25 Most Popular Cruise Complaints Revealed

25 Most Popular Cruise Complaints Revealed

Cruise Complaints Introduction

Taking a cruise is exciting and a time to share memories with your friends and loved ones plus a time to relax. But, as with all things, sometimes things don’t quite go to plan and you start to get stressed. Not good – you are on vacation after all. Whilst it is annoying when this happens, it is always worth just taking a deep breath and trying to chill before heading off to complain to guest services.

There is a multitude of things you could find to complain about and here are some of the most common guest cruise complaints. The cruise lines are normally very eager to avoid unhappy guests and we have found that problems can normally be amicably resolved.

Crowded ships

cruise complaints crowded ships

The larger the ship, the more passengers there will be and this can sometimes mean literally thousands of guests all trying to enjoy their time onboard. At the time of writing the largest cruise ship at sea is the Wonder of the Seas which can carry up to 6998 passengers and 2,300 crew members.

Whilst these new ships have amazing onboard facilities with multiple dining venues, great onboard entertainment, huge shopping facilities features, together with great stage shows and many speciality restaurants, space can feel limited when everyone is using the facilities you want to use. If you do decide to try a mega-ship on a busy week when the cabins are full, expect to see lines snaking across the deck for the water slides and around the lunch buffet on sea days. A good measure of the amount of space onboard is to look at the Passenger Space ratio. The higher the number, the more space per passenger.

If the idea of being part of a large crowd worries you then you should choose a ship with considerably fewer passengers or one of the Luxury Cruise Lines known for their open design and abundance of public space. This might include Regent Seven Seas Cruises, Seabourn or Silversea.
Related: A guide to the Passenger Space Ratio on Cruise Ships

Nickel-and-Diming

Your cruise fare usually covers the actual voyage itself plus food and some entertainment but that’s about it. Unless you have chosen to go All Inclusive the cost of the cruise won’t cover speciality restaurants, shore excursions, alcohol, gratuities, speciality teas and coffees or even soda and bottled water. Just be aware that you will likely be paying for every little extra. Everything you think of attracts a charge. This Nickel and Diming leaves us cold but it is how some cruise lines make their money. If you don’t budget for these extras you can feel cheated when you receive your end of cruise bill.

Do the maths before you sail, determining what is included and what you need to pay for to avoid that feeling of being horrified when you receive your final onboard extras account.
Related: Pay as You Go versus All Inclusive Cruises

Cancelled Ports

cruise complaints bad weather

You cannot be 100% sure you will visit all the ports listed on your cruise itinerary. Weather and poor sea conditions are the main cause of missing ports but it always causes guests to complain. The reality is that unless a significant element of your cruise is changed, you may not get a refund of port charges or any other recompense. You need to understand that your cruise contract reserves the Cruise lines’ right to change or cancel your cruise for any reason, and they don’t need to compensate you if that happens.

Whilst you can never be sure about the weather, you should reduce the chances of disruption by avoiding booking a cruise during hurricane season in the Caribbean (June to November) or monsoon season in Asia (June to September).

Internet at Sea

This is one of the biggest beefs when it comes to cruise complaints. Most people have had gripes at some time about the internet service onboard a cruise ship. Whether it is the slow connection or the high cost of using the internet at sea, we have all become used to fast internet services everywhere, but in the middle of the ocean, it can be different. Internet connectivity is via satellite and the performance is based on the speed and the bandwidth your particular cruise line uses.

It is also affected by the local onboard network on the ship. Wandering around your cabin, pressing yourself up against the cabin door or loitering in the corridor with a tablet in hand trying to get a wifi signal is really not acceptable.

It is all getting so much better with the cruise lines investing in super-fast internet services which most people expect just as a service like electricity or water.

Always check what your cruise line is offering or choose a cruise line with good wifi reviews. Royal Caribbean, for example, is known for having one of the largest and fastest Wi-Fi networks at sea.

Sanitation

Cruise Complaints Sanitze

The sheer number of guests on today’s mega-ships means that you will be sharing a limited amount of space with thousands of other guests. This means that good sanitation is vital to keep germs and potential illnesses at bay. You should always be vigilant and if you spot anything with cleanliness standards that you don’t think is quite right, just report it.

If you notice someone not washing their hands after using the toilets, don’t be afraid to speak up. Equally as important, if you spot someone touching food in the buffet with their bare hands, simply highlight this to one of the supervisors. Don’t just grumble, do something about it!

Want to take cleanliness into your own hands? Learn how to sanitize your stateroom in 10 easy steps.

Related: How to Sanitize your Cruise Stateroom or Cabin

Chair Hogs

You see this everywhere, even in the most exclusive luxury hotels. People just love to hog sunbeds close to the pool. This is a perfectly acceptable thing to complain about as most cruise lines have very clear policies about this selfish practice. It is so annoying when people reserve prime seats around the pool, in the bar or in the theatre, even when they aren’t there, preventing other passengers from using them.

Perhaps the worst offenders are the towel fairies who somehow manage to reserve sunbeds with towels carefully placed with a book or 2, to help make it look as if they have just popped in for a dip.

Alcohol

Everyone knows that alcohol on board cruise ships is expensive and not everyone wants to pay for overpriced drinks if they can avoid it. Even the so-called ‘Drinks Packages’ are not cheap and always come with restrictions and limits on what you can and can’t drink. So can you take alcohol onboard your cruise? – well yes and no.

Most cruise lines would prefer you didn’t and either ban it completely or have strict limits as to how much you can take on board. Alcohol sales are an important income stream for the cruise lines, so it’s hardly a surprise that this is one of the most common niggles amongst many regular cruisers. Don’t be surprised if when you board, security confiscates your shore purchase of alcohol, returning it to you at the end of the cruise.

Single-Supplement Fees

Almost every cabin or stateroom is priced based on double occupancy, which means that if you are a single traveller, you get landed with a huge single supplement. With a single supplement of 100%, it means you are paying twice as much for the stateroom just because you’re travelling alone.

Watch out for special solo or single supplement offers some of which can be as little as 25% plus many cruise lines and now offering single staterooms on some ships thus avoiding the need to penalise single travellers.

Cruise Fares

One of the biggest complaints we hear is from soon-to-be passengers who become annoyed that their cruise fare has dropped after making their final payment. This is understandable but the reality is that neither the cruise line nor your travel agent is likely to tell you about this, so it is important to check cruise prices often and wait as long as possible to pay off your final balance. We use a cruise price alert site called cruisewatch.com to make us aware of price changes. This allows us to ask for a price match or upgrade.

 

Poor Buffet Etiquette

cruise complaints buffet etiquette

There is always plenty of food to go around when on your cruise! But sometimes you wouldn’t think so. It seems that some folks are so desperate for their next meal that all the common courtesies you would expect from your cruising companions get thrown out of the window.

Common cruise complaints include queue jumping, poor hygiene, saving seats, eating in the queue, taking more than you can eat and not using the proper utensils to put food on your plate. Don’t be one of the small number of guests who make the buffet experience an unpleasant one for everyone else.

Gratuities

Also known as ‘The Service Charges’, Tips or Gratuities, this is one hot topic for cruisers. If you are sailing with one of the mainstream cruise lines, these are normally added to your onboard account and shared among the crew to supplement their monthly salary.

You may not like having to pay these additional charges, but the reality is that this is how the cruise lines operate and compensate their staff. You do have the option to not pay the extra fees by requesting they be removed from your bill, but this just hurts the crew members who are simply trying to earn a living and make your cruise as enjoyable as possible.

All-Inclusive Cruises avoid this problem as all Gratuities and Service charges are included in the cruise fare. Find out all you need to know about gratuities in our ultimate guide to gratuities and tipping on a cruise.
Related: All-Inclusive Cruise Benefits Revealed

Hidden Extra’s

Cruise lines are always looking for more ways to make money and give passengers a wider range of onboard facilities. This invariably means paying for things you might have thought should be included. This includes Room Service, Gratuities, Speciality Restaurants, Corkage Fees, Babysitting services, Soft Drinks and Bottled Water, Speciality Coffees, Sauna and Steam Room, and Onboard Activities.

Extra-fee options are here to stay as this helps the cruise lines keep the headline price of the cruise low so whatever you say, nothing is likely to change.

Embarkation

Joining your ship should be exciting for us all, but embarkation day can be stressful. Feeling anxious is normal, particularly after a long flight or transfer to the cruise terminal. You keep wondering if something will go wrong which keeps you on edge and when the port is crowded with long queues everywhere you do wonder sometimes if it is all worth it. Once onboard calm should return!

Stateroom Gripes

Seasoned travellers know what to expect when booking their cruises. They have learnt which are the best locations and also the dud ones to avoid. People are notoriously prone to winging about their staterooms; it’s too noisy, too small, smelly, too close to the lifts – the list goes on. If you have a problem talk to the cruise line about it as they will do their best to resolve any issues you may have.

To set your expectations about your stateroom, read our article on what to expect from your cruise stateroom.

Dining

There is little doubt that food on a cruise ship is pretty good. In most cases, it caters for everyone and there is a dining venue to suit your preferences. Nevertheless, there are always some folks who just have to complain about the food. We have heard it all – the quality not being good enough, too hot or too cold, too much or too little time between courses and limited choice of their favourite foods. Seating arrangements can also cause some folks to be unhappy.

Prepare yourself by learning what to expect from cruise ship food.

Dress Codes

Cruise Complaints Resturant dress codes

As they keep changing, cruise ship dress codes can confuse. Cruise lines, in general, are becoming less formal and so you need to be aware of the dress code for your particular cruise line. Knowing what is acceptable to wear for lunch or dinner is important to avoid any awkward moments when entering the restaurant. Check out the cruise line website or better still ask your cruise travel agent for advice.

The biggest beef is normally guests complaining that other cruisers are not following the rules. All that is required is a little respect for other guests and work with the cruise line to avoid embarrassment.

If you don’t feel like dressing up on a formal night, there are always other casual dining choices.

For the lowdown on what to wear on a cruise, check out our article on cruise line dress codes.

Smoking Policies

Another hotly debated topic for cruisers is the issue of smoking onboard. Everyone has a view on this. Smokers think there are not enough places to smoke whilst Non-Smokers think there are too many.

Most cruise lines have banned smoking in most places on their ships and designate a few ‘special’ areas where smokers can enjoy a smoke. This goes a long way to keep the smell of cigarette smoke away from non-smoking guests and also greatly reduces the risk of fire which is the greatest risk for ships at sea.

Service

From our experience, we have always found that the service you receive on a cruise ship is always way better than anything you would receive on land. Cruise lines pride themselves on the excellence of their service. Occasionally you do hear of passengers who feel the service they have received is below par, in which case it should be reported. 

Tendering

Cruise Complaints Tendering

Sometimes cruise ships are unable to enter a port and dock alongside the pier and in such cases, passengers are taken ashore in groups using the ship’s tenders or lifeboats. On larger cruise ships this can sometimes be a nightmare. It sometimes feels like everyone is trying to get off the ship at the same time creating a feeling of disorganised chaos.

To address this problem cruise lines are getting more organised with ticket systems and separate lines for cruisers in higher-grade cabins or those with loyalty status or who have simply paid to jump to the front of the line. Inevitable there will be times when bad weather or heavy seas means that the port of call has to be cancelled which always leads to grumbles from passengers.

One way around this problem is to book a cruise line shore excursion which always ensures you will be in your tender at the right time to make your tour.

For more secrets on cutting down wait times, peruse our article on 10 ways to skip long lines on a cruise.

Lifts

Big ships generally mean overcrowded elevators or lifts. We often try to avoid using elevators and use the stairs to help burn off some of the excess calories gained whilst cruising but not everyone has that option. When your only choice to get from deck to deck is a limited number of crowded elevators, it can be frustrating and understandably leads to grumbles.

If using the elevators is a must, always observe some common courtesy by allowing people to exit before you enter when it stops at your floor, moving in so others can join you. Kids love elevators and can often be found simply going up and down from one lift to another. Frustrating to say the least.

Learn more about navigating cruise ships, small or oversized, with our guide to getting around.

Banned Items

Cruising is all about having a great vacation whilst enjoying all that your chosen cruise ship has to offer. Behind the scenes, the cruise lines are beavering away making sure their passengers are safe. In all matters to do with safety, the cruise lines have certain rules that you are expected to follow and this includes a list of items that cannot be taken onboard. Because passengers are not fully aware of this, it can often be a cause of complaints from unhappy cruisers.

The lists of banned items are long and vary by cruise line, but they generally include such things as weapons, sharp objects, Illegal Drugs & Substances, electrical items with heating elements, drones, alcohol and various other things that could pose a safety threat.

One item that catches a lot of cruisers out is the banning of surge protected power strips. For full information on why these devices are banned please check out this article. You should always check with your cruise line before you sail to help keep complaints to a minimum.
Related: Is this the end of Power Strips on Cruise Ships?

Shore Excursions

Shore excursions are notoriously expensive unless they are included as part of your cruise fare. The most common cruise complaints apart from being too expensive, are that they don’t allow enough time to properly experience a destination, the guides are mediocre, start too early and are padded out to maximise the time ashore.

On a positive note cruise line tours, whilst expensive, have reputedly been quality checked and won’t leave you behind if the tour returns late to the ship. Independent shore excursions, which are often more affordable, can offer smaller crowds and a more “authentic” experience and most now come with ‘Return to the Ship’ Guarantees.

As always, if things don’t go as planned, the best thing you can do is inform the cruise line of your problems and write a review. This will help fine-tune the tour for the next guests

Before you book your shore excursions, you should read this post secret ways to save on shore excursions.
Related: Guide to Cruise Shore Excursions

End of Cruise Bill

If you are on a pay as you go cruise, you may elect to view your bill halfway through the cruise to see if everything you have signed for is correct, or worse still spy any rogue entries, such as the horror of horrors someone else’s bar bill is listed. This will give you a chance to visit guest services at a quieter period to challenge the wrong entry, not leaving it until the evening before you debark, when you will be joining a very long queue with others disputing their bill.

Many cruise lines let you view your latest bill in the comfort of your cabin, so any discrepancies will show up there and then for you to dispute.

If of course you ordered drinks for everyone at the bar and the entry does not show, keep quiet, it might show on someone else’s bill and they can have the pleasure of paying for it.

Final Thoughts

The bottom lines is that going on a cruise is supposed to be a relaxing and enjoyable experience. Be prepared for the experience and try to avoid becoming too downhearted when things don’t go to plan.  Cruise complaints can normally be sorted out very quickly by the cruise line staff who are eager to help.

If you enjoyed this article please feel free to share it with others and leave any comments you may have below.  Happy Cruising.

About The Author

Mike

A passionate cruiser and photographer with more than 300 days at sea, and just a few, but growing number of Luxury River Cruises. Our new-found love is expedition and adventure cruising on small, luxury ships. All-Inclusive Food and Wine Cruises always attract our attention!

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