Many or all of the products featured here are from our partners who compensate us. This influences which products we write about and where and how the product appears on a page. However, this does not influence our evaluations. Our opinions are our own. Here is a list of our partners and here's how we make money.
Cruises can be a great vacation idea, especially if you’re not overly interested in trip planning.
One of the most significant benefits of a cruise is that much of the work is done for you, including the itinerary, dining and entertainment options. That convenience can sometimes come with a big price tag, so it’s normal to wonder, “Are cruises worth it?”
Let’s look at the different aspects of cruising, what’s included on a cruise and how that compares against other vacations.
What’s included on a cruise
One of the best parts about a cruise is that it's all-inclusive, at least to a certain degree.
The true extent of what’s included will depend on your cruise line and any packages that you have, but in general, here’s what's included:
Meals, including fast food, sit-down restaurants and some room service.
Other live entertainment.
Pool access and pool towels.
Water, coffee and tea.
» Learn more: Smart tips for getting the best deal on your next cruise
What’s not included on a cruise
The free options are likely more than enough to keep you entertained, but if you’re interested in more, the following items typically incur additional costs:
Gift shop purchases.
Some onboard events, such as wine tastings and cooking classes.
Some cruise lines allow you to bring a limited selection of alcohol onboard.
Pros and cons of a cruise
Is a cruise worth it? It can be, though you’ll want to weigh the pros and cons of your cruise before deciding to book. Here are a few benefits and drawbacks to most cruise vacations:
Alcohol and some meals cost extra.
Less planning required.
Itinerary can have multiple stops.
May be expensive.
All-in-one booking process.
No control over itinerary.
Ships can be crowded.
Can budget easily.
Additional costs may be inflated.
As you can see, many of the positives of booking a cruise come from convenience. A cruise allows you to pay a single company, after which you’ll be able to enjoy your vacation.
Even if you spend more, you’re still only dealing with a single business and one point of sale. It’s simple and takes far less effort than researching all of your destinations, finding which activities are available, booking accommodations and figuring out where to eat.
But along with the convenience comes a lack of flexibility. Sure, you may be glad to stop at whatever port the cruise line chooses, but what if you’d like to stay overnight? What if you’ve already been to the location and prefer to go elsewhere?
As a guest aboard a ship, you have little control over where you’re going and how long you’ll be there.
And because most cruises aren’t totally all-inclusive, you may spend more than you planned once you're onboard. If you want to enjoy a few alcoholic drinks, dine at a specialty restaurant or take a guided onshore excursion, the additional costs can add up quickly.
» Learn more: Cruises where you don’t need a passport
Comparing a cruise to other vacations
So what does it look like when you compare a cruise with other vacations? A trip has many different aspects, including flights, accommodation, meals, activities and more.
Here’s a look at a five-night Eastern Caribbean cruise from Carnival, which is typically a more budget-friendly cruise line.
It takes off in mid-July and makes three stops across five nights, including Turks and Caicos, the Bahamas and Carnival’s private island before returning home.
When adding in taxes, fees and port expenses, you’re looking at $2,184 for two guests — and that doesn’t include tips, Wi-Fi, port excursions or alcohol. However, you get all meals, an interior stateroom, stops in two different countries and plenty of entertainment.
In contrast, here’s a look at the Viva Wyndham Fortuna Beach in the Bahamas:
A five-night stay here would cost $1,785 for two adults, and this beachfront resort includes all meals and drinks, even alcohol. You’ll also have access to Wi-Fi, pools, live entertainment and other activities.
Although the resort price itself is less than the cruise, this doesn’t consider the price of flights to the Bahamas, which may cost more than you’d pay when heading to Miami for a cruise.
It also doesn’t include tipping or the cost of other excursions, similar to what you’d find on a ship.
Finally, by booking with a single resort, you’re locked into one destination, which may not work for you if you’re interested in visiting more than one country.
» Learn more: The best ways to book a cruise
If you’re interested in planning a cruise
So, are cruise ships worth it? They can be, but it’s a personal decision.
Cruises aren’t right for all types of travelers, especially those who value flexibility during their vacations. However, they can present good value to guests looking for convenience, especially since so much of the effort around planning a trip is eliminated.
Before you book a cruise, compare the price of your vacation against similar options — including accommodations, transportation and meals — to decide whether it's really worth it for you.
How to maximize your rewards
You want a travel credit card that prioritizes what’s important to you. Here are our picks for the best travel credit cards of 2023, including those best for:
Flexibility, point transfers and a large bonus: Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card
No annual fee: Bank of America® Travel Rewards credit card
Flat-rate travel rewards: Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card
Bonus travel rewards and high-end perks: Chase Sapphire Reserve®
Luxury perks: The Platinum Card® from American Express
Business travelers: Ink Business Preferred® Credit Card