When you’re spending a large chunk of your hard-earned money on your holiday, it’s understandable that you want to do your research to ensure you’re booking something amazing that you will remember for the rest of your life. With so many different types of holiday options out there these days, this can be challenging, and if you’ve never cruised before, then this is a whole new domain in itself to try to decipher.
Working as a Cruise representative for almost 7 years in total, this was something I presented and spoke about daily, so I figured I probably had the knowledge to write a blog post on it! Read on to discover pros and cons when deciding between Cruise vs Resort holidays to help make your decision easier.
Chances are, with a land-based holiday you need to get yourself to the airport first up. This involves transfers, cramped plane seats, horrid plane food, waiting for bags then a hire car or transfer to your resort/hotel.
When you cruise, you can choose a no-fly itinerary (depending where you live of course) and potentially drive to the port, hand your baggage over to the porters, walk on board and relax by the pool with a cocktail in your hand shortly after. I know which I prefer!
Even if you do fly to your cruise, there’s a good chance that the cruise company will look after your flights and transfers for you, and you’ll see your bags when you get to your cabin.
When you book a land-based holiday, you’re probably staying in the one place, unless you’re off on a longer multi-stay adventure. If you want to check out other cities you need to work out transport, a route to get there and research what to do when you get there.
When cruising, you will see many cities, probably many countries (depending on your duration) all from the comfort of your ship and the same cabin. Imagine visiting France, Belgium, Spain and Italy on a one-week cruise, whilst only unpacking your bags once?
In addition, you will have numerous shore excursions you can choose from whilst on board, knowing that you will safely be taken to the key sightseeing venues, experience trusted local foods, and return to the ship on time. Even if you don’t wish to pay for the ship’s excursions, you can still use their tours as ideas for booking similar yourself.
OK, this is where I have to be honest and cruising generally doesn’t win out… Unless you can afford to stay in a suite, chances are your room is going to be much smaller than most hotel rooms (excluding Paris which I think has some of the smallest hotel rooms in the world!). Space is obviously limited on a ship and priority is given to all the activities/bars/restaurants etc over accommodation, which makes sense. I mean, how much time do you really need to spend in your room anyway?! If you need that extra bit of space, book a balcony cabin, even the extra light will make your room feel bigger. You will also find that cruise lines are super smart with their use of space, so you’ll find you still have everything you need, including space under the bed to tuck your suitcase away when you’ve unpacked.
If you do have the budget for a suite, well then you really don’t need to worry, some of the cruise line’s Owner’s or Presidential Suites are enormous (check out Royal Caribbean’s 2 storey Family/Royal Loft Suites on their Oasis/Quantum class – WOW!).
Style / Class
When booking a hotel or resort, generally speaking you probably check out the star rating and what type of people it appeals to, right? If you are accustomed to Shangri-Las or Rosewoods, you probably won’t be booking a Travelodge or a motel. And if you’re a couple looking for peace and relaxation, you won’t be wanting a family fun resort.
The same applies for cruise lines, and sadly this is where so many people go wrong and decide they hate cruising. Each cruise line has a specific target audience, so you need to choose one which meets your expectations. The price bracket is a good guide for this, if it sounds crazy cheap, you’re likely to be sailing with a younger crowd, big groups, hen parties etc. If you’re looking for something more boutique, look at the smaller high end cruises such as Oceania, Regent Seven Seas, Viking or Seabourne.
The size will also have an impact. Broadly speaking, the larger the ship, the more impersonal the service, the longer the queues and the more children on board (I say this as they usually have more activities, but Cunard would be an exception).
I’ll shortly be posting a blog on the difference between the major cruise lines, so feel free to subscribe so you don’t miss this!
This leads on from above… What kind of activities are you looking for on your holiday? Are you the type of people who ‘drop and flop’ or do you want to be active, trying new sports and interests? I know I used to check out resorts to see how many pools they have, whether they offered jet skis or wind sailing or had canoes for hire. On land-based holidays, you will likely be paying for all of these as an extra…on a cruise, most cruise lines have them included.
As archaic as it is, I think it must be some kinda law that every ship needs to have Shuffleboard, as I’ve yet to see one which doesn’t! Aside from that, the activities can really vary, from the more standard basketball, mini golf, and table tennis, to bowling, go carting, surfing, iFly skydiving simulators, water slides, rock climbing walls, ice-skating…you name it! If you were to pay for these on a daily basis, it would certainly add up, so the value you get here is incredible!
Unless you’re at a Butlins holiday camp, entertainment doesn’t usually feature too highly at most hotels, aside from your usual live band in a dark corner somewhere.
On a ship, you will always have many choices, regardless of the cruise line. Most will have some type of theatre production for several nights of your cruise, you will also likely have Guest Entertainers which could be anything from magicians to musicians to comedians. You may find dance classes available, towel animal making, trivia, lectures, wine tasting, craft corners, casinos, movies and maybe even a karaoke bar. You’ll find the smaller more boutique cruise lines to be a little more sedate than the larger ships, but they will still usually have a bar with live music you can dance the night away to if you wish.
All entertainment and activities will be listed on each cruise line’s website, so if there is something specific you want to do, jump online and check them out.
How much money would you spend at a hotel/resort on food for your family? It’s a fair whack, right? Plus, unless you want to dine in the same place every night, you also need to research and get transport to somewhere local which you hope is reputable, and get yourselves back home again at the end of the night.
On a ship, you will always have numerous options, right there, and most of them will be included in the cost of your fare. Want to have breakfast in bed? Done. Fancy a buffet breakfast or maybe a more luxurious restaurant to enjoy a full English? You can do that too, without spending a cent.
During the day you will have various options of snacks available to you, lunch will usually be a pool grill or buffet option and for dinner you will have so many choices! Most cruise lines offer Specialty Restaurants on top of their usual Main Restaurant but most do charge a small amount for this. They are often an Asian offering or a Steak restaurant and are around $25pp. Viking has two high-end specialty restaurants included in the fare, some of the larger cruise lines do too, although they will be more casual, not high-end.
One of the biggest complaints is usually how much weight people put on when cruising because the food is all so good, close to hand, and included (don’t get me started on the amazing cookies…!).
They also cater to every type of dietary requirement too, so no stress trying to find gluten free, dairy free, low sugar, vegan or low fat on board.
So it seems natural to lead on to the facilities that you will find on ships, in particular, the gyms!
I don’t know about you, but I find it pretty hard to find a decent gym at a hotel/resort. Usually they look like a disused guest room with a few pieces of multi-gym equipment they got from a second hand store, with worn handles and broken seats. A resort catering to 500 guests will likely only have one or two treadmills which you need to queue for each morning if you want to use them…ugh, drives me nuts.
On ships, you are likely to see some of the most impressive gyms around. They have every piece of equipment you can imagine, super high-tech and mostly brand new. Rows upon rows of treadmills so you rarely have to wait, yoga rooms, spin classes, boxing classes, personal trainers, complimentary health seminars… There really is no excuse to not keep fit when cruising.
Other facilities include beautiful Spas, with every treatment imaginable on offer. Teeth whitening, Botox, slimming wraps, you name it. They will usually also have a Jacuzzi/sauna area which is free for guests to use too.
Every ship also has boutiques, you can pick up duty-free Michael Kors or Kate Spade bags, or maybe a new Rolex watch or top up your Chanel No.5…believe me, duty-free shopping without trailing your hand-luggage is so much more fun! If you have forgotten to pack any toiletries, you can probably find them here too.
There is a Medical Centre on board every ship for emergencies, or in case you are feeling a little seasick and need a jab in the bum (seriously, this is apparently the best sea sickness cure you can get!). Make sure you have travel insurance though as they will charge you US-style. Oh, good luck finding a Doctor in a hotel…
OK, so potentially this could be on a par, depending on the resort you choose. However, the ships do generally do kids clubs very well. They will have their own rooms and play area, babysitters available, nurseries, some will even look after your kids whilst you enjoy a romantic dinner alone, and ship dependent, the kids will have a ball meeting Disney or Dreamworks characters. These are all included in the fare and the kids usually love them so much that you won’t see them for most of the holiday – bingo!
Want to know more about cruising? Read my 30 Fun Facts about Cruising here!
I don’t know how to categorise this one, but from all my family cruises, the thing we love the most is that everyone can do their own thing. My sister and I would go do shore excursions together and meet our parents for dinner, then head to the nightclub when our parents went to bed – perfect!
You know everyone is as near or as far as you want them to be, you can call each other on room phones, or using the WiFi, and everyone can enjoy their holiday exactly as they want to.
So, that pretty much sums it up, and yes, obviously there’s a lot of bias to this! Don’t get me wrong, I absolutely love land holidays too, we have plenty of them on our wish list, and some places you really do need more ‘time on the ground’ to get to know properly. However, equally so, there are places that I wouldn’t want to do unless it was on a cruise, such as Alaska, or places with a heavy language barrier like Japan or China where you can see several cities very effortlessly, cruising between them.
What are your thoughts? Which would you choose and why? I always love to hear your feedback!
Thanks for reading – see you next time!
Wendy A x
12 comments / Add your comment below
I have always wanted to go on a cruise! So far I haven’t been able to afford it, but definitely on my bucket list. This information is wonderful! You did a great detailed description of everything. I honestly didn’t know all of this was part of a cruise! I greatly appreciate all of the information. I am definitely going to check out the discount cruises and see what I can aim for. Thanks again!
Thank you so much for the comments Jennie. When you have never cruised before it can seem to be a bit of a minefield, I was always asked a million questions as a rep, so I do understand people’s apprehensions. Personally, I think when you have cruised once, you will be hooked…!
Sadly I could not get rid of the Email collection pop up to read your content. I thought maybe I needed to subscribe before the pop up would go. When I entered my info I learned that I had already subscribed to your website. Perhaps in a previous review many months ago that I had forgotten. That didn’t do the trick. However, I do have opinions on this subject that I shall provide here.
I would take a cruise any day compared to a resort vacation. I love the cruise lifestyle as well as the benefit of seeing a new place almost every day. And the sea only days are so relaxing.
We have cruised on both ends of the spectrum. Carnival Cruise Lines and Cunard. It is noteworthy that both are owned by the Carnival Corporation. In fact, Carnival Corporation owns so many cruise brands like Princess, Costa Cruises, Holland America and many more it is insane.
Our first cruise was on Carnival. It was so special as the experience was fresh. Like many things in life, you cannot duplicate a first experience. Except when we sailed on the Queen Mary 2 on the first time from LA to Hawaii and back.
At this moment in time I would happily sail on any cruise line that provided great service, delicious food, Exciting entertainment and amazing destinations.
Hi Edwin, I’m sorry you had issues with my pop-up, it is being a little temperamental at the moment, but I checked recently and it seemed to be ok again, so fingers crossed…!
Wow, you really are a cruise connoisseur! The difference between Carnival and Cunard would have been huge, they really are opposite ends of the spectrum! Fortunately, most cruise lines do excel when it comes to food and service, but the afternoon tea is definitely a nice touch on the higher end ones!
Enjoy your next cruise, wherever it may be, maybe I’ll see you on board some day!
Hey, While reading your article. I enjoy a lot and find many thing useful for everyone. From your article I know while Cruising everyone is as near or as far as you want them to be, you can call each other on room phones, or using the WiFi, and everyone can enjoy their holiday exactly as they want to. Your guide helped me a lot and we will go on Cruising .
Hi Parveen, technology has certainly advanced a lot when it comes to communication on ships these days. So many now offer a complimentary messaging service, gone are the days of families running around with their walkie-talkies! Enjoy your cruise!
Thank you for sharing from your well of experience, been on a particular job for good seven years is no joke. I agree with you, cruising is a lot of fun, seeing cities from the ships’ cabin helps to admire the landscape and the vegetation around.
I also strongly agree with you on the issue of accommodation when cruising, ships are not built with robust large room space.
Thanks Parameter, appreciate you taking the time to comment on my blog. Cruising is great fun, and we rarely spend much time in our cabin anyway!
I love the differences you gave between a cruise and a resort. Well, I think it all depends on oneself. When you made mention of visiting four countries in one week got me highly elated.
You made mentioned of the shore excursions we can choose from whilst on board which is cool. But what I think the main and major difference between the two is, you get to familiarize yourself with your environment much better with resort. Though it depends on how long you want your vacation to be. But with cruise, it’s just temporal as you may not get to stay longer in one place.
Well said, these are just a great way to spend your vacation. It just depends on what one wants. But I see here that cruising is much fun and full of excitements.
Hi Kell, Thank you for your comment. Yes, completely agree re spending more time to get to know a place. I see cruising as giving you a ‘taster’ of a city and if you like it, you should definitely make the time to go back and explore it properly. It makes me laugh when people say they’ve ‘done’ England because they did a one day port stop! So much more to see! Thanks again 🙂
You really make cruising sound the like ideal holiday. I’ve only been on 2 cruises and only one as an adult. There is a stigma that cruises are for families and seniors but you are breaking down that stigma with every post.
Thanks Kirsten, sadly that stigma is still out there and very strong…I’m doing my best to break it down cos I absolutely love cruising and know most other people would too if they gave it a try (on the right ship of course!).
Maybe we should jump on one over to Koh Lipe…?!