Everything I Thought About Cruises Turned Out to Be Wrong

Last summer I finally went on a cruise and discovered that everything I thought I knew was wrong. Here's what a 12-day tour of the Mediterranean Rivieras aboard Holland America's Westerdam taught me.

Myth: Cruises are for the elderly

Yes, you will find seniors who have the time to take vacations sailing the seas—but they’re not the only ones. Cruises are inclusive to their passengers but also with their deals, like these 10 all-inclusive cruises for the best vacation ever.There is a wonderful mix of ages; some are going it solo, some with groups of friends. There are families and couples. And there are travelers from around the world.

Myth: The entertainment is bingo

I didn’t expect much beyond bingo, a casino, a pool, and an amateurish floor show. On the Westerdam, the Lincoln Center Stage blew me away. I could hear amazing music: Jazz, classical, and beyond. Then there was B.B. King’s Blues Club for dancing the night away, and Broadway-quality productions. America’s Test Kitchen offered cooking workshops and demonstrations. There were trivia contests, ping-pong, poker, and all manner of tournaments. For the health-minded, there were fitness and wellness classes, a spa, and lectures on ways to live a healthier life. While cruising, make sure to avoid these starboard etiquette errors.

Myth: Forgettable cuisine

I was expecting mass-produced, cafeteria-style cuisine. I was way off: Travelers can find gourmet dishes and creative cocktails. On certain nights, one of the regular eateries transformed into Rudi’s Sel de Mer, an intimate seafood brasserie with French classics inspired by Master Chef Rudi Sodamin. Like having more faith in the cruise cuisine, here’s 13 things travel experts wish you knew about booking a cruise.

Myth: You will get seasick

Many people don’t experience seasickness at all. But sometimes really bad weather and choppy seas will cause even the sturdiest to lose their lunch. But even in those cases, you can get a pill from the clinic on board and be back to downing Mai Tais in no time.

Myth: Going on shore is a bore

The truth is, you’ll want more time! You’re bound to find an excursion tailored to your interests, whether you’re a foodie, an art aficionado, an adventurer, a water lover, or a history buff. (Just be sure to book your excursions early—they fill up fast.) The beauty of longer cruises is all the cities you can see: I had the opportunity to taste life in places like Gibraltar, Alicante, Palma de Mallorca, Málaga, Monte Carlo, Toulon, Livorno, and more.

Myth: You’ll spend, spend, spend

The ships offer different levels and sizes of accommodations, and all sorts of food and beverage packages. These 17 travel hacks that will make your cruise easier, including ways to save money. Plus, cruise lines routinely have special deals to tempt you. Shop smart and you’ll find all the amenities you need. Cruisecritic.com is a good place to begin your search, as are the websites of cruise lines.

Myth: Once is enough

You’ll likely meet “serial” cruisers on board—people on their 30th or 40th adventure. I certainly caught the fever. Since last summer, I’ve taken a second cruise on the MSC Divina, sailing to Montego Bay, Jamaica, and Georgetown in the Cayman Islands and Hurtigruten’s Hidden Harbors along North America’s coast. I explored Boston, Camden, and Rockport en route to Halifax.

I can’t tell you how happy I am to admit I was very wrong. So even if you’re skeptical about cruises, there’s one out there for you—check out the best cruises for every type of traveler.

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