Cruise The World



Unless you get seasick easily, there really is no downside to cruising. Cruises are nearly all-inclusive, typically reasonably priced, they are well-organized, and they can be very relaxing. Sometimes we cruise to experience parts of the world that are new to us, such as Eastern European countries, some of which we may choose to visit in the future for an extended stay. Other times, we pick a cruise that has ports of call we’ve visited a few times already, so we can relax and enjoy the cruise itself without feeling an obligation to go ashore.

Exceeds Expectations
Staff Hospitality
Food / Dining (RCCL/NCL)
Regularly exceeds expectations​
Shopping (Very Cruise Specific)
Meets expectations​
Total Cost (Very Reasonable All-Inclusive)
As low as $59 pp per night

Cruise Lines

Cruise Lines Compared - Why it matters

Comparisons matter because every cruise line has things that make them the best choice for your best cruise experience. For some, cost is the deciding factor; for some, the food makes the cruise; for others, the destinations visited are the deciding factor. There are many cruise lines to choose from, but the comparisons below are limited to the cruise lines we have experienced first hand several times.

Before I get started, I’ll share what I know about the things most cruise lines have in common.

  • Casinos – Unless it’s a Disney cruise or the cruise out of Hawaii, chances are the ship you’ll be on will have a casino. This is great news for people who love to gamble, and even better news for people who like to smoke, because if you’re a smoker, one of the few places you will be allowed to smoke is the casino. After all, the house always wins.

  • Reward systems –Most cruises you will find have some kind of reward system to encourage loyalty to their cruise line. Some are better than others (for example, we have a friend who is a wiz at blackjack, and he gets free cruises and other perks from Carnival because he’s been a regular in the casino for so long, so he’s a big Carnival fan), but most all of these reward systems require customers to cruise for a pretty high minimum of times to start getting perks that are pretty good (like a free laundry service during a cruise on a Norwegian cruise if you reach a certain level in their program).

  • Entertainment – There’s a lot of talent out there, and the majority of the entertainment I’ve seen on cruise ships is very good on average. I’ve seen amazing magic shows, musicals, Cirque du Soliel-style acrobatics (and remember, the performers are on a moving cruise ship), and fabulous comedy shows. If you’re all about entertainment, this can be part of your research when you’re looking for a cruise.
  • Cool outdoor stuff – Every time a new or renovated ship is rolled out, it’s outfitted with bigger, better slides, zip lines, rock climbing walls, wave pools for surfing, and other super fun outdoor activities. The cruise companies are always trying to outdo each other on everything, particularly the bells and whistles onboard.

  • Upgrade options – All of the cruise lines have ways you can upgrade your room, so even if you choose a “cheap” cruise (sometimes because you have to because other people in your group are on budgets) you can usually upgrade to a balcony room or at least an outside room so you can have natural light. Many cruise lines also have restaurant upgrade options so people aren’t limited to the inclusive dining room in the evenings. This way you can enjoy a more intimate dining experience for an additional $20 or $30 charge, and the cruise line can make more money.

  • Room service – Just keep in mind that many cruise lines have sneaked this out of the “inclusive” part of your trip. There is often a flat rate fee for ordering room service, or a small “complimentary” section on the menu beside the section that has more exciting food available for a “small charge”.

  • Big cruise ships. And maybe smaller ones – Pretty much any popular cruise line you choose is making their ships bigger and bigger because cruise lines are constantly trying to outship one another. But keep in mind that if you want to be on a really big ship, make sure it’s a recent model. Carnival and NCL and other cruise lines still have some smaller, older ships in service. A lot of times these smaller ships end up getting renovated, so if you don’t want to be on a ship the size of Manhattan, you may be in luck if you book on a ship that has been newly renovated because there will be better room configuration (particularly regarding storage), more streamlined and updated design, and improved amenities. Just be sure to do your research so you end up getting what you expected.

Cruise Lines - Carnival Cruises

Of the cruise lines mentioned in this section, this is the one that is the most budget-friendly, kid-friendly, and, according to us and our friends, the most “fun”. It’s laid back, doesn’t require anyone to dress up for dinner, and the food is less frou frou than some of the more formal cruises. You’ll find a lot of comfort food and fried options at pretty much every buffet, which is good news for a lot of people, and everything is casual. There are a lot of kids, college students, big groups, large families, and people who really want to get their money’s worth at the bacon station at the breakfast buffet. The shows are good, and there are a lot of options regarding activities that have families in mind. Many ships have piano bars and other little fun places to hang out and have fun. You get a decent amount of bang for your buck.

Cruise Lines - Royal Caribbean Cruise Lines

Royal Caribbean is, in our experience, a little more refined than Carnival. The food is a bit fancier, and you’ll find some good vegetarian options and more healthy food selections than we’ve found on Carnival ships. There are plenty of activities on these ships, as there are with Carnival, but you might find a few added attractions such as rock climbing, running tracks, maybe a better fitness center, slightly upgraded rooms, and more restaurant varieties. The entertainment has always been very good (from off-Broadway-style shows to ice dancing/figure skating shows), and the ships themselves – the ones we’ve been on, anyway – have an open central area with shops and restaurants on either side and skylights and park-like areas, and this is one thing I really like about this cruise line. The ambiance is really neat. The price point is higher than Carnival’s, from our experience, but you definitely get what you pay for.

Cruise Lines - Norwegian Cruise Lines

Of the three, this is my favorite cruise line. Some of it may be because I have had perks since I started cruising with David, who is a Platinum member. They do little things like put chocolate-covered strawberries in our room, and we get a bottle of wine, a free laundry service, and other fun perks that we wouldn’t get if we hadn’t cruised with NCL for so many years. Aside from that, though, I prefer this line because it’s a lot like Royal Caribbean (the food is a teeny bit better on Royal Caribbean, in my experience) but mainly because I LOVE the destinations. It’s the only cruise line that cruises in Hawaii, and we’ve done cruises in Alaska, the Mediterranean, and the Baltic Sea, so NCL has enabled us to visit more than a dozen countries in Europe and the Middle East alone. The entertainment is similar to that of Royal Caribbean, except I don’t think NCL has ice shows (though some ships have an ice BAR). The rewards system, like I mentioned above, has some good perks, especially when you get to Platinum level and above.

Cruise Tips

All of your meals are free on board, but most cruise lines now feature premium restaurants for those guests who want a more upscale experience. Many times, we’ve found that time slots at these restaurants get filled quickly, so if we wait until the last minute we may have few options (and we don’t typically want to sit down for dinner at 9:45 pm).

The most popular excursions sold by the cruise line will book up fast. If you didn’t purchase your excursions before you board, make sure to make those reservations early as well (basically make that one of the first things you do when you get onboard). We often book tours with local tour groups at a huge discount from what the ship charges.

Both free and paid shows can can fill up quickly. My advice is to book all the shows you are interested in once you step on the ship (or at least find out which shows require reservations). Visit the customer service deck and ask a staff member for assistance.

One of the main revenue streams on a cruise is selling adult beverages. Though some cruise lines will allow you to bring one 750ml  bottle of wine per person as a carry-on, you are not allowed to bring any other alcoholics beverages with you on board. If you’re allowed to bring a bottle of wine on a ship, do not place it in your main luggage either, as they will inspect the bags with X-ray and remove your stash to be given back to you on the last night of the cruise.

Most cruise lines have started prohibiting guests from bringing bottled water and other bottled beverages onboard. Part of the reason is because people have gotten good at sneaking alcohol into water and juice bottles and finding ways to reseal them to make them look unopened. I suspect that the other part of the reason is so guests who want to drink bottled water will have no choice but to buy it on the cruise at $3 a liter. If you want to be sure, check the fine print of your agreement when you book the cruise, or ask a cruise representative before you leave for your trip so you aren’t caught off guard when you are getting through security at the port.

Most cruise lines have adopted automated tipping that is added to your room charge each day, which can add up to $100 or more per person for a 7-day cruise. With this in mind, you do not need to tip your room steward, the dining staff, or room service. Tipping is also automatically added to all meals and beverages that you purchase. This is , in our experience, considered a “convenience” so guests won’t have to worry about tipping, so if you decide to opt out, go to Guest Services toward the end of your cruise and ask that the automatic tip be removed because you prefer to tip your steward and wait staff in person. You may be required to fill out forms or something else that requires approval before they will remove the charge.

Not all cruise destinations have a dock for cruise ships. In these cases, the ship drops anchor a mile or more from the destination and tender boats (either the ship’s lifeboats or small ferries from shore) are used to get you to and from the shore. If you booked your own excursions (as opposed to booking through the ship), be sure to get the earliest tender the ship will allow. If you are on a ship excursion, they will instruct you on which tender time to use. If you are not on an excursion and you want to avoid long lines, then it is best to wait an hour or so to avoid the mad rush to get on the tenders.

It has been our experience that most cruise destinations will gladly accept US cash for purchases, so there should be no real need to exchange dollars for the local currency. In the rare cases this is not the case – such as European cruise destinations –  you will like be able to pay with credit card (make sure it has a chip). Remember to pay in the local currency when paying with credit card, as your credit card company will make the conversion at no additional cost.

As you can imagine, internet at sea is not cheap and horribly slow at best. Some cruise lines offer unlimited internet for quite an expensive fee. Others allow you to pay per minute, but the internet seems 10x slower than you might normally expect which can be very costly. We often wait and use local free wifi where available when the ship is docked (bars and restaurants often provide free wifi for paying customers). As for phone services, ship calls are excessively expensive, we use our phone company’s international plan when ashore, which often has very good rates in most cities.


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There are many food options both on and off the ship. Careful to drink only bottled water in third world countries and the local water can make some people sick.

Things To Do

Cruise On Board Activities

With today’s cruise options, it is amazing how many activities are to be found aboard the ship. From gambling, to broadway type shows, to countless organized games and activities. Most ships have a mini golf course, jogging track, full fitness facility, and fully equipt spa facilities. Some of the larger cruise have bowling, ice skating, rock climbing, huge water slides, wave riders, highwire obstacle courses, and more.   

Destinations / Excursions - About

Cruises make visiting new destinations super easy. Every day you can literally step into a new country simply by stepping off the ship. The trick is deciding which destinations you want to visit and what to do once you are there. We choose cruises that have the most destinations that we are interested in visiting in a single cruise at the best price. This can take time to research the perfect cruise, as cruise itineraries and pricing can vary from week to week. As far as which destinations are best for you, consider our reviews below on different destinations and excursions to help you make up your mind.

Most cruise ship excursions have these things in common:

  • Excursions are almost always less expensive when booked straight through a tour company. You’ll usually pay more if you book an excursion through the cruise line. But it’s often less convenient to try to book directly with a tour company, so do your research by reading forums and reviews on various excursions at the ship’s ports of call.

  • If you book an excursion through an outside company, and it runs late, the ship may leave without you. There have probably been instances where the ship waited, but as a general rule, the ship only waits for guests who are on an excursion that has been booked through the cruise line. We almost experienced this in Belize, when our excursion booked onshore ran late, and we did experience the ship waiting for us when our excursion in Egypt ran an hour or so late because we’d booked the excursion through the cruise line.

  • Excursion desk agents will probably try to sell you upgrades or more pricey excursion options, so know what you want to do before you end up paying for their suggestions. Again, doing your homework before the cruise will save you money and possible frustration.

  • You don’t have to always do an excursion. Many ports of call can be excursions by themselves. Some cruise lines have their own little private island so guests can go to the little beach and shop and have a few drinks. Other ports have easy access to taxi services where you can go downtown or to a local beach and come back in plenty of time. We’re pros at this. We just do our research about certain ports ahead of time so we know where we want to go and what we want to do in the length of time we have.

  • “Port days” can sometimes be really short. Sometimes you have just 4-6 hours to enjoy a day onshore. Sometimes the ship parks itself and sits there overnight, like it does with the Hawaii cruise, or when we cruised to Alexandria, Egypt and St. Petersburg, Russia. But many ports of call don’t have long stays. Sometimes the ship docks at 7 am, and everyone has to be back on board by 2 pm. So keep the time in mind when you’re booking excursions, particularly if you’re using an outside excursion company.

Destination - Jamaica

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Destination - Cozumel Mexico

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Destination - Grand Cayman

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Destination - Key West, Florida

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Destination - St. Maarten

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Destination - St. Thomas

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Destination - Roatan Honduras

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Destination - Costa Maya Mexico

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Destination - Puerto Rico

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Destination - Crete, Greece

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Destination - Ephesus, Turkey

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Destination - St. Petersburg, Russia

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Destination - Berlin, Germany

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Destination - Tallinn, Estonia

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Destination - Helsinki, Finland

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Destination - Stockholm, Sweden

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Destination - Rome, Italy

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Destination - Athens, Greece

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Destination - Alexandria, Egypt

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Good Eats

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There are many food options both on and off the ship. Careful to drink only bottled water in third world countries and the local water can make some people sick.

Cruises Photo Gallery