7 Warning Signs You Booked a Bad Cruise

warning signs booked bad cruise
It's too late to book another cruise, but you can take steps to mitigate the damage. - Photo by Shutterstock

Noticing a problem or two after you board isn’t always a guarantee that you’re going to have a bad cruise, but there are certain indications that should tell you to prepare for the worst. Here are seven signs you might have booked the wrong cruise, and what you can do to keep them from ruining your vacation:

1. Dirty Cabins and Common Areas

This filthy balcony was submitted by a very unhappy reviewer. - Photo by Cruiseline.com

Why it’s Bad: A dirty, poorly prepared room is probably the worst first impression you can get of the ship and its crew. The same goes for any onboard area: If you see dirt, stains or signs of wear and tear in the hallways, lounges or dining areas, either the crew is not up to par (see #3) or the ship hasn’t been properly maintained over the years.

What to Do: You’re not going to inspire the crew to clean the whole ship, but if your cabin is dirty, call guest services and let them know the state of your room is not acceptable.


2. Swarms of Children

kids cruise ships too many

We like kids, but if there are too many onboard they can easily take over the ship. - Photo by Shutterstock

Why it’s Bad: If you can’t take ten steps onto the ship without a crowd of unsupervised, screaming children nearly knocking you over, you may have made the mistake of booking a cruise during a popular vacation week. Even if you’re cruising with kids of your own this isn’t a great sign — that many children on the ship means the kids clubs will be super-crowded and you’re going to wait longer for onboard activities. Plus, adolescents tend to feed off of each other’s energy so it will be harder for your own youngsters to stay on their best behavior.

What to Do: Give up any hope of using the pools and hot tubs on sea days, and immediately locate any adult-only areas on the ship. If there’s a charge to use them, pay it. Trust us, it will be worth it.


3. Apathetic Crew

crew warning signs cruise

This is how the crew should look when you board. - Photo by Holland America Line

Why it’s Bad: The service on cruise ships is usually phenomenal, so if you board the ship and the staff looks tired and can’t be bothered to greet you with a smile, they probably aren’t going to bring their A-game.

What to Do: Project a friendly, positive attitude toward the crew and consider slipping your room steward a few bucks right away to help ensure good service.


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4. Lots of Drunk People

drinking cruise ship

Some people can't control themselves on vacation. - Photo by Kzenon / Shutterstock

Why it’s Bad: By no means are we against getting nice and tipsy on a cruise, but most people don’t want to share their vacation with roving packs of obnoxious drunks. If there are lot of people who are already visibly intoxicated within hours of getting on the ship, it’s only going to get worse as the day goes on.

What to Do: Try to find a quiet hideaway that isn’t near a bar as they generally won’t venture too far from the alcohol.


5. Bad Buffet Food

cruise ship buffet

It's hard to screw up a buffet, and yet it still happens. - Photo by Shutterstock

Why it’s Bad: Once you board, the buffet is a common first stop before scoping out the rest of the ship. If the food is cold or poorly prepared, it should be a big cause for concern. After all, if they can’t get the first meal right, what makes you think it will get better?

What to Do: Start scoping out all the specialty restaurants you can and make reservations ASAP.


6. Waiting Hours to Get onto the Ship or into Your Cabin

cruise ship luggage dock

After a certain point, it's the ship's fault. - Photo by Thinkstock

Why it’s Bad: In many cases, this is the fault of the port, not the cruise line. With that said, if you’re waiting in the terminal for several hours just to board the ship, or if the muster drill rolls around and you still can’t get into your cabin, it’s probably due to a lack of organization by the ship and its crew. And if your luggage isn’t at your cabin before you’re ready to go to dinner, you can probably blame the ship for that, too.

What to Do: Pack your patience. There’s not much you can do about any of these situations, so keep a positive attitude and try to enjoy the rest of your cruise.


7. Obstructed Views

obstructed view balcony

A very obstructed balcony. - Photo by Cruiseline.com

Why it’s Bad: Few things on a cruise can make your heart sink like walking into your room for the first time and realizing there’s a lifeboat hanging directly in front of your window or balcony. This one could be on you for booking the cheapest cabin without realizing it was marked “obstructed view,” or choosing a guaranteed cabin where the cruise line gets to choose your room, but we have heard stories of cruise lines “upgrading” passengers into these cabins without notifying them.

What to Do: Report immediately to the guest services desk to inquire if another stateroom is available. Ships tend to sail full, so you might be stuck with what you have. Next time, do your research and check out cabin reviews and photos here on cruiseline.com so you don’t make the same mistake again.



Join the discussion

Any warning signs we missed?


Posted by Johngold

The rowers are tired and the captain wants to go water skiing.

Posted by Finzleft

If I'm away from my desk and on a ship, it's a great cruise. I've never been on a bad one! Re: kids, I was booked on a NCL cruise and noticed that they had a "Dora the Explorer" program of some sort. I cancelled and booked the same cruise with Princess, which has a bit older crowd anyway. It was one of my favorites!

Posted by ChiTownDude

Your admonition about "drunken cruisers" is well-taken. I would expand this to encompass any cruise starting in Australia.

Posted by MSCDivinacruise

Food seemed to come from a cafeteria. No class even in the speciality restaurants. Balcony cabins so small that without it you would think that you were in a wardrobe. The shows were mediocre and even the musicians had no particular talent. MSC never again.

Posted by Saltcay

#3 The greatest staff I have encountered was my cabin steward on RCCL's Rhapsody of the Seas. I was travelling with my two daughters, and our cabin steward met us in the corridor going to our stateroom. He asked what our cabin number was, and when I told him, he immediately knew my name and the names of my daughters, although didn't know which was which. All of this was without looking at any type of passenger manifest. On the other hand on a NCL cruise, I didn't even see our cabin attendant until 3 days into the cruise. I also have to agree with MSCDivinacruise above. The food was bad, and the musicians played the same music set every single night of the cruise.

Posted by Manonck

I don't know how old these comments are but I was just on MSC Divina last Sept. Too much kind ds for my taste (1300 kids) but I can assure you that they had the best shows i've ever been to in all my cruises (over 50+) worldwide. I used the pools when we were in port because the kids filled the pool on sea days and I had visited the ports before. And when a kid would get sick in the pool, they would have to empty and clean it before refilling it, twice in one day. MSC pride themselves of being family oriented and they have great programs for kids but Italians and Asians keep their kids with them so they are all over the place. The food was pretty good and service was great. They should have a pool just for adults. So I was very happy with MSC compared to when they first arrived in the Caribbeans. They learned pretty quickly how to please the American market.

Posted by MisterBill99

You should mention that you should only go ask for a new cabin if you have an obstructed view that was not in your confirmation or something you booked. They're not going to move you if you knowingly (or unknowingly) booked that category. Even if you play stupid they won't do it.

Posted by Ulverston

We cruised 15 times. NCL was a nightmare. I was bitten during the night,, TAKEN by ambulance to the hospital, billed $375 by the ships infirmary, Medicare could not reimburse because Dr.on ship not licensed to practice in Hawaiian waters, I had a group of 32 passengers, All 16 rooms were dirty, and lacking in linens, although 4 asked for face clothes, none received until 6 th day. Food under the beds, dirty towels, old food in refrigerators, rude waitresses in restaurants, terrible experience...no resolution when I contacted cruise line.

Posted by MisterBill99

Ulverston, why didn't you have travel insurance? They would have paid your doctor's bill once Medicare refused it. I would not expect the ship's doctor to be licensed to practice anywhere but on the ship (and in some foreign country). My wife needed stitches on a recent HAL cruise and the doctor there was excellent. He was from South Africa. My travel insurance covered it after my normal health insurance did not pay (because I had not hit my deductible).

Posted by FarcusFan

Signs of a Bad Cruise: 1. Banners appear on ship's stores saying, "Going out of business." 2. Cruise director only speaks Chinese and Russian. 3. Ship refused entry to the Panama Canal for non-payment 4. Police boats staying a mile away from your cruise ship during sailaway and return. 5. Ships photographers saying things like, "Are you SURE you want a picture wearing THAT?" 6. You hear it announced over the PA system: CODE ALPHA! CODE ALPHA!

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