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EDITORIAL

The Cruise Review You Have To Read To Believe

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Some people simply aren’t meant to cruise. Now, the fact that you’re here, reading this particular story on this particular web site means you are probably not one of those people. But, believe it or not, they are out there. And while we might find their way of thinking as inconceivable as world peace or calorie-free French fries, they do actually exist.

As proof, I offer up Softballchic88, whose review of her late-July cruise upon the Caribbean Princess enumerates 53 different problems she encountered during the voyage, but might best be viewed as a thesis titled “How Not To Cruise.” It also serves as a teachable moment, and we’re going to use it to help you avoid many of the rookie mistakes which helped to turn Softballchic88’s dream vacation into something of a nightmare.

What Did She Complain About?

The simple answer would be “everything,” but if we’re going to learn from her mistakes, we need to look at some of the specifics… as well as who the person behind the profile actually is. Softballchic88 describes herself as a single, 29-year-old nurse who has “never traveled anywhere or done anything,” adding that — contrary to what the 2,910 words which followed would seem to indicate — she is not one to complain about things and generally “goes with the flow.”

It’s important to note here that we are by no means mocking Softballchick88 or suggesting that she did not encounter problems during her cruise. Even on the most amazing trips we’ve ever taken, there are usually a few issues. What we are doing is looking at the nature of her complaints and helping others to avoid winding up in a similar situation, which she called “anything but amazing.”

While you can read her entire review at Cruiseline.com, and its accompanying list of complaints — and again, there are 53 of them — we opted to pull out some that offer telling glimpses into what really went wrong on this vacation.

The Cruise Review Complaints

Photo: Flickr/Cruisereiziger.nl

1. “I thought there would be very few kids, but I guess with the [July] 4th holiday, there are quite a few. In fact, I had a family with three kids on my 8-hour shore excursion that ruined it for me.”

She adds that the cruise line “really should warn people if kids are on that particular excursion.” Upon returning to the ship, she attempted to get a refund because “I didn’t get what I paid for/didn’t enjoy it.” As seasoned travelers can imagine, that request was not granted.

2.  “I pre-ordered the unlimited soda and more package because they said they have a variety of coke products. However, they only have Coke, Diet Coke and Sprite… none of which I drink.” She was also unhappy to learn that this meant fountain soda, not cans. Again, she requested a refund and again, said request was denied.

3.  “The bathroom is ridiculously small,” she complained, adding later that there were “quite a few cracked tiles on the floor of my bathroom (which I know does not interfere with function, but still).”

4. The dining room offered no respite for our beleaguered traveler.

“It took 1.5 hours to complete my meal in [the] Italian restaurant,” she notes, adding again that she was dining solo. “I also find it quite ridiculous that as much as I paid for the cruise (single people… have to pay more), I also had to pay a $25-30 cover charge for most [restaurants]” despite the fact that she “wouldn’t even eat that much worth of food.”

5. Things didn’t go much better with SBC88 attempted to make new friends.

“There was an ‘unhosted singles and solo traveler’ event on board which was also a joke,” she shares. “Next to no one there and no actual activity other than sitting at [the] bar with [a] handful of people drinking.” Despite this, she went to a second event later that week and reports being “the only person to show up” as if somehow, this is the cruise line’s fault.

6. “To be able to enjoy a relaxing adult-only area, I had to pay a fee.”

7.  “When ordering room service, they wouldn’t bring me soda of any kind,” she notes, “despite having [paid for the beverage] package.”

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8. “They do have a laundromat,” she conceded, “but [passengers] have to pay to use them and pay for detergent if [they] didn’t bring their own.”

How Things Could Have Been Better

We suspect that seasoned cruisers sensed a pattern long ago, so let’s just stop here and address the elephant in the room, which is that SoftBallChick88 went into this cruise woefully underprepared. The majority of complaints listed above could have been avoided had she done basic research into the ship and its offerings. It’s fairly simple to find out if any given ship has laundry facilities, for example.

And the soda package sold by Princess very clearly indicates that it covers “unlimited fountain soft drinks, plus mocktails, juices and complimentary hot chocolate.” In smaller print but still easily researchable? That room service beverages are not included in the cost of the package.

Likewise, a bit of research would have told SBC88 that The Sanctuary — this particular ship’s kid-free zone — can only be accessed by paying a fee. Heck, look hard enough, and one can find not only information about the size of the bathroom’s shower but YouTube videos showing exactly what it looks like.

And an ounce of common sense would have told our girl that the worst possible way to avoid children – which clearly was of paramount importance, as she mentions her disdain for them repeatedly throughout — is to take a cruise during any holiday period.

Read More: 14 Do’s and Don’ts of Cruising

To be sure, there are other complaints on SBC88’s list — and again, it was far too long to reprint in its entirety — which were valid and even, in some cases, concerning. For example, she reports having watched “a worker sneeze into his hands, not wash them and [continue] messing with food at [the] buffet.” (She does not, however, indicate that she reported this behavior to anyone.) She also claims to have waited in line 3 hours for a tender back to the ship, suffering dehydration and sunburn as a result.

What Really Went Wrong?

Photo: Flickr/Cruisereiziger.nl

At the end of the day, a few things are clear. More research or a great travel agent may have gone a long way toward helping SBC88 avoid some of the problems she encountered. But it may also simply be a case of cruising not being the right fit for her particular personality. I happen to live with someone who would rather have multiple root canals performed than step foot on a cruise ship, and I suspect he would walk away having had a very similar experience to SBC88. (Part of me hopes to someday find out, part of me dreads the idea of spending a week dealing with his “misery!”)

One thing is very clear, and that is the moral of this story:

I happen to live with someone who would rather have multiple root canals performed than step foot on a cruise ship, and I suspect he would walk away having had a very similar experience to SBC88. (Part of me hopes to someday find out, part of me dreads the idea of spending a week dealing with his “misery!”) One thing is very clear, and that is the moral of this story:

Before taking a major vacation for which you have high hopes and are spending a good deal of money, do your research! When in doubt, check it out… or better yet, turn to a travel professional and let them make sure that your trip of a lifetime doesn’t turn into a nightmare for you and everyone you come into contact with.

Read the entire review at Cruiseline.com.

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EDITORIAL

How Cruising Keeps Us Young

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The 80s music was thumping, the lights were flashing, and, as instructed by the cruise director and his staff, folks were waving their hands in the air as if they just didn’t care. Among them was Marjorie, who was celebrating her 86th birthday dancing the night away at Spice H20 aboard the Norwegian Breakaway.

“This is something I’d never, ever do at home!” she told me, shouting to be heard over the music. “This is why I cruise!”

How Millennials Changed Cruising And Cruisers

It wasn’t all that long ago that cruising was thought of as where grandma and grandpa went to shuffle between Bingo games and the buffet, occasionally stopping to nap on the promenade deck. But that was before freestyle dining, free-fall waterslides, surf simulators, robotic bartenders and on-board breweries… you know, all the things that have been added by cruise lines in part to broaden their appeal to a younger demographic.

But a funny thing happened along the way to luring those young folks: Some of us rediscovered things we thought we’d left behind… or discovered them for the first time. Cruise ships seem to have the same effect on older folks as do weddings… we go from being those people who would shout “Turn that music down!” at home to tearing up the dance floor until the wee hours of the morning.

Why sleep when you can dance until dawn at the “silent disco” party on Norwegian Bliss?

During a recent sailing on Royal Caribbean’s Anthem of the Seas, I watched a teen who was scared to try the RipCord flight simulator be convinced to give it a go… by watching his grandfather do it first. And just shy of my own 55th birthday, I recently went speeding around the upper deck of the Norwegian Bliss on a go-kart before throwing myself into an intense round of laser tag. (To be fair, I killed more of my own teammates than I did our opponents, but I had a heck of a good time doing it!)

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Without doubt, this is a win/win for the cruise industry: Not only are more people hitting the high seas than ever before, but the average age of passengers has dropped significantly over the past 20 years. Plus, by continuing to offer the amenities expected by old-school cruisers even as they pump up the thrills to attract the younger generations, an ever-increasing number of multi-generational groups are sailing.

The “Something For Everyone” Factor

Taking a break from the dance floor — more, I suspect, for my sake than hers — Marjorie told me that she and her husband had cruised together for over three decades, and that when he passed away, she assumed she would probably stop sailing. But it was actually her granddaughter who, seeing an ad on TV, suggested the whole family should take a vacation together. The more they looked into the idea, the more even disinterested members of the clan came around as they found out just how much there would be to do, even if they didn’t get off the ship.

Thrills such as the SkyRide on Carnival Vista and Carnival Horizon are designed to attract new and younger cruisers… but they also wind up appealing to adventurers of all ages! Photo by Andy Newman/Carnival Cruise Line

This cruise, she says, is unlike any she and her husband had taken in the past. “I’m trying to keep up with the young folks,” she says, adding with a laugh, “and I must be doing okay, because I think they went to bed an hour ago!”

This is where I shamefully admit that Marjorie outlasted me, too. Although we crossed paths again several times during the week, including at a whiskey tasting. “I figured what the heck,” she says, raising a glass to toast. “You only live once!”

Have you done things on a cruise ship you probably wouldn’t do at home? Do you believe that cruising helps keep you young? 

 

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EDITORIAL

How Cruise Lines Celebrate Earth Day Every Day

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As cruisers, there’s little we love more than the ocean. And since oceans cover 71 percent of our planet’s surface, it only makes sense that the cruise lines want to do whatever they can to have a positive impact on both the waterways of the world and the land on which their passengers live. So while people around the world are marking Earth Day, we thought it appropriate to take a moment to acknowledge some of the major moves the cruise industry has made over the past few years to try and help Mother Nature.

  • Changing The Way We Cruise
    Let’s face it: Most of us probably don’t spend a whole lot of time thinking about the mechanics of cruising. But the industry as a whole is spending a lot of time and money into ships fueled by Liquefied Nitrogen Gas. In fact, Carnival Cruise Line’s Aida division is about to roll out the first-ever ship to be entirely powered by this more environmentally-friendly fuel source.

The Aida Nova will be the first cruise ship is currently under construction. Rendering by AIDA Cruises 

  • Changing The Way They Operate
    Over the past few months, all of the major cruise lines have announced plans to reduce the amount of single-use plastics… with the help of passengers. Royal Caribbean announced that not only will they be cutting back on items such as straws, but that they will also be looking into other aspects of their business to see how they can make major changes in this area.

Straws will soon be available only by request on most cruise lines… and that’s a good thing.

  • Finding Creative Ways To Recycle
    Proving the environment isn’t something cruise lines are only now thinking about, we reported back in 2015 on the fact that Disney Cruise Line was donating its used cooking oil — we’re talking tens of thousands of gallons — to the Bahamas Waste Management organization so that they can in turn use it to fuel some of their vehicles!
  • Encouraging Passengers To Do Their Part
    Most cruise lines offer their passengers the option to get more than one use out of their bathroom towels. And while this might seem like a rather insignificant move, it actually can have a pretty huge impact. After all, if even 100 passengers on each ship opt to get more use out of their towels, think about how many items that takes out of the laundry stream over the course of a year, thus conserving a whole lot of water!
  • Making Decisions That Aren’t Always Popular
    Not every way in which the cruise lines help the environment is always a big hit with every passenger. To this day, Carnival still gets complaints from people who didn’t approve of the decision to remove table cloths from the Main Dining Rooms during most meal services. But again, the number of items taken out of the laundry cycle (and the amount of water and energy conserved as a result) is downright staggering when looked at over the course of a year.

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    The amount of laundry processed by a cruise ship each day is staggering.

  •  Making Recycling A Priority
    Most cruise lines do everything in their power to separate garbage. On some ships, food scraps are ground up and turned into fish food. On others, room stewards sift through garbage to try and separate recyclable items.
  •  Being A Part Of The Global Community
    Over the years, cruise lines have thrown their financial and even political support behind numerous charitable organizations including the World Wildlife Fund and The Nature Conservancy, making it clear that they care not only about the environments populated by their passengers, but the many creatures with whom we share the planet.

 

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EDITORIAL

Cruiser Suggests Removing Gratuity To Send Message

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Upset that a cruise during which she hoped to relax was disturbed by construction taking place on the ship, a disgruntled passenger took to a message board to vent. It was the type of complaint that pops up from time to time on cruise-related message boards, claiming that a significant number of passengers had complained to guest services about their restful vacation being disrupted by the work being done. And like clockwork, one of the people responding to the original posting offered a suggestion which is made far too often.

“When things like this happen,” he suggested, “everyone should go to guest services and remove the daily gratuities. That will send a powerful message to the cruise line!”

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Except, of course, that it wouldn’t. And worse, it would be punishing the wrong people. Think of it this way: If you go to a restaurant and the waitress works her butt off to give you the best service possible, but the food isn’t very good… should your server be punished via a lousy tip? Or would it make more sense to speak to a manager regarding the chef who prepared the food?

Still not convinced? Imagine it was your child working in that restaurant, doing an absolutely top-notch job and yet being stiffed on tips because the chef prepared bad food.

READ MORE: The Ultimate Guide To Cruise Tipping

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The daily gratuities charged by most cruise lines are a subject of much debate. Personally, I’ve long advocated that the charge should be rolled directly into the price of the cruise (which would also cut back on the inevitable outcry which arises each time they are raised). I also think there should be no circumstances under which they can be removed.

“But what if the service is bad?” some will ask.

“Doesn’t matter,” I will respond. Because even if you do come across a few bad apples during the course of your cruise, the vast majority of the crew members — including many you will never see, let alone acknowledge — work hard to make sure you have the best possible vacation.

“I remove the gratuities,” some will say, “and then individually reward those who provide me with good service.” Again, I will remind them of all the people who work hard behind the scenes and who will never be on the receiving end of their magnanimous dispensing of individual tips.

Personally, I can think of nothing that could ever justify my removing the daily gratuities charge from my bill. Beyond that, however, the notion of removing the tips of hard-working individuals as a way to “send a message” to their bosses is incomprehensible to me.

Want to send a message to the corporate offices? Write a letter. Send an E-mail. Heck, take your business to another cruise line and then write a letter letting the one you’ve left behind exactly why you decided to do so. If you truly believe that money talks, then surely the loss of a loyal customer is going to speak far louder than would the comparative pittance that is the daily gratuity charge.

Under what circumstances would — or have — you removed the daily gratuity fee? Do you think the cruise lines should simply roll the fee into the overall cost of the cruise? 

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