13 Challenges That Plus-Size Cruisers Face

If you’re plus-size, you might be worried about fully enjoying a cruise holiday, and if there’s anything that will make your experience less fun or more of a challenge.

And for some people, there will be parts of a cruise that aren’t great if you’re larger. But it depends on you, too.

For this guide, I’ve spoken to some of my larger friends to put together some of the common challenges plus-size cruisers can come up against. But don’t assume these will impact everyone plus-size, or that they can ruin your holiday either.

It’s just good to be aware of them, so you can prepare.

1. Aeroplane seats

The image captures a perspective view inside an airplane cabin, focusing on the back of blue seats and passengers waiting or relaxing. In the aisle, a flight attendant can be seen attending to the passengers, and overhead compartments are slightly open. The setting conveys a typical scene during a flight, emphasizing the compact and communal experience of air travel.

Many cruises will need you to fly out to meet the ship, and seats on the plane are often very small. You might be uncomfortable in a standard economy seat, without much legroom or feeling crammed into a small row.

On budget airlines, there’s not much you can do but endure it – in theory, those flights don’t take long. If you’re crossing the Atlantic and using BA or Virgin, check the prices for a slightly upgraded seat, such as Economy Delight with Virgin, just for a little extra legroom.

2. Chairs with arms in restaurants

This image depicts an elegantly set cruise ship dining room with a panoramic view from large windows. The room features neatly arranged tables with white linen, surrounded by comfortable chairs, and complemented by a stylishly patterned carpet. The overall ambiance is inviting, with a sense of spaciousness and luxury, ideal for a formal dining experience at sea.

Another chair-related discomfort – on a cruise, many of the restaurants will have chairs that have arms. Those chairs have often been designed to fit as many people around a table as possible, and so the arms can be restrictive if you’re a larger person.

You can ask the servers, as there may be armless chair options available elsewhere in the restaurant or somewhere within easy reach. Don’t be ashamed to – you deserve to enjoy your meal in comfort.

3. Booth-style seating in buffet restaurants

This image showcases booth-style seating typical of a retro diner, with maroon and blue vinyl benches and yellow tabletops. The background features a classic black and white checkered floor, enhancing the nostalgic feel of the setting. This arrangement is characteristic of mid-20th century American diners, offering a cozy and casual dining experience.

Some buffet restaurants on cruise ships have booths rather than individual seats – and these can be just as uncomfortable as a chair with arms, or even more so when there isn’t much room.

There will be tables with regular seats, but they can be busy, so try to visit the buffet during quieter periods if you want to avoid a booth.

4. Seating in the theatre

The image displays the interior of a modern theater, with rows of plush red seats facing a stage, not visible in the photo. The theater has multiple levels of seating, including a balcony, all under soft, ambient lighting. The audience is sparsely populated, suggesting either an event before it begins or a moment of calm before the performance resumes. The layout and design emphasize comfort and an immersive viewing experience for the attendees.

Cruise ship theatres are designed to maximise the number of guests who can enjoy a show, and that means seats are not often designed with plus-size guests in mind. They’re quite narrow, and often they have arm rests which make things even more uncomfortable.

There’s not much you can do about this if you want to see a theatre show – so maybe pay the theatre a visit during a quiet moment and test to see whether you can use a chair comfortably, as a test run before you’re sat watching a live show that you don’t want to disturb by leaving.

Some cruise ships do have a section of bench-style seats at the very back, so check there for your best chance of being accommodated.

5. Small showers and bathrooms

This image depicts a compact and neatly organized bathroom, commonly found in hotel rooms or cruise cabins. It features a white color scheme with blue tile accents. The layout includes a small sink with a vanity mirror, a toilet, and a shower area not fully visible in the image. Towels are neatly hung, and various toiletries are arranged around the sink, creating a clean and functional space for guests.

The bathrooms in most cruise cabins are hardly sprawling. If you book a suite then maybe, but otherwise expect a space that’s a little cramped even if you’re not plus-size.

The shower cubicles can be tiny, so if you can’t close the door comfortably, just leave it open and put more towels on the floor. The cabin attendants can provide extra for you.

The toilets may also be uncomfortable if they’re crammed in a smaller space, but the public toilets elsewhere on the ship will have more space, so try to use those more if you can.

6. Long walks on the ship

This image offers a view from the deck of a cruise ship, featuring a series of blue lounge chairs lined up along a red walkway. The photo is taken looking towards a distinctive glass-enclosed structure on the ship, possibly an observation lounge or restaurant, with the coastal cityscape in the background under a clear sky. This setting emphasizes the leisure and luxury aspects of cruise travel, highlighting spaces designed for relaxation and enjoyment of the seascape.

Some of the more modern cruise ships are epic in size, but even the mid-sized ships can involve a lot of walking to get from one area to another. Yes, there are lifts/elevators between floors, but you may still need to walk the length of the ship to go from your cabin to a restaurant, for example.

Try to plan ahead when choosing your cabin, if you get tired or uncomfortable with longer walks, so that you don’t have as far to go. A cabin in a mid-ship location will limit the amount of walking you need to do in one go.

7. Standing in line

This image captures a line of passengers at a cruise terminal, each with luggage in tow. The travelers, dressed in varied seasonal attire from heavy jackets to light layers, indicate a diverse group. The focus is on the backs of the passengers, showcasing a common scene of waiting and anticipation often experienced during travel check-ins or boarding processes. This depiction highlights the busy, yet organized nature of cruise travel embarkation.

There’ll be times on a cruise ship where you need to wait in line – either at the buffet, or if you’re queuing to get off the ship in port, or at the Guest Services desk.

For some people, long lines can be uncomfortable. If standing upright for long periods causes you any pain or discomfort, try to plan around it. Get to places early so you aren’t standing in line for long, or leave it until a little later when crowds have died down.

8. Clothing availability in gift shops

This image shows a close-up of a woman trying to pull on a pair of jeans that are too small. She is wearing a white t-shirt and black leggings under the jeans, which are only partially pulled up to her thighs, clearly illustrating the challenge of fitting into them. The background is simple and neutral, focusing the viewer's attention on the struggle with the jeans. This scene is relatable for many and can be associated with experiences of changing body sizes or the common issue of finding clothes that fit comfortably.

Ships will have stores onboard selling a range of souvenir items and gifts, often including clothing – swimwear, custom t-shirts, that sort of thing.

But they won’t stock a lot of different sizes, so it’s best to shop with the expectation that you won’t be able to grab any new clothes onboard. Feel free to check, as some cruise lines do cater for larger guests, but most of the time anything above an XL is unlikely to appear on racks.

9. Swimming pool access

A crowded pool area onboard with flashy neon lights that lights up the night

Most cruise pools don’t use a ladder to get in or out of the pool on deck, which is a bonus for plus-size people as lifting yourself out with a ladder can be tricky.

The alternative is stepped access at one end of the pool but even this can be tough for larger folks, as there isn’t always a handrail. Take your time on what could be slippery steps, to avoid falling and hurting yourself.

10. Waterslide and attraction weight limits

Alt text: "A dynamic view of a cruise ship's deck featuring a colorful array of winding waterslides in blue, teal, and orange. The slides spiral above a playful water park area, with a cityscape visible in the distance under a cloudy sky.

Unfortunately, many of the attractions on modern cruise ships, such as the waterslides, zip lines, go-karting tracks etc., will have weight limits that can prevent you from enjoying them.

The crew can let you know if there are restrictions if you can’t see them advertised, and they can be discreet when you ask so that you don’t need to worry about embarrassment.

If you want to do the i-Fly skydiving simulator on a Royal Caribbean ship, for example, every single guest has to step on the scales. So you won’t feel singled out for a weight check if you’re approaching the limit.

While it’s a shame there might be things you can’t enjoy, there are always plenty of other options to stay entertained.

11. Pullman bed weight limits

This image shows a neatly arranged small room with a bunk bed configuration, featuring a lower couch that likely converts into a bed and an upper bunk accessible by a ladder. The room has a neutral color palette, with gray walls and white bedding, and is complemented by soft curtain drapes that suggest a cozy and compact living space, possibly within a cruise ship or a budget hotel room designed to efficiently accommodate multiple guests.

If you have more than two people sharing a cabin, the third bed will either be a sofa bed or a pulldown bed, called a Pullman bed. And these can be tricky to climb into if you’re plus-size.

They also have weight limits. These can vary depending on the cruise line, but for some, they will be 250lb while others can hold 300lb.

Don’t risk it if you’re above the weight. If you’re in cramped conditions because you didn’t think ahead, speak to Guest Services to see if there are any spare cabins so that you can pay for an extra room and a proper bed for your third and fourth guests.

12. Flimsy balcony furniture

This image showcases a private balcony on a cruise ship, featuring two blue sun loungers on a wooden deck, offering a panoramic view of a harbor with clear blue waters and other ships in the distance. The balcony is bordered by a glass and wood railing, enhancing the view while providing safety and privacy with a partial white wall. This setting is ideal for relaxing and enjoying the scenic ocean views during a cruise.

Most cruise ships have pretty sturdy furniture on the balconies of any balcony staterooms, but there can be some chairs that only have smaller metal legs.

Plus-size people can sometimes damage these chairs, if they’re above the recommended weight limit. Again you might also have arms on the chair making them uncomfortable too.

13. Stepping onto tender boats

This image depicts a large cruise ship with a distinctive blue wave design on its hull, sailing through misty waters. In the foreground, a smaller tender boat is seen moving quickly across the water, likely shuttling passengers between the ship and a nearby port. The scene captures the vast size difference between the cruise ship and the tender boat, illustrating the scale and operations involved in managing a cruise journey.

Your cruise might include some tender ports – these are where the ship can’t dock directly at the destination, and so instead anchors off shore and uses smaller tender boats to ferry people back and forth to land.

You’ll board a tender boat from the cruise ship, but if the waves aren’t calm then stepping onto the boat can be difficult as a plus-size cruise guest. The crew will help you, but you’ll want to take your time and be extra careful.

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Final Word

One of the things you really don’t have to worry about as a plus-size cruise passenger is the atmosphere onboard or feeling judged for your size. There are always lots of plus-size guests on cruise ships, and almost everyone respects each other’s freedom to enjoy their cruise.

But these challenges can make some parts of your experience a little uncomfortable if you’re not prepared.

So if you do have a larger frame, make sure you’re aware of these and that you try to mitigate them as much as possible – avoiding crowds so you can get the best chairs for you, booking cabins with larger bathrooms if you can, and so on.

You’ll have a great time.

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Cruise Mummy

Jenni Fielding is the founder of Cruise Mummy. She has worked in the cruise industry since 2015 and has taken over 30 cruises. Now, she helps over 1 million people per month to plan their perfect cruise holidays.

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