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Disappointing Cruise Ship Photos That Show What It’s Actually Like on Board


Cruises can be a fantastic getaway for travelers of all ages. Whether you’re looking for a taste of old-school glamour or ship itineraries that offer volunteer opportunities, there are plenty of choices to satisfy your inner adventurer. But let’s be honest, is the reality of a “luxurious” cruise really as impressive as we imagine?

Unfortunately, reality doesn’t always live up to our imagination – and cruise ships aren’t as glamorous as they’re made out to be in glossy travel brochures or TV shows. If you’re planning to take a cruise ship adventure, you might want to reconsider because these pictures certainly show you the other side of all the glamour…

Boarding Expectation


As you make your way down the pier to jump aboard your luxurious cruise adventure, the morning sun shines brightly and casts a shimmering effect on the water to the left and right of the cement walkway.

You receive the “red carpet” treatment as the cheerful crew members welcome you with their bright smiles and friendly waves as you enter the vessel to board the cruise ship.

Boarding Reality


Unfortunately, instead of cheerful crew members greeting you with their bright smiles, you and your companions must enter an airport-like terminal, which oftentimes has dreadfully long lines. You wait alongside impatient shipmates, many of them unsmiling.

Then you provide your paperwork for safe documentation to the counter before you’re allowed to enter the ship, dragging your luggage up the inclined pier slope through the crowd of other guests.

Room Expectation


You’re probably already tired from all the process before you can actually get on the ship, all you want to do is drop off the heavy luggage you’re dragging around.

Of course, your room for the next few days won’t be like the hotel rooms in the city. While it would be built tailored fancy like the rest of the cruise ship, what makes it different would be the ocean view that you can easily enjoy thanks to the private outdoor patio.

Room Reality


If budget constraints come into play, one must settle for the most economical cabins available. You’ll trudge past the luxury rooms as you drag your things and make your way to the lower floors.

Sure, the room won’t be just any room, but it will be more modest than the luxurious ones of your imagination when you think of a cruise ship room – which is expected. Well, at least, you can still enjoy the ocean view through the small window… past the railing…

Pool Expectation

Photo: Twitter/@cruisecom

If you’re looking for a place to relax and soak up the sun’s rays, there’s no better place than the pool deck of a cruise ship. It’s also the perfect spot to enjoy the breathtaking view of the ocean or port as you sail to your next destination.


What’s even more exciting is the pool lights up at night and offers a different experience compared to daytime – almost magical amidst the darkness of the ocean even. Aside from the sound of waves, you can also get to enjoy great music.

Pool Reality

Photo: Pinterest

You’re in the middle of the ocean, of course, it’s going to be hot. You go to the pool deck to freshen up under the water – but everyone seems to have the same plan as you.

No worries, there’s more than one pool on this cruise ship. So you go up the top deck, planning to enjoy the higher view and grab a few drinks. Too bad, a few dozen families have already beaten you to it.

Hot Tub Expectation


If there’s a pool, there’s obviously going to be a hot tub. Now, picture yourself walking towards a bubbling, secluded hot tub. The water is perfectly heated and you sink into your seat.

You shut your eyes and embrace the soothing sounds of waves and bubbles. Then, your partner joins you, or maybe a couple of friends – they bring some nicely chilled drinks and you engage in a perfect conversation.

Hot Tub Reality

Photo: Pinterest

When it comes to actual cruise ships (not in one’s imagination), it’s a stroke of luck if you manage to claim a spot in the hot tub before anyone else as soon as the pool deck opens each morning.

By midday, you’ve probably already formed a few enjoyable connections, sharing laughter with newfound friends. But come afternoon and the once enjoyable hot tub is starting to fill in with people you probably don’t want to share with.

Live Show Expectation

Photo: Twitter/@DwaxzEdwin

If you’re on a luxury cruise ride, there will be some expectations of live shows and appearances while at sea – from acrobatics and captivating high-dives in the open air. You’re part of the crowd, clapping at the amazing performance and the combination of colorful lights and water design.

But these are not the only performance of the night. You’ll find yourself singing along to a couple of musicals and your stomach hurting from all the laughter after watching cheeky adult game shows and comedians on stage.


Live Show Reality


Contrary to your expectation, live shows on cruise ships are much more modest than one’s imagination, given that there are a couple of things to consider – your budget and the stage size.

If you’re well aware of how this might affect the reality of your adventure, then you might need to adjust your expectations as well. Instead of a flying performance that keeps you on the edge of your seat, there might be a stand-up comedy to liven up the night or other lower-scale performances.

Casino Expectation


Other than the pool, another thing you might look forward to is the casino on board, with a vision of a mini Las Vegas in mind. As you walk through the entrance, the walkways are lined with multiple bars, each offering a unique experience.

In addition, you will find the newest slot machines, equipped with the brightest LEDs. For something more interactive, you can join a game of poker at one of the many welcoming table dealers. Each game holds a promise of an unforgettable experience, but…

Casino Reality


Rather than the mini Las Vegas you had in mind, the casino will be a little bit lackluster in comparison to your expectations. Sure, the games and tables are brightly lit, but other than that, it isn’t as glamorous as the mini Vegas you were hoping for.

But past that, it can still offer you a chance to indulge in the thrill of gambling and leave with double the amount you came in. This is considering you get lucky.

Ship Expectation


We all expect that a luxurious cruise ship will live up to its name and will be as glamorous as we’ve seen on films and TV shows. Beautiful from afar, even more so up close.

When it comes to cruise ships, of course, you want nothing but the best – a ship that will guarantee a memorable experience. Because why settle for anything less than the best?


Ship Reality

Photo: Wikimedia Commons

“Why settle for anything less than the best?” you ask. Well, your budget is going to be the one to determine what kind of cruise ship you’re going to be on.

But let’s face it, cruise ships aren’t really that pretty. We hate to be the ones to say it, but it’s true. Or at least, it isn’t really as impressive as people like to make it out to be. If you think otherwise, well, to each their own!

Guest Age Expectation

Photo: Pinterest

Assuming you’re not in the retirement bracket already, you’re surely young enough to want to meet people your own age or at least close – someone who shares the same amount of energy as you.

A cruise ship is perfect for meeting new people and making lasting connections. There are lots of activities and events onboard, so you’ll always have something to do and someone to do it with.

Guest Age Reality


If you haven’t already noticed it when you were boarding, notice that retirees make up the majority of cruise ship guests. Usually, it’s around that age when people have enough money to spend on expensive adventures or enough time to spend on their well-deserved vacations.

But don’t worry! We’re sure there are plenty of young people you can meet on board, but they’re usually together with their families.

Meeting Someone Expectations


Let’s say you’ve found someone your own age. Isn’t it just fantastic to meet the love of your life on a cruise ship? Maybe you’ll meet someone at the ship’s bar or at the ship’s top deck.

Some fantasize about a short fling, while others dream of meeting their life-long partner. Whatever it may be, you should keep those expectations under control.

Meeting Someone Reality


Let’s be honest – reality can really be harsh sometimes. But if there’s one thing you shouldn’t do is to assume that you’ll find someone among the many guests. Sure you can, but just not in the way you’ll be expecting.


Just because you’re on a cruise ship doesn’t mean instant chemistry between two complete strangers will happen. The chances of a long-term relationship are also pretty slim.

Weather Expectation


It’s a sunny day – the sky is bright without clouds in sight and the water is a perfectly clear blue. This is how you imagine how a luxurious cruise ship is going to be when you take a step on the ship’s deck and walk around.

Then, you relax in one of the loungers. The weather and the cool breeze are simply perfect to bathe under the sun to work on your tan.

Weather Reality

Photo: Twitter/@dario_djuric

But how can you work on your tan when the weather doesn’t cooperate with you? You might be living in a fantasy to think that it’s going to be sunny 24/7 during your whole cruise ship adventure.

The weather is unpredictable, and when you’re out at sea, things get a little intense. With rain and thunderstorms, the rough sea water will probably keep you all hiding in your rooms and fearing for your safety.

The Titanic Scene Expectations

Photo: Youtube/BritishPeriodDramas

The 1997 film Titanic is widely regarded as one of the most successful and beloved films ever made. Two iconic scenes from the movie that stand out are the “I’m king of the world!” scene and the “I’m flying…” scene with Jack and Rose.

These both occur on the bow of the ship and have left a lasting impression on viewers that many cruise-goers aspire to recreate them during their own vacations. You might even be one of them, imagining the bow as a secluded and romantic spot with breathtaking sunset views.

The Titanic Scene Reality

Photo: Wikimedia Commons

If you were planning the replicate the famous Titanic scene where Jack and Rose were at the ship’s bow, don’t even bother trying. Reality a little bit too far off for you to even attempt it. Firstly, this part of the ship is usually off limits to guests. But even if it isn’t, there’s ton of equipment at the front of the ship.

Let’s say there won’t be any equipment or blockage hindering you from replicating the iconic scene. We’re sure the experience will be more of a “scared that you and your significant other might lose your balance” instead of that romantic vibe you were going for.


Romantic Expectation


As you settle in, your significant other is by your side, and the atmosphere is filled with tropical love and excitement. Fresh ocean air and a luxury experience for two people looking for some alone time together – it feels like a dream come true.

A cruise ship adventure is the ultimate getaway for lovers to spend their time together. Blame it on the films that inspired your romantic expectations for this one. Nothing feels more romantic than this.

Romantic Reality


Who told you that you can have alone time together? Obviously, there will be a lot of people boarding the same cruise ship as you with the exact same plans. It’s a reality check that hits hard – your alone time might not be as abundant as you hoped.

Sure, you have your designated rooms, providing some level of privacy. But when it comes to finding those intimate corners where you can escape the crowd and be alone with your partner, the options might be disappointingly limited.

Dining Room Expectation


Dining at sea has a special kind of enchantment. The combination of indulging in opulent meals while being surrounded by the vast expanse of the ocean creates a truly magical experience. Plus, there’s the added charm of dressing up in nicer attire.

Moreover, the culinary offerings on a cruise are often expected to exceed standards and deliver nothing short of Michelin-star quality. You’re bound to have a delightful time.

Dining Room Reality

Photo: Pinterest

Let’s bring ourselves back to reality. On a cruise ship, the main dining experience typically happens in the common cafeteria, where you’ll find yourself surrounded by dozens of other diners.

While the food served there is generally of decent quality, it may not reach the level of culinary excellence you were hoping for. The experience will still be enjoyable, primarily due to the breathtaking views that accompany your meal – but remember, the eating area tends to be bustling with people, which impacts the overall ambiance.


Excursion Expectation


When your cruise ship docks at various port cities, besides exploring these new countries, indulging in recreational excursions is an excellent way to make the most of your time. There is an abundance of exciting options available.

You can go jet skiing, visit exotic places, embark on thrilling whale-watching adventures, or dive into the vibrant underwater world through snorkeling. You can also join guided tours to uncover hidden gems, savor local wine tastings, and explore plentiful shops brimming with unique finds. The possibilities are endless!

Excursion Reality

If you’re traveling with older family members, they might prefer immersing themselves in the local culture through activities like guided tours rather than participating in high-adrenaline adventures.

For tours that involve exploring the city or visiting places located a bit farther away, expect a scene of older people. You should have already expected this the moment you noticed the age bracket in the past few days.

Spa Expectation


With expert hands guiding your relaxation, and a breathtaking view stretching as far as the eye can see, you’ll feel a sense of restoration and relaxation as you also immerse yourself in the gentle motion of the ocean.

Once your eyes close and the tranquil sounds of nature fill the air during your massage, there’s no turning back – you’ll be transported to a realm of pure bliss and rejuvenation.

Spa Reality


Regardless of the cruise liner or spa you choose, there will always be an opportunity for relaxation – maybe just not in the way you’re expecting it to be. Keep in mind that there are also other people looking the same thing as you.

The level of privacy and seclusion you can expect also varies depending on the package you select, which of course will be determined by your budget. But look on the bright side: sharing a spa with other people can actually be quite enjoyable. You can meet new people, engage in fun conversations, and make new friends!


Bathroom Expectation


When it comes to cruises, luxury and relaxation are often associated with every aspect, including the bathrooms. Many envision lavish facilities that are spacious enough to prepare for an elegant night out or indulge in a soothing bubble bath for a cozy evening.

Maybe even a wall full of windows as you bathe and enjoy the view at the same time. But the experience tends to deviate from these lofty expectations.

Bathroom Reality


Your room might have already given away what you should be expecting your bathroom to be like, so please don’t tell us you were expecting something amazing.

But what you probably didn’t expect is it would be as tiny as it is, offering minimal counter space and a cramped shower space. Expect that two people can’t shower and use the toilet at the same time.

Tender Expectation

Photo: Celebrity Cruises/Tim Aylen

Passengers often have high expectations for the cruise ship’s tender, which is the smaller boat used to transport them between the main vessel and the shore during boarding or port excursions.

They envision the tender to be as luxurious and well-equipped as the main ship, reminiscent of the grand ocean liners of the past. They anticipate a comfortable and opulent experience as they travel back and forth between the ship and the shore.

Tender Reality

Photo: Kosciolek

The tender is actually far from a luxurious vessel. It serves as a simple transportation vehicle, making short trips to and from the shore without any of the amenities or attractions found on the main cruise ship.

In terms of appearance, the tender closely resembles the ship’s lifeboats, as it also serves as a life-saving boat in case of an emergency. This resemblance can be a bit unsettling when riding in the tender during a regular cruise, as it reminds passengers of its dual purpose.

Wildlife Expectation

Photo: Twitter/@Soundbounder

For many people, one of the main attractions of cruising is the opportunity to witness marine wildlife while being surrounded by the vastness of the open seas.


They envision magnificent moments where pods of dolphins and whales gracefully swim up to the ship, offering perfect chances for capturing photos and enjoying up-close and personal encounters with these majestic creatures.

Wildlife Reality

Photo: Wikimedia Commons

When it comes to encountering wildlife near a cruise ship, the reality might not live up to the fantasy. The notion of dolphins and whales swimming up close to the boat is often just that – a fantasy.

In reality, most of the time, when you gaze off the ship, you’ll find yourself surrounded by the vast expanse of the open ocean, without any notable wildlife in sight.

Employee Life Expectation


When we envision the life of a cruise employee, it’s easy to get lost in the idea of a perpetual vacation. While work is certainly part of the equation, there’s also the promise of forming strong bonds with fellow crew members.

Not only that, you get to explore breathtaking destinations and indulge in a seemingly endless array of delicious food and drinks. The image captures the charm of cruises.

Employee Life Reality


Behind the scenes, the reality for cruise employees can differ from the idealized fantasy. The job entails hard work and long hours, often in demanding and fast-paced environments.

While they do have opportunities to bond with their shipmates and visit exotic locations, it’s essential to understand that the life of a cruise employee also involves dedication, teamwork, and a commitment to providing exceptional service to passengers.

Port of Call Expectation

Photo: Pinterest

Cruise vacationers often have high expectations when it comes to the destinations they visit. It is not just about the destination too, but also about the journey itself.

You envision vibrant lands brimming with delectable cuisine and tropical ports untouched by the modern world.


Port of Call Reality


Well, the reality can sometimes be quite different. For example, sometimes the ports of call may be crowded and the cuisine may not be as authentic as one would expect.

The majority of major ports are undoubtedly stunning and enjoyable to visit, but they are also popular tourist destinations with well-developed infrastructure and economies tailored to accommodate cruise ship visitors. In other words, they offer great experiences but may not be as “unexplored” as some might hope.

Celebrity Cruise Expectation


These days, celebrity and band have become a popular subsection of cruise ship entertainment. These unique events bring together fans and enthusiasts for a cruise experience with a twist.

Imagine: Spending time with a celebrity like Mariah Carey and sharing a few drinks, engaging in conversations, or even singing along to her chart-topping hits.

Celebrity Cruise Reality


The reality of celebrity and band cruises can differ from the expectations of diehard fans. In truth, aside from scheduled events such as concerts or autograph signings, celebrities tend to have their own private area on the ship and generally do not interact with regular guests.

This separation is understandable and ensures privacy for the celebrities, which is perfectly reasonable and expected – but it’s surely disappointing that it isn’t even close to what you were expecting.

Seasickness Expectation


Seasickness is often overlooked by first-time cruise-goers. Many assume they won’t experience any discomfort since they haven’t felt sick while swimming in a pool or being on a lake before.

Hopefully, you’re not one of those who don’t even think of stocking up on medication and leaving them unprepared, overconfident in yourself when it comes to the possibility of feeling ill at sea.

Seasickness Reality


Seasickness is a reality that can catch many cruisers off guard. It’s more common than people might think and can be far worse than just feeling a bit nauseous, so it’s crucial for cruisers to be prepared by stocking up on medication such as Dramamine.


Failing to do so can result in spending the entire trip feeling violently ill, which can lead to missed activities and reduced enjoyment of the cruise experience.

Beach Expectation


When it comes to beaches, you might be envisioning secluded, picturesque spots where they can bask in the sun, sipping on tropical drinks, and embracing the beauty of the tropical weather.

The image of idyllic beaches with pristine shores and peaceful surroundings fuels the anticipation for a peaceful beach experience, certainly a vision of paradise for relaxation!

Beach Reality

Photo: Pinterest

The reality of beaches on cruise ship vacations is akin to the reality of port destinations: they will undoubtedly be beautiful.

While the scenic beauty of the beaches remains intact, expect that it’s going to be crowded, bustling with tourist activity, and an influx of fellow cruise passengers.

Port Terminal Expectation


Port terminals serve as the starting and ending points for cruise journeys, and it’s common for cruisers to envision these terminals as grand and lavish structures, matching the opulence of cruise ships.

As a matter of fact, these terminals are designed not only to provide a starting and ending point for the voyage but also to offer a wide range of amenities and services to ensure a comfortable and enjoyable experience for passengers.

Port Terminal Reality


But in contrast to the imagined grandeur, port terminals are often modest and functional buildings. They prioritize efficiency and functionality over extravagant aesthetics.

They serve as important gateways, facilitating the smooth embarkation and disembarkation processes for passengers, so oftentimes these airport-like terminals are often crowded, dirty, and require long waits.

Drink Expectation


If you enjoy drinking, the unlimited drink pass is definitely worth it. It provides an opportunity to indulge in your favorite beverages without any worries about the cost. However, what if you’re not a fan of drinking?


Well, this might be the perfect chance for you to explore and develop a newfound appreciation for the practice. Just remember: You should be of legal drinking age and drink responsibly!

Drink Reality

Photo: Pinterest

The idea of unlimited drinks sounds appealing, but in reality, the execution and availability may fall short of expectations. If you have a penchant for sugary tropical drinks, you’re in luck, as those are often plentiful.

But if you prefer other types of beverages, you might find yourself needing to make additional trips to the bar to find your desired options.