Recently, I've been watching a lot of in-depth video tours of these objectively gigantic modern cruise ships, which are all more or less the same. Basically, they are like floating cities, but everything is tracked and you can of course not exit the cruise ship as you please, since it travels around on the seas.

Even though I have a general personal interest in large ships, because they fascinate me by merely existing, I'm at the same time having a very hard time understanding what the general public sees in these things and why they are willing to pay so much money to go on a cruise with one of them.

I'm gonna be blunt: most of the areas look horribly "tacky" and tasteless, and seems to be be made for a generic mix of "consumer-mindset" people, and even though I would genuinely be fascinated initially walking around there, I would quickly feel trapped there as I realize that virtually everything is designed to extract further money from me, even though I already paid the hefty price for a ticket and cabin, and everything is just so "industrial-sized" and impersonal.

Growing up, I used to go on these much smaller ferries, which themselves seemed huge to me, to visit our cousins. That trip was necessary; it wasn't possible (or practical, or economical) to fly there. Also, there were lots of genuinely exciting and unique things on the ships, with one highlight being the one-armed bandits of the electro-mechanical kind. These days, those no longer exist, and what's left of such gambling machines and the video arcade is something which turns me off more than anything.

I want to point out that, if I could design an entire such cruise ship with unlimited budget, I could make it extremely interesting (at least to me), but this is obviously not the case with the existing cruise ships to which I can book a ticket right now if I had the money. So it's not that I don't like the cruise ships as a concept; I only wonder why, in their existing form, people want to go on there.

Since there is no practical reason to go on them (flying is quicker and cheaper, and they aren't even designed to "transport people from point A to point B", but rather to "allow them to be on the sea for X number of days/weeks"), and they cannot be said to feature anything unique (everything you can find on board has a far superior on-land alternative), what is so appealing about these modern monsters of the sea?

For me, it's also a matter of having no privacy. I don't want a stupid wrist band registering every move I make, or face scanning to board the ship, or any of that stuff. However, this seems to be a lost cause and nobody else cares about privacy anymore, so it's just a minor additional complaint compared to the main ponder.

It's like, you imagine this floating paradise, away from any city or country, like a space ship floating through space, away from everyone, but in reality, it seems to be just another place where a bunch of people are packed together and they barely even notice that they are at sea at all. It seems like a big waste of money for them to create all this stuff on a cruise ship instead of just making a theme park on an island somewhere or something.

I'm basically confused about what is so good about these things. I couldn't imagine being comfortable on there, with all the people, noise, tasteless design, generic food/machines/entertainment centres, etc.

Maybe I'm missing something fundamental about them. Maybe it's an unwritten rule, which everyone except I understand, that these cruise ships are just a "front" for their true purpose: some sort of hidden/unadvertised deck/area where adults can gain access and which is basically a large-scale brothel or something. And that's where all the parents go while the kids play around above. But I doubt it. I think what you see in those videos are what you get. And I simply don't get it.

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    – Willeke
    Commented Apr 20, 2020 at 16:11

4 Answers 4


Really, your question is, "why do some people like different things to me?" but you've implied that anyone who enjoys this must be some kind of philistine, instead of just having different goals to you.

My parents are at an age now where their health doesn't allow them to travel long haul economy without great discomfort, and they find business class travel extortionate, and not much better. They also dislike the security theatre and waiting around associated with airports. Train travel is a pain because they have difficulty transporting their luggage if a porter isn't available, and they don't always feel comfortable with a self-organised holiday. They used to do holidays involving long coach trips, but again, they don't find it comfortable to be sitting down for more than a couple of hours.

A cruise ship picks them up at the dock about 45 minutes' drive from their house, where there's ample cheap parking, then floats them away. As far as I understand, their bags are delivered to their rooms. During the trip, they are free to walk around the ship at will, there's no seatbelt signs. They can visit a bar, sit by the pool, or read a book on their private balcony with a sea view. They can talk with other holidaymakers or keep to themselves. Every day they wake up in a new city, often one they have been longing to visit, and they go on land and walk around. If they don't feel well one day, they can just stay on board, no pressure to keep up with a group. The cruise ship arranges local guides at each stop. If weather or other problems interfere, the captain makes alternative plans. Before they can get bored, it's off to a new place.

They don't have to pack and unpack their bags every day. You can call the on board facilities tasteless, and I get it, a lot of people only want to dine somewhere with a Michelin star, but some people are just happy with edible food. There's some kind of evening entertainment as well.

It's not for me; but it's not my vacation.

  • 11
    This is almost exactly my Grandparents' experience. They used to go on long car tours, but are too old for that now. They started cruising about 10 years ago, and have been back to their beloved Norway, to St Petersburg, in the Med, to the Canary Islands. They are absolutely hooked. Commented Apr 19, 2020 at 19:42
  • 2
    Most of this is true, but after having done a 14 days cruise on one of the biggest cruise ships ever, I can guarantee you that the security theatre and waiting around is also a thing for cruises. Every time you leave the ship, you have to be ready to wait in line for a while to get back in, with a mandatory security check. I've waited sometimes more than an hour. The reason is that you have thousands of passengers, but only few places to let them enter the boat.
    – Tim
    Commented Apr 20, 2020 at 14:56
  • 1
    I like a lot of your answer, but feel that the top portion could possibly be toned down just a bit. Commented Apr 20, 2020 at 15:54
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    "but some people are just happy with edible food" and, perhaps more importantly, there are plenty of other people who don't find it tasteless (nor do they see those things as "designed to extract further money"). If everyone found it so, the cruise operator would change it. That would make their clients happier, which is (usually) more profitable.
    – NotThatGuy
    Commented Apr 20, 2020 at 16:58
  • Some retired seniors even live fulltime on cruise ships (or did before this pandemic - I don't know about now)
    – Lag
    Commented Apr 20, 2020 at 19:12

I understand your arguments and I even relate to them. You have to think differently though.

Many of these ships do daily stops in different cities. They navigate during the night and stop during the day. Now imagine a hotel where you would wake up in a new city every day. Instead of driving or taking a train you could actually go to the pool, have dinner and have a good night sleep. The next day you could explore a new place and know the culture of the country of your choice. If you do the math and factor all the aspects - food, travel, night at hotel, the cost of such trips can actually be reasonable if compared with the equivalent life style outside the boat. Plus you save time and hassles since you travel while sleeping.

  • 14
    and you only unpack once! Commented Apr 19, 2020 at 11:54

Humans were always fascinated about doing things that they are not designed to do by nature, which includes flying, diving, floating on the sea, etc.

Also, humans are fascinated by hotels and the goodies that come along with hotels. Somehow they make us feel "rich" even if the money we used to book the hotel is loan money.

You can do these two things at once! that is cruise ships.

Some bits of your post has the answers to your own question:

but rather to "allow them to be on the sea for X number of days/weeks"

Exactly, people who are designed to walk on earth, love to float on the sea for a change.

I don't want a stupid wrist band registering every move I make, or face scanning to board the ship

Wow, that will make humans feel special and privileged!

It's like, you imagine this floating paradise, away from any city or country, like a space ship floating through space

Enough said! take my money and shut up!

Why don't you feel the same?

Well, again from your answer:

Growing up, I used to go on these much smaller ferries, which themselves seemed huge to me

You simply are not fascinated by the idea of floating on the sea or boarding a ship. You depleted your "excitement".

I'm gonna be blunt: most of the areas look horribly "tacky" and tasteless, and seems to be be made for a generic mix of "consumer-mindset" people

Exactly, some people do not fall for these traps! luckily for business owners, they are the minority, you are among this minority.

In my opinion, any experienced traveler would pick a different type of traveling over these huge cruise ships. It is, in my opinion, the opposite of the concept of traveling and the freedom that comes with it.

A seasonal traveler or a person who plans a once in a lifetime trip would easily fall for this, it will give him/her everything in one shot, including stories to tell people and something to brag about. Also, cruise ships are somehow related to "romance", as does Paris. I would never go to Paris to have a romantic time with my partner, but try to explain that to an inexperienced traveler. It's a myth that people want to really believe.


Some of us like to go to 'all in' holiday resorts, not seeing anything of the country they go to but the transfer from and to the airport, others go to the same country but would not want to even enter such an 'all in' resort. Both can be happy at the end of their trip, as long as they have chosen the right holiday for them.

Cruise holidays are the extreme of 'all in' resort holidays for many, have all entertainment and comfort, no worries about getting places, and still see some of the places you travel through.
Others use cruise travel to actually see places and use the cruise as a kind of ferry to get them from place to place, enjoying the comfort or the lack of need to pack-up and move, as an easy way to travel.
Others again make the mistake of going on a cruise while they should not have done that, as they do not enjoy the experience.

I fear that both you and I fall in that last group, me at least for now while I can still travel on my own.
I guess you and I will also not be seen in one of the 'all in' holiday resorts where you do not even leave the place to look around the area.

In short:
They serve a kind of holiday makers who love this kind of travel.
And as you can see from the comments on the question and the other answers, there are many people who do like that kind of holiday. Even when they did not think that they would when they had not done it yet.

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