Sunday, March 5, 2017

Do you cruise?

The chairman of Carnival Corporation, which is the parent company of lines like Princess, Holland America, Carnival and Cunard, wants to encourage you to take a cruise.   To quote the title of the article in the Wall Street Journal, he wants to woo the never cruisers.  Only four percent of North Americans cruise, seemingly preferring other types of vacations.   Non-cruisers associate taking a cruise with the so called booze cruise favoured by Spring Breakers or with old people who have nothing else to do.  Other complaints involve the expensive, slow and not included internet service, long line-ups at the buffet and the dreaded noro-virus.    

All these complaints apply, at some times and with some cruise lines.   Spend a little time on a site like Cruise Critic perusing the reviews and get more details than you might want.   To be fair, depending on the line, there is lots of praise, too.   

I went on an Alaskan cruise last summer with the same line and a similar sized ship to my first cruise twenty-five years ago.   We stayed in the same grade of cabin.   The interesting feature:   we paid almost the same amount both times, around $1250. CAD.    It seems beyond obvious that things could not be the same, no matter what efficiencies are implemented.  There's a fair amount of up-charging, extra charging or what some call nickel and dimeing.  Gratuities are an automatic add-on of around $13.50 per person per day although it is possible to stand in a long queue at the purser's office on the last day and ask to have them removed.   But when the staff is making $500 a month you're bound to feel guilty.  Then there's the additional  automatic 15 - 18 percent gratuity added to beverage purchases.   But mostly the service is excellent.

Will more people choose to cruise?   Some people don't like the feeling of no escape.  I've heard complaints of limited time in port and even cancelled port calls, depending on weather.    It's hard to avoid gaining weight since a lot of the day seems to revolve around eating.    If you happen to live within easy driving distance of cruise ship terminals like Fort Lauderdale, Florida  or Southhampton, U.K. it is easy to buy a bargain last minute cruise.   Most people have to take a flight, followed by a hotel stay the night before departure.   

It's important to choose a cruise line and ship that improves your chances of holiday happiness.   Some ships have skating rinks and rock climbing walls.   Some have ballroom dancing and magic shows.   There are contests in the pool where female contestants vie to see how many ping pong balls they can stuff in their bikinis or men's hairy chest competition.

I suppose one issue is that once you are on, you are a captive audience.

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