony of the Seas, depicted as a towering angler fish sculpture with shiny scales and a whimsical design, against a clear sky backdrop with the ocean horizon in the distance.

Dry slides might not be as fun as they seem. They can be slow. A good tip is riding them early in the morning when the humidity is higher; you might go faster. However, many people still find them somewhat boring.

Also, watch out for burns! They can be uncomfortable if you slide too fast. Since the rides are free, try them if there’s no queue, but don’t wait in line for them.

The Utopia Playscape on Royal Caribbean's Utopia of the Seas is a vibrant and colorful outdoor play area designed for children. It features a large red and white striped lighthouse with twisting slides, climbing structures, and various play equipment. Children are seen enjoying the swings, slides, and climbing activities, while parents supervise and interact with them. The bright blue and red surfaces create a fun and inviting atmosphere under a clear, sunny sky.

Instead of dry slides, you may find waterslides on cruise ships more thrilling. They can also have queues, yet they often bring more enjoyment.

4. Chef’s Table Dining

Chef’s Tables on cruise ships like those from Royal Caribbean, Carnival, and P&O Cruises are fine dining experiences. They usually feature a multi-course meal with wine or cocktails. The setting is intimate, with only one or two tables.

A night at Chef’s Table is a treat with delicious food and a cosy atmosphere. Yet, the price can be very high. For example, Carnival’s Chef’s Table is $150 per person on some trips. Other venues, like the Empire Supper Club on Royal Caribbean’s Icon of the Seas, cost even more at $200 per person.

The Chef's Table on Carnival Celebration presents an exclusive dining setup with elegantly laid tables, contemporary chairs, and a striking overhead display of suspended glassware, creating an upscale and intimate atmosphere for a gourmet culinary experience.

Instead, think about trying other speciality restaurants on your ship. They often offer a similar quality of food but in a less exclusive setting and at a lower cost. You could enjoy two or three meals elsewhere with the money you save! If you’re craving a multi-course meal, some cruise ships have buffets offering a wide variety of dishes to sample. Save your cash and still enjoy a rich and varied dining experience.

5. Robotic Bar

Royal Caribbean features the Robotic Bar on many of its newer ships. Here, robotic arms mix your drink.

The Robotic Bar on Royal Caribbean's Quantum of the Seas features two robotic arms behind a bar, surrounded by an array of liquor bottles hanging upside down from the ceiling. The robots are programmed to mix and serve drinks to guests, creating a futuristic and innovative bar experience. The setup is illuminated with colorful lights, adding to the high-tech and vibrant ambiance of the venue.

The Robotic Bar is a fun gimmick, but it can get old quickly. You might find it easier to visit a regular bar, and a human bartender might even be faster. If you have the Deluxe Beverage Package, you won’t be wasting money here, just time.

6. Spa Offers

Be cautious if you come across any special spa offers on your cruise. These offers may seem tempting, promising you a peek into available treatments or a discount on one of them.

If you truly want a spa experience on your cruise, it’s best to book a regular treatment. When booking, clearly state that you are only interested in one treatment and will not pay anything extra. This might seem direct, but it avoids uncomfortable situations where staff might try to convince you to buy expensive products by commenting on your skin.

Tips:

  • Set clear boundaries: Inform them upfront about your limits.
  • Stick to your plan: Do not be swayed by upsell tactics.

By being upfront, you’ll have a more relaxing and pleasant spa experience without the pressure to spend more.

The image captures a tranquil scene of a couple enjoying a relaxing massage at the Cloud 9 Spa on a Carnival cruise, with two therapists attending to them. The spa's interior, bathed in soft natural light from the large windows overlooking the ocean, creates a serene atmosphere perfect for unwinding and enjoying the expansive sea views.

7. Butlers

Imagine upgrading to a fancy suite on a cruise ship because it boasts butler service. It sounds posh, doesn’t it? But what does a butler actually do that your usual stateroom attendant doesn’t?

Common Butler Services:

  • Shoe shining
  • Laundry service
  • Packing and unpacking

The truth is, a lot of guests aren’t sure how to make the most of having a butler. On cruise forums, it’s one of the most talked-about topics. You’ve probably wondered, what can you ask a butler to do?

A butler on Cunard's Queen Mary 2 is seen unpacking a luxurious leather suitcase on a neatly made bed. The butler, dressed in a formal uniform, carefully handles the luggage, exemplifying attentive and personalized service. The elegant cabin features plush bedding with a decorative pillow bearing the ship's emblem and a stylish bedside lamp, highlighting the sophisticated ambiance of the suite.

Instead…Consider sticking with a regular stateroom. You’ll have an attendant who takes care of the basics. You can handle your own laundry and packing – it’s not that hard. Plus, a butler isn’t dedicated just to you. On most ships, they look after several suites. They won’t be there every time you call. Cruise lines like Royal Caribbean have a Royal Genie for multiple guests, and NCL’s The Haven butlers also serve many.

8. Cabana Rentals

Cruise lines often have the option to book cabanas or villas on their private islands or resorts in the Bahamas and Caribbean. These islands offer lovely beaches, delicious BBQ meals, and adventurous excursions. However, your time on the island is usually limited, often just around six hours, which might make renting a cabana seem less worthwhile.

For example, Disney’s Castaway Cay cabanas start at £470 ($600) per day, making it a pricey choice compared to the cost of an entire short cruise. While cabanas come with perks like private space, consider if it’s truly necessary. Remember, the ship is docked on the island, so you can always return to your room for some shade or a break.

A serene view from a cabana on Castaway Cay, Disney's private island, showcases a cozy seating area with cushioned lounge chairs and a wooden deck. The cabana is shaded by a canopy and surrounded by lush greenery, with a picturesque sandy beach and clear blue waters in the background. A Disney cruise ship is anchored offshore, completing the idyllic tropical scene.

Instead, save your money by waking up early, heading straight to the island, and snagging a lounger. You will be sailing away in just a few hours and won’t miss much by skipping the cabana!

9. Art Auctions

Cruises often host art auctions, and a surprising number of people attend these events. Many guests might be enticed by the free welcome glass of sparkling wine offered, especially if they haven’t opted for a drinks package. However, these auctions can be somewhat dull and may not offer great value.

Artworks sold at these auctions tend to be overpriced. Usually, you’re not bidding on original works; instead, you’ll receive a print. The art you purchase isn’t given to you on the ship but shipped as a replica from a warehouse on land.

An art auction takes place on a cruise ship, featuring a well-dressed auctioneer presenting a framed piece of artwork displayed on an easel. The audience, seated comfortably, listens attentively as the auctioneer describes the artwork. The room is elegantly decorated with green curtains and soft lighting, creating a refined atmosphere for the event.

When you consider this, you might find it’s better to buy your art elsewhere rather than during your cruise.

Save both your money and time. If you fancy a glass of champagne, buy one outright. And if you’re keen on spending money for fun, consider the casino. At least there, you have a chance to win something of actual value, maybe even some extra cash!

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I'm Hannah and I've been cruising for as long as I can remember.

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