I explore the nine things that drive regular cruisers crazy
I’ve been talking to regular cruisers recently about the things that drive them completely crazy, and I’ve come up with nine things – most of which I actually agree with, starting with this one:
Features taking up space
One of the things that’s driving people who cruise quite often really crazy is the features, facilities and attractions that are slowly taking over the ship and basically reducing the amount of real estate available for people to just do what they do on a cruise. There were three key things that people spoke about. The first of those is the introduction of these mega-attractions, whether that’s go kart tracks, roller coasters, huge water parks, or rock-climbing walls… all these big resort type attractions. It means that there’s less and less space available for the swimming pools and just regular relaxing.
The second thing that people spoke about is the ship within a ship concept. For example, on the bigger Norwegian ships, you have the Haven which is a beautiful area with its own swimming pool, lounge, restaurant and bar and all-suite accommodation. On MSC Cruises there’s the Yacht Club, again with a lounge and all the facilities for the people in suites. So, these are taking up more and more space on the ship, which makes the rest of the ship more and more cramped for people who perhaps are not in that area.
The third one is that more and more speciality dining venues are opening up on board cruise ships, and of course that takes away space for other more general activities. There’s the sense that a lot of the space on a ship is being taken up with these special features and leaving much less space for just normal cruising and hanging out, sitting on decks or whatever that is. And of course, as the ships get bigger and bigger, there are more and more people and so there’s a concern that there’s less and less space.
Following on from that is the frustration that a lot of frequent cruisers share when it comes to speciality dining. The thing that drives people crazy isn’t the fact that there’s choice available. First of all, it’s more the fact that they can cost quite a lot of money – you can be spending $30, $40, $50 or more per person to eat in a speciality dining restaurant.
Secondly, there is a concern that the cruise lines are trying to encourage you to head much more towards these speciality dining venues, so they feel that the overall quality of food, and the range of choices in the main dining room and the buffet is starting to be lowered or reduced to encourage people to go and spend money in the speciality dining, so the cruise lines make more money.
Bad weather options
The third thing is the fact that all these attractions – the racetracks, the laser tag, the waterparks… all these things are outside, so actually, if there’s bad weather it means that none of these facilities can be used because they’re all in the open air. So, if it’s really windy or raining, people then have to retreat back into the ship and there’s not lots of stuff to do within the ship because they’re all outside in the open air. Obviously, this is great if you’re cruising in the Caribbean or Mediterranean in the middle of summer and it’s great weather, but actually, as we all know the weather can be a bit unpredictable.
Quite a few people have spoken about the fact that a couple of cruise lines are starting to change this. For example on some of their really big mega ships, MSC have more and more of their attractions inside, but I did notice that on some of the ships, though, like Sky Princess and Norwegian Encore, they’re starting to build more venues inside for people to do if it’s bad weather, but still have the big attractions outside.
When I was on Norwegian Encore, the racetrack was closed quite often because of rain and the laser tag didn’t operate because it was too windy. So, a lot of these attractions, whilst great in great weather, are increasingly not available to use as the ships deploy around the world at different times of the year when the weather’s not so great.
Increasing add-on costs
The fourth area that drives people crazy is the sense that cruise lines are building in more and more things you have to pay for. So they’re setting the fares at a pretty low cost to get people on board, particularly as you get these mega ships that they need to fill with thousands of people every single week, but once you get on board you’re nickel and dimed, as people in the US like to say, or you just have the sense you’re constantly being squeezed for money.
It could be cooking classes, demonstrations, wine tastings…there’s just a whole load of things that you’re being asked to pay for. As I mentioned, drinks, coffees, sodas, things like speciality dining – there are just a lot of extra costs once you get on board. It drives people crazy in the sense that they’re constantly being squeezed and things that perhaps, they feel should be included in the fares are no longer included. I do think that’s a massive issue, and we’re starting to see some indications that some of the cruise lines are addressing this by having more all-inclusive fares.
I’ve often booked cruises, especially at the beginning of the year, whether it’s on Celebrity Cruises, Norwegian cruises, Oceania etc, where they’re starting to offer fares which bundle much more stuff in. Plus of course, we have more and more all-inclusive cruise lines like Virgin Voyages and Marella which offer more inclusive fares. So that may be starting to address one of the things that are driving people crazy.
Without a shadow of a doubt, one of the hottest topics is the whole debate around gratuities. I have a whole video about gratuities and it’s one of the most discussed topics both in the video comments and on cruise forums generally.
The real sense with gratuities, because many of them are auto added and in some cases quite hard to take them off, is that actually they’re a part of your cruise fare, so they should be more upfront and just build the gratuities into the fare, so once you get on board, you don’t suddenly find you’ve got a couple of hundred dollars added on per person for the gratuities.
It’s definitely one of the big hot topics, and one of things that I agree would be great if the whole gratuities issue didn’t exist because there’s that whole tension around whether you ought to pay gratuities, whether you still need to pay extra, even whether it’s better to take it off your bill and pay people directly.
Another thing that drives people crazy, and which I see huge amounts of debate about, is the subject of hot tubs. Hot tubs are very popular on cruise ships. I’m not a big hot tub fan, but I know a lot of people are. There are two things that seem particularly contentious. First of all, is the sense that the hot tubs are not really the right temperature – that they should be hotter, and they worry about just how hygienic they are and how often they’re cleaned.
The second area which gets the most debate is that there is a rule around the use of hot tubs by children. However, you’ll find on many cruise lines that have kids on board, the kids are in the hot tubs, using them almost as a bit of a playground and the cruise line doesn’t enforce it.
Parents let their kids go in when there are rules about them not going in. If you ever try and tackle that issue, you’re likely to get lots of abuse and can cause lots of upsets. So, a bit like gratuities, hot tubs are discussed an enormous amount by regular cruisers, especially the need to try and clamp down and enforce the rules.
Talking to regular cruisers, another thing that drove them crazy was excursions, and I hadn’t actually expected this but listening and talking to people I understand why. There are probably three key things that drive people crazy. First of all, the cost – the feeling that excursions are becoming more and more expensive, perhaps linked to that point about cruise lines trying to get more and more money from you.
There’s the feeling that they’re not great value, so you could spend, $75, $100 or more and actually, there are a lot of questions around the value that you’re getting from those excursions.
The other thing linked to excursions is the sense that there’s a lot of time wasted with the whole process of excursions. When you go on an excursion, you have to take your ticket to check in, you hang around, you wait, you eventually get off the ship, you get on the bus or whatever and you’ve probably waited half an hour to an hour already before you’ve even started your excursion.
When you go on an excursion, it can be difficult because it’s really driven by the slowest person, or the person with the worst timekeeping. You have this real sense that if there’s something you really like or want to dwell on, you can’t spend a lot of time doing that because it’s basically go, go, go, moving you along. There’s a real sense that they’re not good value and actually it’s a lot of time wasted that you could be using actually out in port if you were by yourself or perhaps a little bit more organised with an independent tour or guide. So, it’s not a really good use of time going on cruise line excursions.
The third area is an increasing concern about the lack of range in the excursions offered. Now I find the range discussion really depends on the cruise line you’re on. If you go on those big mega cruise lines, you’ll find there’s normally a vast range of excursions because they have a vast range of different types of people, fitness levels, and interests.
As you go smaller and smaller there is less choice, simply because they have to reach certain numbers to make an excursion pay. The problem is if you go to a port more than once, you’ll find all the cruise lines are pretty much doing the same excursions, so there’s really not a huge amount of choice. Increasingly, people are talking about self-exploring, doing their own thing to get better value, spending more time and having much more flexibility.
Definitely one of the things that drove cruisers crazy was the whole issue of transfers. As you know, you can book a transfer with a cruise line that might take you from the airport to perhaps a cruise-nominated hotel and then to the ship the next day, or when you disembark, they will offer transfers to the airport or hotels.
There’s a sense that they’re actually really poor value, and sometimes I’ve just done them because they’re easy to do, say if you have a flight at an early-ish time, and you want to get off the ship really quickly. If you book one of their transfers, they will make sure that you disembark pretty early, so if you’re perhaps in an inside cabin or a low grade cabin and you might have to wait many hours to get off the ship, booking a cruise line transfer can be a really good thing to do because you can get off the ship faster and not hang around for hours.
However, there’s a sense that they are really, really expensive and when I’ve compared them to, say, getting an Uber or some other kind of transport, even just a taxi, you can often find it is much, much cheaper than the cruise line transfer. They do seem to be really expensive for what they are, and on some cruise lines you don’t have a transfer included from the ship into the nearest port, if it’s not docked close by. Some cruise lines charge for those and there’s a feeling that they’re pretty expensive to do.
The final thing that drives regular cruisers crazy is the focus on shopping. Now there’s two aspects to that, one of which is the port. If you’re cruising inside the Caribbean or even in Alaska there’s a lot of sales pressure: they have shopping advisors on board who give talks and offer incentives.
Bear in mind, when you get off the ship in many of those places it’s all the same: Diamonds International, and chains like that are in every single port and there’s definitely a relationship between the cruise line and those shops that are driving you into buying all the same stuff that’s not unique to the port. There’s concern around the pressure to be shopping and actually that you’re just going into shopping malls which are very generic.
The second concern around shopping is shopping on board and there’s a couple of aspects to that. One is the onboard shops which a lot of people feel, in their experience, are not great value. Now, I think the cruise lines would dispute that, but certainly, I’ve found generally the stuff I’ve looked at on cruise ships is pretty expensive versus what you can buy on land or even back at home. Those little stations that get put outside the shops cluttering up the walkways with the deals, the inches of gold, the clearance sales… there’s a feeling that there’s just too much focus on the pressure to shop.
Of course, the other shopping aspect which does drive people crazy and I personally don’t really understand is the art auctions. So many cruise lines will have art auctions on board. They do seem surprisingly popular. Some people like buying art but there’s a lot of discussion around whether it’s good value or not.
Regular cruisers clearly love cruising and these things aren’t stopping people going cruising, but it’s really interesting to know what is driving regular cruisers crazy. I have loads more tips, advice, and videos about all things cruising, so why don’t you watch one of those right now.
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