Life Onboard: What to Expect on a Cruise

Experiences / Life Onboard

Make the voyage itself the highlight of your vacation.

Exotic destinations and exciting shore excursions are highlights of every cruise vacation, but the real magic of any cruise experiences happens onboard. Whether you want to get away or get involved, a relaxing retreat or active adventure, or prefer to focus on food and wine over fun-in-the-sun, cruise lines have customized and diversified onboard experiences to match your passion.

Not sure what to expect on a cruise? That's fine too. CruiseInsider is here to help. We get to know you personally in order to book the ideal cruise adventure - your wants, whims and yes, even the occasional worry. We also know our cruise partners well, what makes each ship and stateroom unique and what makes each itinerary extraordinary. The result is an expertly planned cruise vacation perfectly suited to your personality and passions.

Start exploring the sea of onboard possibilities and let our experts help you choose the perfect cruise experience.

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Whether you enjoy the cruise line's standard restaurant options, prefer fine dining in a specialty venue or want the luxury service of private in-suite dining, no two epicurean experiences on any ship will ever be the same. From delicious buffets to distinguished big name chefs, every cruise line offers individual and inspired dining options for every type of palette. Everyone from foodies to families to guests with food allergies will find a variety of themed venues, fresh menu items, locally sourced ingredients and more.

Spa & Fitness

Wellness, awareness and healthy living are central themes on many of the luxury cruise lines. Enjoy a relaxing Canyon Ranch SpaClub experience at sea. Relax in a comfortable chaise next to your very own pool. Ease into the soothing waters of an open-air whirlpool spa. Rejuvenate on your private spa terrace special room with heated ceramic loungers. Exercise with a world-class ocean view on state-of-the-art fitness equipment. Join a complimentary yoga or pilates class.


The immense variety and incredible production value of entertainment options onboard most ships today rivals that of Broadway. Every ship features a unique line-up of nightly shows, Vegas-style reviews, famed musicians and and top-quality entertainers performing in large, state-of-the-art onboard theaters. Several cruises also offer esteemed guest lecturers and wonderful enrichment opportunities allowing you to learn more about a topic close to your heart or the destinations you're visiting.

Casino & Nightlife

If you enjoy high stakes on the high seas, most cruise lines offer elegant Monte Carlo-style casinos on their larger ships. Typically offering most table games and slot machines, the sophisticated ambience and smoke-free atmosphere of onboard casinos make these after-hours areas some of the most popular spots on the ship. If it's cocktails, comedy or dancing you desire, most ships have a variety of bars, pubs, clubs, discos and more offering everything you can imagine: live jazz, craft beers, stand-up comedy, karaoke, DJ dance parties, rocking bands and even movies under the stars.


While gratuity policies and amounts vary by cruise line, category, package or promotion, many of the luxury lines as all-inclusive options actually don't require any tipping at all as gratuities are typically included in the cruise fare and additional tipping is not expected. There are also a variety of prepaid gratuity options available.

Shipboard Credit

Shipboard credit is basically free money automatically deposited into your onboard account – you can spend this credit on things like beverages, specialty dining, shore excursions, gift shop purchases, spa services, gratuities, internet and more. The actual amount may vary depending on the cruise line you choose, your stateroom category and promotional considerations, but rest assured our advisors have the relationships and expertise to get you the most shipboard credit possible.


Our experts use real-time technology that informs us when cabin upgrades become available so you're the first to know. And as a preferred partner with the world's best cruise lines, we get access to exclusive offers that provide you with free upgrades, double-upgrades, penthouse promotions and beyond! Plus, as a member of the Signature Travel Network, we always get you upgraded in any hotel we book for you. Let us show you how to save like a pro and sail like a king on your next cruise vacation.


While the amount and inventory of onboard shops vary by the size of the cruise ship, most have onboard stores selling everything from vacation items to perfume to to duty-free items. Some ships have even more specialized designer boutiques selling one-of-a-kind art, high-end jewelry and name brand fashion. Each day onboard you'll typically be able to find a variety of sales as well, especially towards the end of a cruise. But pay attention to the rules on what you can buy and bring home or let our advisors help answer your questions regarding your onboard shopping spree.