By Alyssa Weston
Hi, I’m Alyssa, and I’m obsessed with cruise vacations. My first independent vacation was a cruise to the Mediterranean the summer after my senior year of high school.
At the age of 18, I had a lot to learn about cruising, but having cruised every year since then I feel I’m qualified to explain why cruising is a superb vacation for young adults, particular ages 18-25.
I’m going to start with the most compelling reason, in my opinion, to take a cruise, which is the the price tag!
Cruise prices vary significantly between cruise lines, itineraries, ships, time of year and many other factors. But, more times than not, the overall price of a standard seven-night cruise vacation is less than a seven-night land vacation.
By booking a cruise, passengers pay up front for transportation between ports, their room, (most) food and drink, onboard activities, shows, fitness centers, childcare, pools and hot tubs and much more. My favorite way to check prices for cruises is by using the cruise search engine on cruiseline.com.
Essentially, a cruise is an all-inclusive experience with a few minor exceptions like spa treatments, specialty dining and alcoholic drinks.
Most mass market cruise lines allow guests to book a year or two in advance with a deposit, then “pay as you go” until a few months before the cruise. This is ideal for vacationers on a budget who would rather pay towards their cruise little by little as months pass rather than one hefty price tag up front.
In addition, many cruise lines have gift cards that make wonderful gifts. By booking a cruise a year in advance, vacationers can ask family and friends for cruise line gift cards throughout the year for holidays and birthdays.
Off the ship, most cruise destinations (especially in the Caribbean) are extremely affordable.
From 20 dollar per hour massages on the beach in Mexico to five euro bottles of wine in Italy, cruisers will be pleasantly surprised at the deals they’ll find in port.
I’d argue that cruises are more attainable than essentially any other vacation for college students.
While cruises depart from and sail to every continent (yes, Antarctica too), they also are closer to home than some may realize.
Cruise lines are building more cruise ship ports within the U.S., which means regardless of where cruisers live, they are most likely a car ride or a short flight from the nearest departure port.
Youngstown State University students can take a road trip and cruise roundtrip from ports like New York City; Boston and Cape Liberty, New Jersey, or take a quick flight to Charleston, South Carolina; New Orleans or various ports in Florida.
Onboard, passengers don’t need to worry about taxing tasks that a land vacation may have such as booking tickets for shows, paying for transportation, making restaurant reservations or even paying or tipping their waiters after a meal (remember when I said essentially all-inclusive).
In port, cruisers who book a tour for the day with their cruise line can take comfort in knowing the cruise line has outlined the plans for the day for a specific price.
These tours take passengers to specific places on land (like Mayan Ruins in Mexico or Sagrada Familia in Barcelona) or to do a particular activity (such as dog sledding in Alaska or snorkeling in St. Maarten) with transportation to and from the cruise ship and oftentimes with included lunch and drinks.
For young and inexperienced travelers, it’s comforting to know the hard work is done by the cruise line, and after a long day on land passengers are “coming home” to familiar faces onboard and a comfortable bed.
3. The Chance to Meet New People
Because the same amount of people are on a floating vessel on the middle of the ocean for a week or more, faces start to get familiar and as a result cruise culture is friendly and inclusive.
On a land vacation it’s possible to form friendships, but cruises are unique because each passenger is sharing the same vacation experience.
Another cruise experience shared among strangers that is special to me is dining.
On cruises, with the exception of specialty dining and any-time dining, cruisers are sat at a specific dinner table every night with the same waiter and same fellow passengers sitting at that table.
In a week or so a group of strangers who are sat at the same dinner table by chance, more often than not, become friends.
Whether it’s chatting with the couple on their honeymoon in the hot tub or sitting with one of the cruise ship’s engineers at dinner, there’s no doubt vacationers will form a relationship with other passengers or staff that they’ll remember forever.
4. Try New Things at Your Comfort Level
Cruises allow passengers to try new things both on and off the ship at minimum or no cost. This way, there is little commitment and tons of flexibility.
On board, passengers can try their hand at activities like cooking classes, ice sculpting, yoga classes, latte taste tests, history seminars and much more included in their cruise.
Every night of the cruise, a list of activities and events are sent to each stateroom on a flyer for the next day so passengers can plan ahead for the day ahead onboard.
These may be activities passengers were eager to try before, but due to lack of resources or unwillingness to spend the extra money on land, vacationers can try new things “just because.”
5. The Food and Drinks
Cruise lines strive for exceptional dining experiences and collaborate with famous chefs like Jamie Oliver and Guy Fieri, as well as offer popular restaurants like Johnny Rockets, MargaritaVille and Starbucks on some ships.
Food onboard can be categorized into main dining, specialty restaurants, buffet, quick service and room service.
The main dining room serves breakfast, lunch and dinner daily to passengers and changes the menu routinely to give passengers different culinary experiences.
Every cruise line has a different way of constructing main dining, but generally passengers sit at the same dining table every night with the same server.
All food in the main dining room is included, so feel free to have three appetizers, soup and salad, two surf and turfs and maybe an extra dessert to take back to the stateroom. No one will judge, actually it’s encouraged!
The best part of having the same server every night is they get to know passengers and their food preferences.
The server will ask how the day on land was, play games with the table guests, bring extra food and know to automatically give mom camomile tea with her dessert.
Once, I after I told my server crème brûlée was my favorite dessert, he brought me three every night. Even if it wasn’t on the menu.
Specialty restaurants on ships are available for an additional set price or à la carte and usually have a specific theme or cuisine like an Italian bistro, burger joint or ice cream parlor.
These restaurants are held to the highest standard onboard, which justifies the additional cost and sometimes comes with an extra perk like a free bottle of wine with dinner or bottomless mimosas with breakfast.
The buffet is also included in the cruise fare and is open almost 24/7 (with the exception of shutting down briefly between meals to clean).
In the buffet, passengers will find some of the same food as the dining room in addition to other options. From cultural cuisines, allergy friendly entrees, salad and antipasto bars and dessert trays … All passengers are sure to find something that’ll satisfy their cravings.
Most cruise ships charge an extra cost for soft drinks, specialty coffees, energy drinks, bottled water and alcohol unless purchased through a drink package.
Included in the cruise cost is tap water, regular and decaf coffee, iced tea, lemonade, hot chocolate and a limited selection of fruit juices, which are most times found in the buffet.
Some cruise lines offer drink specials to passengers who opt out of buying a drink package such as buy five Starbucks coffees get one free or a drink of the day … A different daily cocktail at a discounted price.
When researching cruise ship drink policies, Sheri Griffiths, the content creator behind the YouTube channel and website CruiseTipsTV, suggests passengers familiarize themselves with the prohibited items list before a cruise.
“For example, a new cruiser who is accustomed to staying in hotels or resorts may not know that you cannot take beer or booze/alcohol on board,” she said. “However, there are loopholes. Some lines do allow two bottles of wine per adult onboard, but those bottles of wine must be put into your carry-on luggage not in your checked bags.”
Every cruise lines alcohol policy varys so guests are encouraged to check their lines specific policy.
Quick service dining is most often included in the cruise fare and is unique to each cruise line and cruise ship. A small pizza shack on the pool deck, gelato on the waterfront deck or coffee shop on the promenade deck are all considered quick service and allow cruisers to get a convenient bite to eat.
Lastly, room service is provided to guests on a limited menu in each stateroom and is delivered for one flat rate (for example Royal Caribbean’s is $7.95 per delivery) or for free. Of course, passengers are encouraged to tip the food delivery employee a few dollars, but it is not required.
Also, noteworthy is the delicious food cruisers eat off the ship while exploring the different itineraries their cruise takes them and eating like a local throughout their vacation.
Young adults who might be experienced in different cuisines can try new foods, oftentimes for free, and find new favorites without the stress of paying for something they may not enjoy.
6. The Parties
Cruise ship crews want passengers to let loose and have fun! Although some ships are more known for their party scene than others, young cruisers are bound to have a blast.
Ships are equipped with multiple bars and nightclubs and even offer pool deck parties on various nights of the cruise.
These parties often include games like dance trivia, karaoke and get passengers involved in their own version of popular game shows like “The Newlywed Game” and “Family Feud.”
My favorite cruise party on any ship is the sail away party. This party happens the first day of the cruise, embarkation day, as the ship first sails away from port.
Guests are invited to the pool deck to kick off their vacation with dancing, games and drinks galore.
Griffiths said she suggests young people and singles “get out there” and attend all of the fun events on day one.
“For example, the sail away party is an excellent place to meet people that you may want to hang out with for the rest of the cruise,” she said.
From Disney Cruise Line’s famous pirate night party to Norwegian Cruise Line’s notable white out party guests of all ages are encouraged to dance the night away.
7. One Of A Kind Adventures
Each port offers the chance of adventure that vacationers can’t get at home.
Cruise lines offer adventure packed excursions specifically for thrill seeking young people like ziplining, helicoptering, hiking and scuba diving.
Luckily there are more tame excursions for those of us who like to live life on the safer side like beach day passes, museums and catamaran boats tours.
All in all, there’s something for everyone, and if there isn’t feel free to stay onboard because there’s a ton to do!
Cruise ships, in my opinion, are like small cities.
These days most cruise ships have water slides, shopping centers and special features unique to each ship like onboard rock climbing, bumper cars, arcades, skydiving stimulation, flowriders, obstacle courses, outdoor sports centers, ice skating rinks and much more.
8. Sample New Destinations Without Commitment
This reason alone is enough to convince me to take a cruise instead of a vacation to one spot.
Sure, when vacationers visit one destination they have time to fully immerse themselves into the culture, but for travelers like me who like to get the most bang for their buck cruising is the way to go.
College students can visit up to six different cultures in one week and decide after their cruise where they may want to go back and visit in the future.
Cruises also help inexperienced travelers deal with culture shock.
For some travelers, it’s comforting to know that although for a day tourists can stumble around an unfamiliar city and attempt to speak to locals … That comfortable Americanized cruise ship is waiting at the end of the day.
Cruises may also take voyagers to places they otherwise wouldn’t visit on their own, or unfortunately make them realize their bucket list destination really isn’t worth spending more than a day at.
9. Easily Customizable
Each cruiser can be on the same ship and have an entirely different experience. Every decision on and off the ship is at the discretion of the guest.
While one guest spends every second they can on land, another passenger may have not gotten off the ship once the whole vacation.
One family may eat dinner at 5 p.m. and watch a musical in the theatre before bed, and across the ship a young couple might spend the evening in the hot tub until their 8 p.m. dinner.
Some cruisers indulge in spa packages and specialty dining, while others don’t spend a cent extra onboard.
There is no right or wrong way to cruise, as long as the guests are having fun. By cruising at a young age, passagers can have a different experience each time they sail.
10. Ideal for group or family vacations
Because cruises are so customizable they make the ultimate family or group vacations.
Some families may spend the whole vacation together, while others may only catch up during dinner or on a land excursion.
Cruise ships are well regulated and passengers roam freely without fears they may have on a land vacation.
Children can enjoy a day supervised at the kids club (included in cruise fare), teens can hang out by the pool, and adults can slip away for an art gala or spa treatment all at the same time.
Although Wi-Fi is an additional cost on cruises and most don’t pay for it, many cruise lines offer a communication tool on their app that passengers can use onboard to communicate with other passengers.
Cruise ships also have a telephone in each room and some even have walkie talkies to keep passengers in touch. Sure, this may be old fashioned, but it’s an amazing way to disconnect for a week (don’t worry, Wi-Fi is available on land) and reconnect with friends and family on board.
Okay … So have I convinced all the 20-somethings to take a cruise yet?
Cruises take everything vacationers love about a land vacation, combine it with sea salt and fresh air and bring guests to new destinations during a trip of a lifetime.