If you are large, plus-sized, chubby, fluffy or just fat then you may have concerns about being confined in a small space with lots of other people on a cruise ship. I am plus-sized and have been on 21 cruises – here are some tips so you can make the most of your cruise:
1. Cabin Beds
Standard cruise ship cabins (including bathrooms) are about as big as a medium-sized bedroom and some areas can be quite narrow. The good thing is that on a cruise you will be out and about on the ship or ashore and will only come back to the cabin to sleep or get changed.
Beds are usually a reasonable size although a queen arrangement is not ideal if both parties are large – separate twin beds might be the best choice here.
Tip: If using bunk beds it’s best not to choose the top one as it’s not easy to climb up onto and it may not take your weight. Some cruise lines will specify a weight limit for the bunk and also for the ladder to climb up into it. Look for cabins with a pull-out sofa or, if there is no alternative, then consider moving the bunk mattress onto the floor for sleeping.
Tip: If you would like a softer bed than that provided, then ask your room steward if there is a mattress topper available. Also, request extra pillows if you need them or bring your own along.
2. Cabin Bathrooms
Most standard balcony and inside bathrooms are tight on space for everyone – don’t expect to be able to bend down easily! A majority have showers with curtains which make them more flexible but some have fixed cubicles with doors.
Tip: If the curtain or door won’t close then you can always ask for extra towels to line the floor outside the shower area.
Tip: If you prefer to have more space to shower, check out if you can use the showers in the spa, fitness or retreat areas as these are usually roomier.
Tip: Balcony cabins on Norwegian Jewel, Dawn and Spirit class ships have very small separate toilet cubicles where your knees are almost up against the wall, the showers are spacious enough though. Indoor cabin bathrooms on these ships are better designed and have more room around the toilet.
Tip: Balcony cabins on P&O Oceana are the smallest cabins we have found so far and the bathrooms are equally tiny. The ship was lovely but we will not book this class of cabin again.
Tip: For bigger bathrooms, splash out on a mini-suite or suite. For example, mini-suites on Norwegian Escape, Getaway, Breakaway and Bliss have large walk-in showers and a spacious area for toilets. We booked one on the Norwegian Bliss Inaugural Transatlantic and it was amazing!
3. Balcony Furniture
I have rarely been able sit comfortably in a balcony chair with fixed arms – they are just too tight to squeeze into. Some extended balconies may have longer length deck chairs which are a much better option.
Tip: There may be a handy footrest or table to perch on but I have found the best workaround is to bring vanity chairs out of the cabin on a temporary basis.
Tip: Some cruise lines (e.g. Carnival) may be able to swap the balcony chair for one without arms – ask your room steward.
Tip: Just discovered a balcony chair with arms that IS roomy enough – on Independence of the Seas. Only took 23 cruises!
4. Muster Drills
It is a requirement to attend a Muster Drill after you first board your cruise ship. For some cruise lines you need to take your lifejackets to the muster station, wait there with lots of other passengers, listen to instructions and put on the lifejackets after a demonstration. Don’t worry – the majority of lifejackets are adjustable and will fit all sizes, you just need to be able to extend the straps for the buckles to slot together. Note that one lifejacket configuration required me to thread the straps between my legs which is never easy to do.
Tip: You may need to wait at least half an hour at your muster station and these can get crowded. Rather than be forced to stand, many passengers go to their station ahead of the drill to be sure of a seat.
Tip: There is always a long queue for the elevators as passengers head back to their cabins after the drill so we go and find a bar to wait it out.
Tip: Norwegian do not require you to take a lifejacket to a muster drill and Princess recently also adopted this.
5. Dining Room/Lido Seating
As on land, eating in restaurants on a cruise ship presents the same issues with table, booth and seating configurations. Do a tour of the dining areas in advance so you are prepared.
In formal dining rooms there will normally be a mixture of chair types. If you prefer a chair without arms then ask the waiter to swap out a chair with arms (I had once to wait 5 minutes while they got one from another venue but that is not the norm). Also, try to pick a table that’s easily accessible so no one needs to squeeze by your chair.
For lido seating in the buffet area, you may be limited to only one type of freestanding chair which could mean only chairs with arms are available.
Tip: Look out for areas of bench or banquette seating especially where tables can be moved out to make more room.
6. Theatre Seating
Theatre seats are usually fixed with arms and not very roomy.
However. you are likely to find some comfortable bench seating in the main theatres on Carnival ships, Viking Ocean ships, Norwegian Sky, Celebrity Millenium, Celebrity Infinity, Celebrity Summit, Celebrity Constellation, Maasdam, Rotterdam, Volendam, Amsterdam, Zuiderdam, Oosterdam, Westerdam, Noordam, Prinsendam, Arcadia and Queen Mary 2.
Tip: Some theatres will have accessible seats on the end of aisles on the lower level nearest the stage. These have arms that lift up so you are not as confined. Others will have freestanding chairs at the back e.g. Royal Caribbean Vision and Quantum class ships, Queen Elizabeth, Disney Magic
Tip: We were disappointed that the Norwegian Bliss theatre only had fixed arm seating. Sometimes there were easy standalone chairs put out at the back but we were told you had to request them on the night if you needed them.
Tip: If you want to be sure of comfortable seat, have a wander down to the theatre to see if you can check their facilities.
Tip: Get to your venue early for the better seat positions.
7. Seating at other Entertainment Venues/On Deck
Clubs, bars and lounges on a cruise ship usually have a variety of seating options. We always look for sofas, bench seating and comfy armchairs and are rarely disappointed.
Seating on the open deck can also vary with fixed arm upright chairs, comfortable rattan chairs, and traditional deck chairs which are also usually robust and armless. You may have to compromise here and choose your location based on the seating available.
Tip: The seats in the Princess Live! venue on Royal-class Princess ships are an abomination. They are small, fixed, have no tables and are unpopular with many passengers particularly as this is the only venue for karaoke and game shows on the ship.
A fallback is to sit on the wider bar-stool style chairs at the back near the sound booth. At times though, you may feel like Waldorf and Statler from The Muppet Show! Note that these chairs may be used for the contestants in the game shows so sometimes it can be pot luck.
8. Swimming Pools
If you think you will have difficulty pulling yourself up ladders to get out of a pool, then do some research first about your options. On most ships I have been on, there is usually a pool with graduated steps which will allow you to step easily in and out of the pool.
Tip: On Princess cruise ships, check out the Retreat and Terrace Pools.
9. Tender Boats
There are some ports where cruise ships are just too big to dock and allow passengers to walk off, so they anchor in deep water and guests are taken ashore by smaller tender boats.
This generally involves queuing, then waiting as the tender moves into position next to the ship, climbing on when it may be riding on heavy swells, and sitting next to lots of other people as it heads to shore before you climb off again. However, you need not be concerned:
- There are crew available to help you on and off the tenders.
- The tender boats themselves are sturdy – they usually double-up as lifeboats.
- They often have bench seating which means you can take up as much space as you need.
- Avoid climbing up to the top deck if you have mobility issues.
One of the best things about cruising is the chance to discover a different destination almost every day.
Whether you choose to book an excursion with your cruise line or an independent tour company, the best advice is to:
- do your research.
- read the small print.
- don’t be afraid to ask questions!
It’s in the best interest of the cruise line and the tour company that you understand what you are signing up for.
Most providers will indicate how strenuous the excursion will be in terms of activity levels and some will even detail the walking distances, number of stairs and how much climbing is involved.
Typically, there will be specific weight limits on excursions involving zip lines, ATV rides, helicopter tours, horse riding and kayaking, for example.
You know best about your own limitations. Many plus-sized cruisers can be found happily snorkelling over coral, swimming with stingrays, climbing ladders into boats and hiking up a mountain.
Of course, you can always get off at the port, walk around or get a taxi, shop, find a good bar or restaurant. It’s up to you!
Tip: Browse the excursion websites, check with other travellers on message boards and, if you still have concerns, email the providers directly.
Tip: If you are worried about bumping into people on a motorcoach or mini-van, then make sure you get there early to grab a seat nearer the door.
These are the tips that I have picked up over 9 years of cruises so go on, book away and have a fabulous time!
Let me know below if you have any questions or your own advice that can help plus-sized passengers.