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Going on the same cruise ship twice. Is it boring the second time around?


Out of the nine cruises I went on in 2023, four were aboard the same two ships: Symphony of the Seas and Freedom of the Seas. I wasn't worried about being bored, though, even with both cruises on Freedom sailing to the same ports of call in The Bahamas. 

I knew these ships had enough to offer new and experienced sailors alike, and reflecting on all four sailings, the experiences couldn't have been more different. 

From booking varying cabin categories to sailing with different companions, I took some steps to ensure that my cruises onboard the same ships would not feel too similar. 

For those looking to book a cruise on a ship they've already sailed on before, here are some tips to make sure that you have distinct experiences. 

Book a different stateroom category


In July 2023, I sailed on a 4-night cruise onboard Freedom of the Seas that visited Nassau and Perfect Day at CocoCay, Royal Caribbean's private island in The Bahamas. For this short cruise, I opted to book the cheapest cabin available: a standard interior room. While nothing was wrong with my no-frills stateroom, I knew I wanted a different experience for my sailing a few months later. 

Thanks to my travel agent, my finacée and I booked a balcony room for the price of an interior cabin as advertised on Royal Caribbean's website. Though we only had one day at sea, the private verandah enhanced the experience significantly compared to the tiny interior room that I stayed in a few months prior. From continental room service for breakfast to sunset cocktails, we thoroughly enjoyed the balcony during our 4-night cruise. 

Similarly, I recently returned from a weeklong cruise onboard the brand-new Celebrity Ascent. After spending 7 nights in an ocean view room, I could not be more excited to return onboard the beautiful ship in July and stay in an Infinite Veranda cabin! I'm looking forward to experiencing first-hand this relatively new type of balcony. 

Haven 2 Bed

Those with a more generous vacation budget should consider booking a suite, as the additional living space and perks will ensure that your overall experience is different compared to your last sailing. 

Let's say that you booked a balcony onboard Norwegian Prima during its inaugural season. While the standard rooms don't come with any benefits, The Haven promises guests exclusive venues like sun decks and restaurants, as well as 24-hour butler service. Though these suites cost a premium, you'll enjoy the upgraded services and amenities that accompany the suites, which will significantly enhance your cruise. 

Read more: Balcony vs interior cruise ship rooms: what's the difference?

Save some experiences for the second sailing


When I stepped foot onboard Symphony of the Seas for the first time, I knew I'd be back onboard the following month, so I didn't feel much pressure to cross everything off my must-do list. While I certainly didn't spend the entire week lounging on the pool deck, I did reserve some activities, namely the AquaTheater show and zip lining, for the second cruise, as it gave me some things to look forward to! 

With so many different ships, itineraries, and departure ports to choose from, you may not know if you're going to book a cruise on the same ship while onboard. If, however, you live near a certain departure port (i.e., Baltimore, Galveston, or Norfolk) and wish to avoid spending money on airfare, you can search the line's schedule for the following year. It will tell you if the same ship, or one that's similar, will be deployed there. 

For instance, Carnival Sunshine will begin sailing out of Norfolk, Virginia in early 2025. It will be the only Carnival ship to offer cruises out of Virginia, so those who live nearby and want to plan a cruise with simplified travel logistics will likely opt to sail onboard Carnival Sunshine again in 2026, rather than plan a voyage out of South Florida. In that case, you can reserve an activity or two for the following year, such as a Playlist Live production show or slide at the WaterWorks water park. 

Choose an itinerary that's visiting different ports of call


While the ship is part of the allure of cruising, many sail to visit multiple desintations during a single trip. Each port offers different experiences, so you won't get tired of repeating the same activities. Perhaps one day you're docked in St. Maarten and want to visit the famous Maho Beach, while the next you go snorkeling in St. Thomas. 

With so many different ports, especially in the Caribbean and Europe, you can return to the ship you ended up loving and explore new destinations. When I sailed on Symphony of the Seas, for instance, I first cruised to the Eastern Caribbean islands of St. Maarten and St. Thomas before returning to CocoCay. The next month, I sailed to the Western Caribbean, visiting Roatán, Honduras and Costa Maya, Mexico for the first time. 

Similarly, my Celebrity Ascent voyages are cruising to different continents! While I enjoyed St. Kitts, San Juan, and Tortola, I'm looking forward to exploring the Greek Isles in July. Although the cruise will be on a ship I've previously sailed on, I know the region will impact the onboard experience. 


Perhaps you're going on a European cruise onboard Carnival Legend in 2024. You shouldn't be dissuaded from booking a cruise on the same ship to Alaska in 2025. 

On the other hand, maybe you took a 4-night spring break cruise to The Bahamas onboard Allure of the Seas before realizing the Oasis Class ship will return to the Western Mediterranean in 2025. 

Since 4 nights is hardly enough time to experience everything the mega-ship has to offer, returning onboard while venturing to new ports will allow you to fully explore and appreciate all the amenities on the ship. 

Read more: How to choose your cruise itinerary

If you're going to be visiting the same ports, book different excursions


Sometimes, there's not a lot of variation in itineraries, especially if you don't have a lot of flexibility with your dates. Take the world's largest cruise ship, Icon of the Seas, as an example. Due to the size of the ship, the ports of call are fairly limited. While you can sail to the Eastern and Western Caribbean, you won't find any cruises to Europe or Bermuda. 

Throughout my cruising career that began back in 2005, I've been to St. Maarten more times than I can count. However, I've been able to do different things depending on who I'm traveling with and what the vibe is. For instance, when cruising with my family, we often visit Great Bay Beach for a relaxing day in the sun. 

Since beginning my solo travels, I've been able to venture out to explore the infamous Maho Beach, as well as soar down the 1,800-foot-long Pelican's Peak zip line. Similarly, though there's a lot to explore on the island of St. Thomas, I took a short water ferry to Water Island, the smallest of the four U.S. Virgin Islands that has about 180 full-time residents, while docked in Charlotte Amalie.

Pelicans Peak Elizabeth

Don't be discouraged if your cruise is visiting places you've already been. After some research, you're sure to find different activities to occupy your time! Perhaps, for example, you went on an ATV in Cozumel last year and want to enjoy an all-inclusive beach club on your next cruise. 

Those cruising to Alaska will find that each port has numerous different activities to appeal to a wide range of travelers, including whale-watching tours, seafood feasts, helicopter rides, and more. 

Mix up the dining experience by trying a specialty restaurant or two


With newer ships having more ways to dine than ever before, there's a chance you won't be able to work your way through all of the available options! 

Celebrity Ascent, for example, has eight specialty restaurants onboard. Rather than purchase a 3-night or Unlimited Dining Package on my first sailing, I chose to dine at just one: Le Voyage. Now, my finacée and I are looking forward to trying three of the other restaurants during our Greek Isles cruise. There are so many to choose from, we're having trouble deciding which are worth it! 

On older ships with fewer specialty venues, you can reserve the upscale dining experience for your future sailing. Carnival Conquest, for instance, a Conquest Class ship that launched in 2002, has significantly fewer options than Carnival Jubilee, the brand-new ship sailing out of Texas.


Onboard the older vessel, you'll find The Point Steakhouse, Bonsai Sushi Express, the Chef's Table, and Seafood Shack. Two of those, however, are more casual, leaving the steakhouse and Chef's Table as the standout choices for foodies. Rather than dine at both, reserve one experience for your future sailing, giving you a meal to look forward to!

Who you're cruising with makes a huge difference


Symphony of the Seas and Freedom of the Seas aren't the only two ships I've had the privilege of sailing on more than once. In fact, I've actually been on Freedom three times, with my first sailing taking place back in 2010 with my parents and younger sister. 

My first cruise on Allure of the Seas was over Christmas in 2014. Flash forward eight years, and I had the opportunity to take one of my closest friends from college on her first-ever cruise. We decided on an 8-night sailing onboard Allure to the Southern Caribbean. 

To this day, Allure of the Seas remains one of my favorite ships due to the precious memories I have onboard the ship with families and friends! I'd easily choose to sail on Allure again and take my finacée, especially since she has never been on an Oasis Class ship! 

Similarly, though I cruised on Freedom of the Seas twice in 2023, I sailed by myself the first time. It was a completely different experience when I took my finacée a few months later. In fact, we prioritized spending time by the pool versus attending onboard events. Whenever I sail alone, I tend to go to as many ship-sponsored activities as possible. 

Sail on the same ship after a major refurbishment 


Cruise lines are investing more and more in updating older vessels. Major dry docks focus on adding new amenities, as well as refreshing other areas of the ship. You can imagine that sailing on a ship pre- and post-revitalization will result in noticeably different experiences. 

Royal Caribbean's Oasis of the Seas, for instance, underwent a major renovation in 2019, adding new features that debuted on later Oasis Class vessels, including the Ultimate Abyss Dry Slide, Playmaker's Sports Bar & Arcade, and resort-style pool deck. 

Those who cruised on Oasis of the Seas between 2009 and early 2019 wouldn't have had access to these amenities, making it worthwhile to sail on the ship again post-renovation. 

Cruising on the same ship, especially within a short timeframe, means you'll probably see familiar faces among the crew


Attentive and personalized service can make a cruise even more memorable. On my first sailing onboard Symphony of the Seas, I met a fantastic bartender named Cephus in the On Air Club. Throughout the week, I frequently returned to that bar just to see him! Embarkation day the following month was more exciting than usual, as I was excited to reunite with Cephus. 

Crew contracts vary in length. Some may be getting ready to return home for a much-deserved vacation, whereas others may have just begun their time onboard. If you have a favorite crew member, it doesn't hurt to ask them how much longer they'll be on the ship. 

In some cases, you may be able to book a sailing six months out and see them again! There's a chance they may even know what ship they will be on during their next contract, if it isn't the same one. 

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