Modern cruise ships are quite literally floating cities: not only do they offer deluxe accommodations and superior dining, they often have multiple attractions and amenities right on board for passengers to enjoy. Becoming familiar with what can be found on a ship is the first step toward an enjoyable cruise vacation.
What Cruise Ships Provide
It is true that passengers never need to leave the ship to enjoy a memorable vacation. Today's ships are far more than simply transportation between ports of call; they are true floating resorts, with all the amenities and features found in the finest land-based resorts.
All cruise ships have an array of basic features, including:
- Cabins: Also called staterooms, these are the equivalent to hotel rooms on land. Though they are smaller than most land-based rooms, they still offer in-room telephones, television with popular movies, bathroom facilities, and a small sitting area. Upgraded cabins offer additional features such as private balconies, whirlpool baths, or more luxurious furnishings depending on the cruise line.
- Dining Options: From main dining rooms to alternative restaurants to multiple snack options, cruise passengers will never lack for tasty treats.
- Entertainment Venues: Multiple entertainment distractions are available on each ship, from individualized activities to group events and large shows. Passengers should note that different shows are offered nightly, and there are not typically repeat performances later in the voyage.
- Public Areas: Lounges, bars, and multiple sitting areas are available to passengers as well as conference facilities for group arrangements. Ample seating can be found around most ships, from window seats to pool chairs to cozy sofas perfect for conversation. Most ships also offer a chapel for onboard weddings, vow renewals, or devotional ceremonies.
- Fitness Facilities: A dedicated gym, jogging track, shuffleboard court, and volleyball or basketball courts can be found on most ships. Some lines, such as Royal Caribbean, offer an even wider range of fitness options, including climbing walls, ice skating rinks, and miniature golf courses.
- Atrium: Most ships feature a central atrium, usually elaborately decorated and a focal point of the ship's interior. This is usually where the purser's desk and tour desk can be found, and professional photographs are frequently offered here to take advantage of the scenery.
- Shopping: Every ship has multiple boutiques on board, including jewelry, liquor, and souvenir shops. Many ships also offer a formalwear shop, and newer vessels are incorporating pro shops for golfers and other specialized stores into their promenades.
- Pool Deck: The pool deck is the center of many onboard activities, from sunbathing to wacky games to evening buffets and parties. Most pool decks include multiple jacuzzis as well.
- Children's Area: Ships that frequently host families typically have dedicated children's areas staffed with trained counselors and featuring activities just for kids. Many ships are also including teens-only areas with discos, video arcades, and other amenities for older children.
- Spa: Passengers who long to pamper themselves will appreciate the fine spa facilities on cruise ships. From European spa treatments and luxurious massages to hydrotherapy and aromatherapy sessions, passengers can indulge in the finest relaxation for a range of additional fees.
More About Dining
Because food is an integral part of cruise vacations, passengers should be aware of all their dining options onboard. Not only are passengers typically assigned to a dining room and time slot, but many flexible options are available as well. Casual restaurants offer open seating when passengers can dine at their convenience, and most are buffet-style to let passengers try whatever dishes tempt their tastebuds. Alternative restaurants, on the other hand, frequently require a per-person cover charge, ranging from under $5 to as much as $30 per meal. These venues are typically offer a more romantic setting and more elegant fare than casual restaurants.Most ships offer at least one grand gala buffet per cruise, and specialized evening and midnight buffets may be available as well. Often, passengers are able to take photographs of the grand buffet before it opens for tasting, and many themed buffets are geared toward that day's port of call or the general sailing region.
More About Entertainment
Entertainment varies on each cruise ship, from academic or beauty lectures and port of call orientation talks to raucous Vegas-style revue shows and elaborate musical numbers. Throughout the day, various entertainment options are offered such as casino tournaments, group and individual games, trivia contests, ice carving and napkin folding demonstrations, dance lessons, and talent shows. While passengers are encouraged to participate in all events, ships do not pressure guests to join every event and plenty of time is available for peaceful relaxation.
Differences Between Types of Cruise Ships
The exact features available on each vessel depend primarily on the ship's size and the specific cruise line. Larger ships typically offer a greater range of amenities, facilities, and activities, while smaller, more intimate ships often feature a more casual, friendly atmosphere. Luxury cruise lines are usually more formal, while mainstream ships offer the widest possible range to appeal to every passenger.
Choosing the Ship for You
The best way to choose which cruise ships suit your vacation desires is to study the different cruise lines to discover which one best meets your needs. Once you've determined the type of atmosphere you would prefer, you can select a specific ship based on its individual amenities. Cruise travel agents can usually provide brochures, videos, and other information to help prospective passengers plan the best cruise for them.
Cruise ships are more than floating resorts: they embody an entire cruising lifestyle. From world-class entertainment and fitness options to succulent dining and luxurious living, cruise vacations offer only the best experiences for every passenger setting sail on the vacation of a lifetime.