Once upon a time, sailing an ocean-liner was reserved for the most affluent of society. Cruising was depicted as a mysterious journey in which elegant parties and dining, evening gowns and tuxedos, and being waited on hand and foot by crisply-dressed servants seemed alluring and made us wish we too, could experience such a vacation.
With the introduction of Princess Cruise's "Love Boat" television program in the late 1970's and early 1980's, ocean cruising simply became the rage. Then, cruising was hip and trendy, a bit more casual, and by all appearances, romantic not just for people in love, but for those in love with exploring new destinations.
Today, ocean liners resemble nothing like those we sailed on in the past. Everyday we see ships carrying in excess of 6,000 people on a 7-day sailing where it's a free-for-all people factory - a city with different neighborhoods, where the destinations are no longer the ports in which you stop - but rather the activities onboard. From bowling and ice-skating, to movie theaters to bumper cars, flow-riders and faux-sky-diving to extravagant entertainment, there isn't much you can't find to do on the ship. You really don't need to ever get off in a port to experience your vacation.
So does that mean that sailing on a cruise is your best vacation value, especially for families?
Ocean Cruising is NOT All-Inclusive
As someone who has sailed around the world on ocean cruise ships almost 60 times, I can tell you that not only are cruise ships NOT all-inclusive, but often times the bill you are presented with at the end of your sailing can easily be equal to, or more than, what you paid for the cruise itself! I know that your travel agent may tell you that a cruise is a great deal for you but just take a look at all of the added expenses you are likely to incur when you sail:
And all of this....is charged to your shipboard account because sailing is synonymous with a "cashless" experience. You don't need your wallet so it feels pretty good living it up .... until you have to settle your account and you had no idea that you or the rest of the family spent so much.
Let's Talk About Those Passenger Numbers and Safety
Imagine if you will, that you live in a floating apartment building with 6,000+ people. When you move into your apartment, the managers have a safety drill. They send everyone to all different places within the building and explain that if something were to happen, this is where you should immediately report to and simply wait for further instructions. Does that really work in real life? Is everyone going to sit and wait patiently as bells are going off and announcements are being made?
Now, take that same premise and imagine that your ship just pulled into port and everyone wants to get off the ship at basically the same time to maximize their day in port or to meet their excursion team. How long do you think you may be waiting in line so that you can courteously disembark? Perhaps you might also want to consider how long you will also be waiting in line to get back ON the ship at the end of the day. It's hot, everyone is tired, especially the kids, and people are just not quite as polite as you anticipated. Too bad - there are 6,000 other people in the same situation and everyone just has to wait their turn. Sure, people straggle on and off the ship all day, but for the most part, the majority of passengers are all on the same time frame.
And speaking of time frames - how annoying is it that you are ship's time, not your own? A time to get off and a time to get on the ship doesn't allow for the free-spirited vacation you were dreaming of, does it?
But You Love the Variety of Cruises...
So do I! And, this is what I recommend for a truly all-inclusive cruise experience: Think about smaller ships, especially those that can get into the heart of the city or all of those nooks and crannies that you wanted to see anyway! At first glance you may think the price tag sounds high - but when you add up all of the inclusions versus all of the non-inclusions you would have to pay for on an ocean cruise - there is absolutely no doubt that these smaller boutique ships are a much better value for your vacation dollars. Even more important - they provide you with a vacation experience that is unmatched by any cruise liner on the ocean today.
Stay tuned this week for a blog on my top 5 recommendations for all-inclusive cruising experiences that will knock your socks off and make you wonder why you ever boarded one of those huge ocean liners to begin with!
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