Top Cruise Myths

1. The best deals are last-minute

You’ll see cheap last-minute prices for some itineraries — such as a week in the Caribbean for $499 — as cruise lines try to fill space that hasn’t sold. But these fares aren’t necessarily a good deal for several reasons, the biggest one being that the best cabins sell out first. A better tactic is to book an early-bird fare, six to 12 months out. This typically lops 25 to 50 percent off the brochure price.

2. You’ll get fat

Perhaps one of the biggest cruise myths is that you’ll gain five pounds just by stepping aboard the ship. It’s true that a crazy array of food is available 24/7. But cruise lines are aware that passengers are increasingly health-conscious. Menu choices reflect this, with plenty of low-cal, low-carb, vegetarian and other healthful options. Plus, you can work off your Baked Alaska splurge in the gym (some ships even have fitness boot camps) or on the jogging track.

3. You need to dress up

There will be some sort of dress code in the main dining room. But in general, cruising has gotten much less formal in recent years. Most nights you’ll only need “smart casual” attire. And you can always skip the dining room for a more casual meal at a buffet or other laid-back venue — where a Hawaiian shirt is always appropriate.

4. On board activities are free

Many cruise lines have begun charging extra for new premium amenities such as fancy alternative restaurants, small-group cooking classes, simulated-surf machines and elaborate exercise sessions. Whether you indulge in these offerings is up to you. Also, prepackaged offshore tours can be exorbitant if arranged by the cruise line. You can find and book your own activities and share transportation with other passengers to save money.

5. All cabins are alike

Wrong. An inside cabin (usually the cheapest) has no view; an outside cabin has a closed window or porthole; and a balcony/veranda cabin has a door opening to an outdoor space. And within these categories, there can also be many variations. Look into room layouts before booking. Also study the ship layout: You don’t want to end up in a cabin under the nightclub, for instance (unless a disco beat helps put you to sleep).

6. You’ll get seasick

If you suffer from motion sickness, you should be prepared with appropriate antinausea medication. That said, most ships — large and small — have stabilizers for a smooth ride. If the seas are calm, you’ll feel little movement at all. And if you’re still concerned, the aforementioned inside cabins might actually be a good bet for you.

7. Cruise ships are confining

This is off-the-charts false. Sure, you’re at sea and can’t just walk off the ship whenever you want. But it’s highly unlikely you’ll ever feel trapped. These days, some ships are the size of small towns, and most offer entertainment and activities of every kind — from the cerebral to the hedonistic — both day and night. Plus, you won’t exactly be disconnected, thanks to the Internet access that’s available most of the time.

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