It seems that everybody has an opinion about cabin choices, itineraries, and ship choice. They love cruising and want you to have the best possible experience too. How bad it can really be if you ignore all of those well-intentioned opinions? My crazy travel life has caused me to ignore the most trusted cruise wisdom. I often cruise in the wrong cabin, during the wrong season. Here’s how that’s worked out for me in terms of the cruise myths you are likely to hear.
Myth #1: Always get a cabin in the center of the ship
The thinking is that in rough waters the center of the ship is the pivot point and essentially moves less.
The myth stems from older, small ships that can really rock and roll. Don’t get me wrong, you can sometimes feel the movement on big ships and they do encounter rough seas occasionally. But for the average person, there is no need to skip a cruise if you can’t get a center-of-the-ship cabin. How much time will you really spend in the cabin anyway? If you choose a forward or aft cabin and rough seas cause motion that makes you seasick in the cabin, that’s when you head for a public area in the center. Choose an area where you can see out to use the horizon as a point to maintain your equilibrium.
Personally, I find the worst place on a ship in rough seas is on the upper decks near the bow (the front). Everywhere else is usually comfortable.
Myth # 2: Don’t cruise the Caribbean during hurricane season
The reason behind this is pretty obvious. Images of a wildly pitching cruise ship stranded at sea in a hurricane come to mind.
Except that scenario rarely happens. Some of my very favorite cruises have been in September. Kids are back in school and cruise prices plummet.
The experts at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration would say that it’s a bad month because it is the peak hurricane month, with an average of 2.4 hurricanes occurring each September over the last 162 years.
The key to remember is that ships have plenty of advance warning and are almost always capable of moving out of the way. They change itineraries frequently for bad weather of all kinds.
The real advice isn’t to avoid cruising during hurricane season but to have a relaxed attitude about the possible port or schedule changes, including delayed departure or arrival times.
Myth #3: Cruise on the biggest ship you can find
Everybody loves the newest and biggest cruise ship. There’s more to do, more to explore, and the crowd has more room to spread out.
This one is so busted. The keyword in the paragraph above is “crowd.” What if there wasn’t a crowd to begin with? One look at the relatively small size of the ships sailing for luxury cruise lines like Silversea or Azamara Club Cruises should make you wonder why people love the mega-ships so much.
Luxury lines know that to give people the pampering they crave and a travel experience that is more about the destinations than the onboard activities, you’ve got to go small. My family’s favorite cruise of all time was on board a tiny Celebrity ship named Zenith. The ship is long gone now, replaced by bigger and grander choices, but fond memories of sailing on her are still a frequent topic of conversation in my family.
Myth #4: Book your cruise a year in advance
The concept is that prices start low, then increase as a sailing fills to capacity. And obviously you’d get the best choice of cabins a year in advance.
Book your cruise when you want to book your cruise. Not everyone has the luxury of knowing a year in advance what their schedule is like. I especially hear this myth regarding Alaskan cruises. My mother and her cousin decided last May that they wanted to go on an Alaskan cruise. They sailed four weeks later in a fabulous cabin at an affordable price.
I turned to cruise specialists at Vacations To Go for some rate comparisons. On average, starting prices for Alaskan cruises are about equal between last minute and one year in advance.
Myth #5: Always arrive in port the night before you sail
The goal is to avoid risking travel delays that could cause you to miss your cruise.
I have arrived the night before, and I have been that person scrambling up the gangplank as the all-aboard horn is sounding because the only flight I could get was an afternoon arrival.
I must say that I prefer arriving the night before. The downside is needing to check out of the hotel by 11 am and often not being allowed on the ship until early afternoon. But where the myth really gets busted is in the cost. Add up the cost of a night in a hotel, possibly a rental car if no hotel shuttle is available, and possibly an additional night’s parking if you are driving to the port. If those extras break your cruise budget, then do what you can to arrive early on the day of departure and say bon voyage to the naysayers.
Myth #6: Stick to one cruise line to earn loyalty points
Who doesn’t love a good points program and the status that goes with it?
I’m going to just lay this out there and prepare for the hate mail from cruise line loyalists. Cruise line loyalty programs are nothing more than a sales tool. They come with a few minor perks at the lower levels (mostly BOGO coupons for use onboard), slowly progressing through earlier boarding privileges, lounge access and even reserved seating for premier shows. You aren’t likely to get to the level of suite upgrades and free cruises quickly unless you become a serious cruiser.
The best advice I have is to try a few different cruise lines before you settle into one and to never rule out a good deal going where you want to go, just because it’s not on ‘your’ cruise line.
Melinda Crow has been writing about travel for 30+ years, long before there were “digital nomads” and “influencers.” And while at any given moment, she would rather be on a cruise ship anywhere in the world, she lives in Central Texas (yes, near Waco, and no, she does not know Chip and Joanna Gaines) with her award-winning photographer husband, Gary, 12 peacocks, two horses and one lazy cat. She is the author of Camping Colorado and Camping New Mexico by FalconGuides and blogs at FirstRead.Me and here on Medium.