How to Avoid the Crowds on a Cruise

Cruises are a great way to explore several cities and countries in a relatively short period of time. A big plus to cruising is that there is no checking in and out of hotels, living out of a suitcase, or hauling luggage! Many think cruises are only for the elderly, not so! It truly is a great way to travel for people of any age and can be very economical as well. However, there are a lot of people on some of the bigger ships. Learn how to avoid crowds on a cruise.

With many options of cruise lines and ships there’s a cruise for every type of traveler. Some people like party cruises like Carnival, family cruises on Disney, or luxury lines like Silversea or Crystal. Personally, I prefer small to mid-size ships that cater to a slightly older, more mellow crowd (read few to no kids), because I’ve raised my kids and now want quiet, relaxing vacations. But hey, whatever floats your boat!

No matter what cruise you go on there will be crowds and you will have to wait in line at times, especially during embarkation, tendering, and dining. There are ways to avoid or reduce your exposure to the masses. These are my best tips for avoiding crowds on ships.

The Suite Life

One of the best solutions to avoid crowds on a cruise is to book a suite. Yes, it costs more but is sooooo worth the price. Suites often include a private butler, larger suite, expanded room service menu, larger private balcony, concierge services, early embarkation, priority tender tickets, and so much more. Do your research because some cruise lines and ships have incredible suites, while some are just average. When the crowds get annoying, you can always retreat to your own balcony and have room service brought in for dinner!

At the very least, book a balcony stateroom. Retreating to your own balcony at the end of a busy day in port with a nice glass of wine and room service is priceless! If you’re lucky, the upgrade fairy will call or email you before your embarkation date and offer you a deal on a suite! I’ve been offered an upgrade on a few cruises, so it does happen. However, I don’t count on it anymore. I always book a suite and am often offered a higher class suite for a great deal.

Don’t stay in an inside stateroom, they can be very noisy since the staff areas are located on the inside as well. Who wants to be woken up by loud clanking and banging of food trays and carts?

Secluded Areas

All ships have areas that are less populated. For some peace and quiet, check two or three decks above the pool deck either forward or aft. Often you can find an area with lounge chairs, few people, and no screaming kids! The library is a quiet room if you’re looking for a place indoors to relax with a good book. Or, find a quiet bar during the day when most people are out enjoying the pool area.

Specialty Dining

Gone are the old-style days of set dining times and tables on most cruises, thank God. Freestyle dining has become the norm, often with the option of set dining times if you prefer. In addition to the main dining room, most cruise ships also offer several specialty restaurants.

Take advantage of specialty dining venues on a ship to avoid the crowds on a cruise in the main dining room. Some specialty dining restaurants have an additional charge per person, some are free. The ones that charge are usually your best bet, since many cruisers don’t want to shell out the extra cash. Book a reservation early in the cruise, or even before online, and enjoy a quiet romantic dinner!

Table for Two

If you’re eating in the main dining room, request a table for two. Tables for two are more intimate and you won’t be seated with other people. Cruise ships love to seat strangers together to meet and mingle. Personally, I prefer to dine alone with my husband, family, or friends I’m cruising with. There are plenty of other opportunities to meet fellow cruisers.

Also, don’t eat dinner during busy times. Go early or late to avoid a crowded dining room. I prefer dining later so that I can enjoy a nice cocktail hour or two before dinner!


Book a spa day! Cruise ships have great spas and treatments. Splurge on a massage and enjoy the sauna and steam rooms. Space is limited to you won’t find a huge crowd in the spa. Some ships have spa sundecks too. Spas and spa sundecks are adult only!

Some ships also offer packages to enjoy spa amenities during the cruise. For example, Holland America offers a Thermal Suite package to enjoy the hot thermal pool and relaxation lounge, steam rooms and sauna. Buy the package on the first day when the price is discounted, it’s well worth it!

Stay Onboard

Instead of leaving the ship on port days, stay onboard. Or, just venture out in the morning and return early to enjoy the pool area when everyone else is still out on excursions. I usually do this if it’s a port I’ve already been to, or there’s not that much to see and do. Port days are great days to head to the pool or other popular spots on the ship..

Private Tours

If you’re like me, you don’t want to spend the day with a bunch of people on a tour bus. I book my own private tours to avoid the crowd. Private tours are also more flexible and can be tailored to your preferences. Try to avoid the private tours offered through the ship, they cost way too much. Do some research and book on your own. Check out cruise forums like Cruise Critic for tons of cruise port information.

Another option is to hire a taxi when you get off the ship. Negotiate a price for a the sites you want to see. You can and should always bargain with them, they expect it!

Small Ship

To really avoid crowds on a cruise, don’t sail on one of those massive mega ships with 5000 passengers or more. They are like a big city on water, with all of the annoying crowds to go with it. Just imagine that many people descending upon a small coastal town! Stick to ships with no more than 2000 passengers at the most. Smaller ships with 600-800 ships are ideal and way more intimate with far better service.

If you’re planning a cruise in Europe check out Best of Dubrovnik and Venice Cruise Port. Or for New Zealand and Australia read Best of Dunedin, New Zealand, Best Things To Do In Wellington and What To Do In Melbourne.

Now go book that cruise! I wish you smooth sailing. Leave me a comment or question below.



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