by Toffler

Toffler

Toffler

Mega ship Cruises, time for a change

January 26, 2007, by TofflerN, category Tourism, Traveling

When filling out the comment cards on our most recent Princess Cruise, I kept saying everyone should write ‘Do something completely different.’ In my opinion, its time for the cruise lines to emphasize something other than food, activities, and depending on the itinerary, ports-of-call. With the ever-widening American waistline, should one of the main focuses of cruises be 24hr per day food service? Since when is quantity a better alternative to quality in food? And the activities…how many times can you watch the same people butcher your favorite songs while trying to karaoke? Or answer the same trivia questions? Or hear the same jokes from every cruise ship comedian (My cabin steward is so good, when I got up in the middle of the night to go to the bathroom and came back, my bed was made)? Or watch the sing and dance shows that with each one seem to be a little less Broadway and a little more Vegas as they slide from real talent to relying on sex appeal? (which is not appealing, to me, at least)

And what about the limited, repetitive itineraries the mega cruise ships offer? There are only so many cruise ships that can ply the Alaskan waters without ruining the environment. There are only so many cruise ships that can physically be in any Caribbean port at one time, and likewise only so many people that can jostle each other for a spot on a Caribbean beach.

Don’t get me wrong—I love to cruise!—the chance to get away, the relaxation, letting someone else plan, enjoying time spent with traveling companions, waking up in a new place each day without ever having to repack, letting someone else do the cleaning, cooking, and the dishes, nearly all-inclusive entertainment, indulgent desserts, meeting new people, and a mostly secure and safe environment. Cruising has a definite appeal and I’m truly grateful to my grandparents for having taken us on so many cruises, and hope they will continue to do so in the future.

Despite my love of cruising, I would have a more memorable cruise experience if cruise lines would spice it up, do something different, add some variety, create a unique cruise experience. My mom explains my wanting something new as me being too experienced of a cruiser. She tells me, look how many cruises you’ve been on compared to the average American. I don’t deny it; there are plenty of first-time cruisers and potential first-time cruisers who will be thrilled for any cruise offered to them, however plain vanilla it may be to me.

But even with my eight cruises (see list below), there are people my age, or older or even younger who’ve been on 2-3 times as many cruises as I have. What about us? We’ve done Europe, we’ve done Alaska, we’ve eaten Baked Alaska, we’ve done the Caribbean, we’ve watched can-can lines galore, we’ve drunk champagne at champagne art auctions, we’ve seen the theater’s backstage, we’ve seen the galley, we’ve done it all. My cousins are so bored, they walk around the track (10times=1mi) for as many as 3 hours per day. When will the cruise lines start offering us something new? I believe it’s time for something different and new locales.

Royal Caribbean, on their newest mega ships, can boast of something different than other cruise ships: an ice-skating rink, or a rock-climbing wall or other activities/sports. Celebrity has a couple Xpedition ships, slightly smaller ships that with their smaller size can go to more unique places and offer more interesting itineraries—Galapagos, for example.

We’re at the early stages, but at least a few cruise lines are beginning to look beyond the standard summer Alaska or Europe and winter Caribbean itineraries. Always at the forefront of exotic destinations, Marco Polo Orient lines have been sailing Asia for years. Princess and Costa are just getting into Asia and the Middle East. Costa even sails out of Shanghai! though only for short cruises to Japan and Korea.

In the rare exception, there are ships that call Dubai or Mombasa their home port. But ironically, these itineraries are said to be losing money. Despite the fact that cruise ships in the Western Hemisphere are posting record number of cruise passengers, the few cruise ships with remote starting locations can barely attract enough passengers to break even.

Passenger response seems to indicate people don’t like to travel far to get to their cruise ships. This is why so few Europeans cruise out of the Americas, why ships sailing out of the western US rarely have East coast passengers, and vice versa. This may be the real curse that is preventing southern Asian or African cruises from becoming profitable—America is the largest cruise market but Americans don’t want to travel far to embark on their cruises.

Well if that’s the case, then cruise lines are going to need to branch out without going far away, much like Royal Caribbean and Celebrity have started doing. This presents an opportunity for the cruise lines: cater to veteran cruisers by offering something completely different, but remain appealing to the mass cruiser by staying close to home. I believe the cruise line that can continually innovate, and find the new thing to attract experienced cruisers without pushing newbies beyond their comfort zone, will be met with an overwhelming positive response.

Until that happens, I’m ready to try one of the exotic itineraries, Asia, the Middle East, even Antarctica, and/or try a much smaller ship. But heck…I’d take any cruise, any time, anywhere.

Just after I wrote this, I was browsing Conde Nast Traveler‘s website and found this article: Next Generation Cruising. It seems I wasn’t the only one looking for something a little different. 😉

My past Cruise list
Celebrity — Alaska — Summer ‘99
Royal Olympic — Greece — Summer
Celebrity — Baltic — Summer ‘02
Carnival — Long Beach-Mexico – December ‘02
Celebrity – Mediterranean – Summer ‘04
Celebrity – Mexican Riviera – Winter ’05-‘06
Carnival – New York-Canada – Summer ‘06
Princess – W. Caribbean – December ‘06

3 Comments

  1. Alec Hitchcock |

    Toffler is ahead of the new trend in cruising. Toffler, you may recall meeting Jaime Besner and me on your Mexico Cruise, and the subsequent birthday trip to Vegas? Anyway we are going on the Western Carribbean cruise in 3 weeks and will present a Vegas style cruise to Celebrity Cruise Lines. The focus will be more on gambling and clubs with the addition of higher quality food. We are taking the concept of “what the high roller wants” and taking to the open seas.

  2. Irene |

    haha, well, for an inexperienced zero-times cruiser like me, any plain vanilla will do anytime to anyplace. Although, I do have some standards, the Carribean will do just fine ^_^
    But apart from that, I would agree with you Toffler that you could get bored doing the same similar cruise time after time. However, does that say more about the cruise or about you? I mean that the solution might nog be the cruise offering you more, but you offering youself something more. Why go on another cruise, even if it has a ‘special’ theme attached to it. Why not do something totally different to satisfy your needs? There are plenty of alternatives, like exciting as bungee jumping, air jumping and yeti-balling, to calmly riding a camel along the dusty pyramids of Gizah.
    I know you Toffler as an adventurous seeking explorer, so I know that this post is nothing more than a flick. icic. A flick moment of boredome?

    Hope you can come to Europe then I will show you a cruise through Europe you will never forget! ^_^

So, what do you think ?