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Cruising Is Not for Dummies

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How many times have you encountered people who tell you they are going on a cruise, but then you find they don’t have any idea of the name of the ship they are going on, or where it’s going to take them?
Most people I know also know I write about cruising, so when they book a cruise they often talk to me about it, and I get to hear this same story quite a bit. They’ll tell me they’re going on ZYX Cruise Line, and they are going to the Caribbean. The really smart few may know what date they are sailing. It is possible that I only know dummies, but I think it’s a surprisingly common phenomena.
When you encounter it you just know they are going to be unprepared.
When you hear them say… “ My – sister, aunt, uncle, doctor’s receptionist, chiropractor, palaeontologist, masseuse, naturopath, bartender, florist, hooker, my almost best friend’s next door neighbor, took care of the booking for us” – you can expect trouble.

Those of us who are somewhat experienced are easy to spot in these situations; we’re the ones standing there with our mouths agape, tongues laying on our chin, and our eyes bulging from their sockets in disbelief.

It amazes me that some people put more thought into the decision of choosing between a Latte or a Frappe at Starbucks, than they do spending large sums of money on their cruise vacation. A cruise vacation is not an insignificant purchase. Not only are you putting up a reasonably significant amount of hard earned dollars, you’re risking what to most is limited vacation time.

It is particularly befuddling to me because information today is so incredibly easy to access. With a click of a mouse, the cruise information one can access at no cost, on the Internet, makes research an easier task than figuring out how to program a new telephone.

Seemingly a great many people prefer to stick with all the cruise information they garnered from watching reruns of The Love Boat on television.

Perhaps this would seem trivial and unworthy of discussion if it weren’t for the complaints we so often see after the fact! When problems arise, and these people, who were allergic to researching, find the Internet so easily after encountering problems, it does give one pause. It would be fine if they were just venting, or sharing useful information about problems they encountered.

 But so often these post cruise “issues reports“, blame the cruise lines for not informing the passengers regarding things they could have so easily known about if they’d expended any effort to educate themselves prior to purchasing the cruise. For example, when I see people complaining about changes to itineraries it irks me some because that is one of the most oft discussed and explained “issues” on the Internet. And never mind the Internet, if they’d even taken the time to read a cruise line brochure, this information is readily apparent… and not just in the fine print. It’s certainly not that I think the cruise lines always handle these issues well. Their largest blunder is often a lack of communications regarding these occurrences with their passengers.

So, it’s not that there aren’t valid issues that can arise on a cruise. The cruise lines don’t always handle everything properly, and when they don’t we all want to hear about it, tell about it, and hope it enlightens others. It’s when people complain about issues that they so easily could have at least been aware of, and when they want the cruise lines to be responsible for every possible occurrence, that I become less patient (to put it nicely).

It’s truly not that I am unsympathetic to anyone on a cruise vacation who encounters problems which negatively impact their cruise. However, when their choice to cruise with little to no preparation to forewarn themselves of possible happenings or pitfalls is obnoxiously obvious, it cuts my sympathy level exponentially.

It probably irks me so because we see the same sorts of behaviour so much during our everyday lives; people wanting to make someone else responsible for almost everything, while denying any of their own responsibilities. It’s all a part of the finger pointing, litigious society, we’ve become.

As a matter of fact…It’s your fault I even wrote this blog. If you don’t agree, sue me.

 – A View From The Kuki Side of Cruising –





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Comment from Paul Motter
Time September 30, 2008 at 11:14 pm

There are times when someone tries something for the first time and has a bad experience. Depending on how complicated the “product” it is not always their fault. Cruising is a fairly complicated travel “product” in the sense that when you buy a cruise you are buying your entire vacation; lodging, transportation, food and entertainment.

I think what you perceive as someone being a “dummie” is someone complaining about something they didn’t like about how their first cruise turned out. They are usually beginners. What they don’t know going in is that there are so many different types of cruise ships.

Think about it – if you don’t even know the name of a ship you are going to sail upon, how would you know the difference between a Royal Caribbean mega-ship and Cruise West 100 passenger adventure cruise. These are TWO vastly different experiences.

It’s like a farmboy going to his first motion picture show — “It was too loud, the popcorn was too salty, I couldn’t see over this lady’s hat, and i didn’t think it was funny.”

“What movie did you see?”

“I dunno, Gone with the Winds, or sumpin’ I guess.”

The point is – most beginning travelers are looking to experience the destination (the movie), not the vessel. So they need to choose the ship that will deliver what they want most out of the destination. Alaska is a fine cruise, but to make it an “Alaska” experience you can’t just book any cruise and expect it to happen (not on a mainstream line, anyway). You have to dig in and find the right shore tours, get the right price on your cruise (shoulder season), decide what it is exactly you want to see in Alaska, and go from there.

Cruising is as diverse as hotels, from B&Bs to Hiltons. To say you didn’t like staying in “a hotel,” but you don’t know the difference between a B&B and a Hilton is often what you see in beginning cruisers.

So, the enjoyment of cruising comes with knowledge. I just got a reader review from somene who spent $16,000 to take 4 people to Alaska on a large mainstream cruise line.

OK – I would have recommended the shoulder season, a smaller ship, investigating private tours, etc.

This was his first cruise and he was disappointed with “cruising.”. It is easy to see why. But his experience was hardly representative of a typical cruise. There is nothing wrong with a large-ship cruise in Alaska, but not if your goal is to see bears and eat moose. I think he expected Alaska, but he got a CRUISE that happened to be in Alaska. Not a bad thing, just a misperception in expectations.

Comment from RayB
Time September 30, 2008 at 11:28 pm

kuki—What bought this up? Did you just receive a response from someone who fit the bill?

Yes I have to agee so many potencial cruisers don’t know the name of the ship they booked. Oh I hear so often “I don’t know ask the wife”
And do many have not researched their destination. Most all of this information is in one or two places. In the brochure advertizing the cruise or on the internet.

And then so many make their reservation with the cruise line directly. To me this is the worst place to get information. They should always go to a noteable TA. If they don’t and cannot find out then get another TA.

Nuff said.

Comment from Kuki
Time October 1, 2008 at 8:34 am


I agree that the majority of what I talk about in the blog applies to beginning, first time cruisers. Though it’s even more amazing when it comes from (as it does occassionally) people who have cruised before. In those cases it most often occurs when people change cruise lines, and just assume because it’s a cruise, it’s going to be the same experience.

By writing about it, I’m really trying to reach out to prospective cruisers, and novice cruisers to let them know how important it is to the success of their cruise vacation to invest themselves in the process of planning it.

Doing so will save them money, save them aggravation, and most often save them from disappointment.


Comment from Kuki
Time October 1, 2008 at 8:47 am


I agree with you, way too often, speaking to sales representatives of the cruise lines is the worst place to look for information. They’re too often the source of much mis-information.

But even dealing with travel agents, it’s important to find agents who are experienced cruisers themselves, and have studied the experience.


Comment from Paul Motter
Time October 1, 2008 at 11:02 am

I agree – you need independent opinions when choosing a cruise. If you call Carnival, NCL or Royal Caribbean they are naturally going to tell you they have what you are looking for. Selling THEIR product is their job. But a travel agent gets paid no matter what cruise line they recommend.

Plus – there is so much help and information available online. The problem is people getting into something they do not fully understand with very high expectations.

Comment from cutiecat
Time October 1, 2008 at 11:18 am

hey, nice blog. i have cruised with quite a few that had no idea…lucky for them i am quite honest and didn’t rip them out of any money or anything else. but until we got onboard they truly had no idea what ship/what itinerary. blows me away…i know every ship and every itinerary i’ve been on even now!

Comment from Mike M
Time October 3, 2008 at 10:04 am

In regard to people who may not know the name of the ship or every island they are going on; this applies to many people who may not have “lust of ships” that many of cruise addicts have and are not the ones who are responsible for the booking of the cruise. They may know they are sailing on Carnival and going to “the Caribbean”. My wife often falls into this category. She really could care less about the name of the ship, its parent company, size and is more concerned about that she’ll receive decent service, food and have a comfortable room.

I believe that many of us long time cruisers look at cruise rookies with a bit of snobbishness. We usually surround ourselves with other long time cruisers and start to believe that everyone knows at least a portion of what we do. Well, the fact is that the majority of cruisers don’t. Someone in the party should be fairly well informed or the travel agent or cruise line should do their best at informing the guest, AND NOT IN MICROPRINT, about what the realities of cruising are.

I do agree that if someone returns from a cruise and just starts complaining because they had unrealistic expectations well, I blame them, the travel agents and cruise lines for setting those expectations too high. If you look at the advertising put out by the cruise lines the product really isn’t quite the same as they advertise unless you are in a high end suite, pay big money on their excursions, eat at the alternative restaurants and get a table for two (sorry they’re not that common) and expect service beyond your wildest dreams. (Some people’s dreams are pretty wild)

I am not letting people off and I believe that personal responsibility comes first but I do give people a bit more slack when they are not happy with a first cruise.

Take care,

Comment from bahamamomma
Time October 3, 2008 at 11:45 am

To sum up what everyone prior to me has said is ” you make the cruise” – when I went on my first cruise in 2003, I had no clue what to expect. Oh sure, I’d seen the t.v. advertisements, and read some brochures – I knew I couldn’t afford the top dollar cabin or anything like that but I went with no great expectations.

And guess what, I had a wonderful time. I enjoyed my first cruise so much that I booked another for the following year.

After the first cruise, I knew what to expect, what to do and where to go. Now looking forward to my 6th cruise, I can’t say I’m a pro at cruising because this will be the 3rd cruise line that I’m sailing on – I know nothing about the Line but am doing my research. Although I’ve read negative reports regarding the particular ship, I’m going with an open mind and looking forward to having a lot of fun.

This is my vacation and I’ll make it as great as I want or not as great but you can believe me when I say – it’s going to be great – because I know what to expect, and I’m pretty flexible in case the unexpected should happen.

And, every morning that I wake up while on the cruise, I’ve got a great big smile on my face because I know it’s going to be a fun day!

Comment from George Kay
Time October 4, 2008 at 11:49 am

I’ve heard of people complaining that didn’t enjoy their cruise. On asking them , I found that TA didn’t ask them any questions.Selling them the cruise that gets them the most profit. I use a TA , when a customer comes in and whats to go on a cruise she will ask a number of questions about what they do during the year. Then she gives them opions on cruises that will probably suit them.

Comment from Kuki
Time October 5, 2008 at 12:22 pm

George… no doubt about it, a TA can have a great impact on people’s vacations. The good ones are invaluable, as besides selling cruises, they send their clients off at least reasonably informed.


Comment from RichStacy
Time October 9, 2008 at 11:43 am

I agree absolutely with Kuki that it is the easiest thing in the world these days to find out everything you need to know before you make a decision about a cruise.

Before Our first cruise in 1985, it wasn’t so easy. I went to a bookstore and bought a book on cruising and read about various cruise lines and specific ships and destinations. We settled on a Caribbean windjammer cruise, which was marvelous. A few years later, we picked a two week Northern European Capitals cruise, which remains one of our favorites.

But it was hard work selecting those, and computers make it sooooo much easier that there is no comparison.

Frankly, spending a couple of weeks just “lurking” here on the Cruismates site can give a newbie a world of information!

Comment from The Flying Dutchman
Time October 9, 2008 at 1:32 pm

Just this week a member of our IT staff was doing some work on my computer here at work and noticed my desktop wallpaper of a cruise ship. He asked if I was going on a cruise and we got to talking about when and where I sailing, on which line which ship etc. Turns out he had been on three cruises and could not tell me the name of the ships or which cruise lines ….!!!! One of which was last year!!!! I think my mouth hit the floor……

Comment from Kuki
Time October 9, 2008 at 4:31 pm

Yup.. that’s it! 🙂 I think it’s way more common than most would expect.

Comment from Kay
Time November 4, 2008 at 4:03 pm

I know this is an old post but I still wanted to add my two cents 🙂
I truly have to agree with everything you wrote Kuki. I am going on my first cruise in January (Yay!) and have spent the past year and a half reading everything that I can. Prior to booking I scoured the books from travel agents, asked opinions, and spent hours upon hours on the internet before settling on my cruise. I even spent days agonizing over which room to book lol. But I can’t expect everyone to be as compulsively over-prepared as myself. That being said, I had to stop reading random blogs and began sticking solely to (in my opinion) more “reliable” sites such as cruisemates. I got tired of reading complaints about things that even I, having never cruised before, could have told them before hand. My biggest annoyance is the people who complain that no one showed them to their room when they got onboard and they had to spend x amount of time searching, or that no one told them where the windjammer was, etc… One blogger even complained that he had to go to guest services because his floor and room number wasn’t printed on his card and no one told him where to go! The first thing I did when booking is print off every deck of the ship so I could bring it with me. I would think that it would be common sense to know what floor you are on and what your room number is, but common sense isn’t as common as most would think lol.
Great post and great website! I truly appreciate all your articles Kuki!

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