13 Things You NEED to Know Before Cruising on an Older Ship (Pros & Cons)

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There are many reasons people love cruising on older cruise ships. This includes cost savings over newer cruise ships, which can be substantial these days as cruise prices have increased.

However, cruising on older ships does have it’s pros and cons. In fact, after a recent cruise onboard Royal Caribbean‘s Freedom of the Seas, which is almost 20 years old, there are some things I wish knew before sailing.

From ship decor, cabin condition, dining, entertainment and crew, there are some things that are different on older versus newer cruise ships. Even when cruise ships have been refurbished, there are some positives and negatives.

In this post, I share what you need to know about cruising on an older cruise ship, so that you can be well prepared and have a better cruise!

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Pros of Cruising on an Older Cruise Ship

Let’s start with the positives!

1. Grand Main Dining Rooms

main dining room freedom of the seas older cruise ship

Oftentimes, older cruise ships have grand main dining rooms, providing an elegant atmosphere for evening meals. With their large crystal chandeliers and traditional decor, these classic dining spaces offer a sense of sophistication and charm.

Although newer cruise ships have beautiful restaurants and dining spaces, the grand 2-3 deck dining rooms are becoming a thing of the past. If you love this old style tradition, a multi-deck main dining room is something you’ll appreciate on many older cruise ships.

2. Happy and Relaxed Crew

Crew members on older ships often report feeling happier and more relaxed due to smaller passenger capacities and a familial atmosphere. This makes a lot of sense as newer cruise ships can have 5000 passengers or more!

In contrast, a ship with 2000-3000 passengers can be less demanding on the crew. In our experience, this can contribute to a more enjoyable guest experience as the service will be better.

3. Incorporation of New Ship Features


Despite their age, older ships may incorporate new features during refurbishments, such as updated sports areas, water slides, and specialty restaurants, enhancing the onboard experience.

For instance, when the Oasis of the Seas was originally released in 2009, it did not have all the features it has today. In 2019, when Royal Caribbean refurbished the Oasis of the Seas, they added waterslides, an escape room, Spotlight Karaoke, the Ultimate Abyss dry slide, and multiple dining venues.

4. No Advanced Show Reservations

Unlike newer ships where guests may need to reserve show tickets in advance, older ships typically offer entertainment on a first-come, first-served basis, allowing for more spontaneous enjoyment.

For instance, when we cruised on Royal Caribbean’s Freedom of the Seas, we were never required to make show reservations. This allowed us to “go with the flow” and not feel on a schedule during our vacation.

On some newer Royal Caribbean, NCL and Virgin Voyages cruises, we had to reserve our shows in advance. The entertainment was great, but I do prefer the flexibility that you get on the older cruise ships.

Related: Royal Caribbean vs Norwegian Cruise Line – Everything You Need to Know

5. Abundance of Fun Entertainment

Ice Skating Show

The abundance of fun entertainment on older cruise ships adds to the overall appeal and enjoyment of the cruising experience. One of the highlights of entertainment on older ships is the variety of live shows and performances offered throughout the voyage.

From Broadway-style musicals to comedy acts, magic shows, and acrobatic performances, there are enjoyable entertainment options for everyone!

We weren’t sure if cruising on an older ship would mean sacrificing entertainment and activities. I’m happy to say that we didn’t need to worry about this at all!

6. Better Value For Money

If you’re trying to save money on a cruise, you can’t beat the price and value of the older ships. Cruising on an older vessel is typically a big cost savings versus cruising on newer ships in the fleet.

Plus, you can often book better cabins, including suites, at a reduced cost. Older cruise ships are known for being budget-friendly and a great value cruise vacation!

Cons of Cruising on an Older Cruise Ship

Older cruise ships aren’t for everyone. Here are some of the disadvantages.

7. The Ship May Be Dated

freedom of the seas older cruise ship

One of the things that I didn’t expect when cruising on an older ship, is how dated some areas might be. Even though our ship was refurbished only 3 years ago, much of the decor and furnishings were dated and many public areas shown signs of aging.

Since I grew up cruising with Royal Caribbean, there was a nostalgia to the cruise ship. In this way, it wasn’t all bad.

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8. Time Machine Cabin Decor

cabin freedom of the seas older cruise ship

Our cabin was like a blast from the past. We had orange and turquoise curtains and bedspread, which is nothing like you’d find on todays’ modern cruise ships.

In some ways, it was like taking a time machine and reliving cruises from years ago!

Of course, we still enjoyed. However, unless your cruise ship has been truly revitalized, this will give you an idea of what to expect.

Cabins on older ships may exhibit outdated decor and furnishings, even after refurbishment. While amenities like mattresses and bedding may be updated, aspects like curtains and carpeting might still appear old-fashioned.

9. Limited Cabin Storage

Although cabins on older ships may offer ample space, storage solutions might not be as modern or convenient. You’ll likely find small hidden shelves behind vanity mirrors and wire shelving in the closet.

In some cases, limited storage options may pose challenges for travelers.

Related: 12 Ways to Store More in Small Cruise Cabins

10. Small Cabin Bathrooms

freedom of the seas older cruise ship bathroom

Bathrooms in older ship cabins may be noticeably smaller compared to newer vessels. Additionally, features like shower curtains or cramped glass door enclosures may make the space feel tighter than you’re used to.

If you’ve cruised on a newer ship or stayed in a modern hotel, you’ll notice the differences in the older stateroom bathrooms.

11. Lack of Electrical Outlets

Today’s cruise passengers should be aware that cabins on older cruise ships probably won’t have sufficient electrical outlets or USB ports for charging devices. Let’s face it, the technology was very different 15 years ago!

Cruisers may need to bring travel adapters or non-surge protected power bars to accommodate their charging needs.

Related: 50 Must-have Cruise Essentials from Amazon

Video: Things You Need to Know Before Cruising on a Older Ship

12. Sporadic WIFI

Wi-Fi connectivity on older ships may be inconsistent due to outdated infrastructure. Travelers may experience difficulty accessing Wi-Fi, particularly from within their cabins.

If you’ve been cruising on new modern ships, you may have forgotten just how slow and inconsistent cruise ship wifi can be!

13. Dim Lighting

Older ships may feature dimmer, yellow-toned lighting compared to newer vessels, which may affect the ambiance and aesthetics of onboard spaces. This can be surprising, but these days we’re used to whiter, brighter LED lights.

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Final Thoughts On Things You Need to Know Before Cruising On An Older Ship

While cruising on an older ship has both advantages and disadvantages, understanding the pros and cons can help cruise travelers make informed decisions and avoid disappointment.

If modern decor and furnishings is important to you, a newer cruise ship might be best. However, if you can embrace the charm and elegance of an older cruise ship, you’ll surely still have a good time!

Ultimately, the choice between an older or newer ship depends on personal preferences, vacation style, and priorities.

Have you sailed on an older cruise ship? Please let me know your preferences and tips in the comments below.

Happy Cruising!


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