• Meghan Bartok

First time cruising: the good, the bad, and the ugly

Updated: Apr 13, 2021

Both my sister and I have wanted to go on a cruise since we were young, but hadn’t managed to make it on one until this past January. I guess we had just always had other travel plans we had prioritized more, but in October we decided it was time, and we booked a five-night Royal Caribbean cruise for the second week of January. As the winter got colder, it was definitely nice to have a warm vacation to look forward to!

We brought along our other halves as a little couples getaway, and only Jill had been on a cruise before about ten years prior, so it would be a totally new experience for the three of us, and we didn’t know what to expect! I decided to write this little post just to provide some insight for other first-time cruisers on what to expect on their getaway!

The Good

  1. We stayed in an inside cabin, which was mostly because it was the cheapest option. However, if I was planning on going on another cruise, I would totally book another inside cabin! It’s a great way to save some money, we didn’t end up spending that much time in the cabin anyway, and it was so dark in there because of the lack of a window that meant we slept SO WELL.

  2. The cabins were also much larger than I thought they were going to be, which was nice! I didn’t feel cramped or claustrophobic at all. There was also so much storage in the wardrobe and dresser, so our stuff didn’t end up tossed all over the room!

  3. I did enjoy being able to check out a couple of different destinations. I think this would be even more true on longer cruises – you can visit four Caribbean islands in one trip, and maybe you like one of them so much that you end up taking another trip just to that destination in the future!

  4. There is something to do almost 24/7, from classes to dining, shows to trivia, there is a lot going on! That being said, not all of it might be up your alley, but it’s a good way to pass some time. We really enjoyed the nightly shows in the theatre – the hypnotist show was definitely the favorite! It also gave us something to do after the sun went down!

The So-So

  1. I was reluctant to put this in the bad section because it really wasn’t bad, but I would have to say the food. We definitely enjoyed our experience in the main dining room, but none of the meals really wowed me. They were good, but nothing stood out to me as a truly excellent meal. The food in the cafe and the main buffet dining room was just okay. I definitely would not put the food as a reason to go on another cruise, but it also wasn’t horrible.

  2. The ship is both too big and not big enough. It’s too big in the sense that if you’re not with your party (and you’re without wifi/data) it’s going to take forever to find each other with no solid plans. When you’re first on the ship it feels huge, then when you’re exploring, you realize it’s really not as big as it seems because half of the decks are only cabins. I like wandering around new cities when I travel, and I felt like that was pretty limited on the ship.

The Bad

  1. When you find a good deal on a cruise, it’s super exciting, because it seems so cheap. A whole vacation for $500? Well, kind of… We knew to expect to pay for drinks and our gratuities onboard but were kind of surprised by the number of activities that had an additional fee. We really wanted to try out yoga and beer tasting, but after the $25 price tag, those activities seemed much less appealing, and we ended up sticking with the free ones.

  2. While I did like being able to see two places, I also felt like our time in port was a bit limited. For example, when we were in Grand Cayman, the ship was there from 7:30 am-3:30 pm, but by the time we left the ship and tendered there, and did the same thing coming back, we were really only on the island from 8 am-2:45 pm. So just be aware, dependent on your own cruise’s times in port, you may only end up with a handful of hours there.

The Ugly

  1. I’m not sure if it was just because this was a smaller ship, but unless you were up on the deck by 8 am, there was little to no chance of getting two loungers in a good spot in the sun-protected from the wind. This stunk for me because most of what I wanted to do was hang out in a lounger, soak up the sun, and read a book. The indoor solarium with the pool was really nice too, but it was also hard to find a table or chair in there anytime between 10 am-5 pm. Lots of people liked to reserve them with towels, despite the fact that there were plenty of signs saying belongings unattended for more than 30 minutes would be removed. This also didn’t seem that heavily enforced…

  2. Building off of that, there were only three hot tubs on board our ship, and again, it was hard to grab a spot in one, as they were almost always packed with big groups of people who were traveling together. We only ended up hanging out in the hot tub for about an hour two of the days we were on board.

I definitely don’t want this to sound too negative, because I really did have a good time on my cruise! I just wanted to provide a realistic view of what the experience is like. It goes along with expectations, and I guess when I pictured cruising, I pictured the good parts, like waking up in a new place every morning and having tons of stuff to do. I didn’t think about things like the packed hot tub and no deck chairs. That being said, I would 100% go on another cruise to see what the experience is like in different parts of the world and on different cruise lines.

I don’t think it would ever become my vacation of choice. I like hanging out on the beach with my toes in the sand or exploring a new city too much to only do that for a couple of hours! I think it's a great way to get a little taste for a bunch of places without having to put too much planning into it. It may not be the trip for everyone, but why not check it out for yourself to see how you like it!


If you liked this post, check out my post here on tips for your first cruise!