CRUISE FACTS: What to expect
For the first timers on a cruise
I travel the world on ships and am lucky enough to have very kind and generous audiences (otherwise known as captive audiences with hundreds of miles of ocean between them and land) pay rapt attention to me entertain them with stories of piracy, maritime history and the Titanic.
There is always one question that comes up in discussions with passengers on ships.
What cruise line do you like the best?
Now my agent and the cruise lines don’t want me to answer that question. The passengers we meet on voyages are usually very adept at using the internet and know all about Cruise Critic and many of them are Cruise Critic members and flock to special cocktail parties in which they share details about the ship, staff, and prices. Try telling these folks you can’t talk about the differences between cruise lines. Trying to walk a fine line between what your host wants you to do and giving an honest answer to a sincere question makes you end up sounding like a politician.
I was mulling around how to give an answer to the most frequently asked question I hear on ships and yet respect the wishes of my host, the cruise lines. Therefore, I have come up with the idea to simply do a book on the topic.
As I begin this book, I am going to include you as my test audience, chapter by chapter, as the book unfolds. Many of you will be first-time cruisers or perhaps with only a few under your belt and will be interested. Others may be experienced cruisers, perhaps even some who have traveled more than I and will be able to point out where I have gone wrong or missed something relevant.
Therefore, either way, I will greatly appreciate hearing from you on the email address below.
In the interest of not wearing you out with an email on this topic every day, I will post each new chapter on the blog at ThePrivateerClause.com.
For a comprehensive review of crime, drugs, and fires on ships pick up FIRE CRUISE available in paperback, Kindle and Audible
By Ken Rossignol
Are you thinking about joining the twenty-three million people who take a voyage on a cruise ship each year?
There are plenty of guides and books that feature all manner of advice, and most of them are likely good sources of information.
One of the best pieces of advice I have ever seen was this: “When preparing for travel, lay out all the clothes and all the money you expect you’ll need. Then, take half the clothes and twice the money!”
Another priceless admonition was this: “There are two forms of travel – First Class, and with children!”
Enough with the old jokes.
I often have folks on ships ask me, as if I am some sort of authority, what cruise line is the best. I really wouldn’t know as I have been on many ships of various lines, and all I have observed is that every single one of them attempt to provide an excellent vacation for their passengers. Some, of course, have better luck at it than others.
However, I consider each cruise to be a rollicking success as long as the ship doesn’t catch fire or capsize. With a thousand ships on the high seas, and all of them busy nearly every day of the year there are so few such incidents that it makes it really easy for the media to wring every last video clip out of the high-profile disasters.
Aside from being on one of those cruises, it is likely your first trip will be something you will remember for the rest of your life. I know, that British guy will soon starting painting his name on the side of the ship. He announced plans for a Virgin Cruise Lines, based in Miami and within one month one of his ex-partners filed a lawsuit to block it. Perhaps the luxury ship will make it to the Virgin Islands.
Don’t worry, you won’t have to worry about booking one of the Virgin ships. It is far more likely that a new arrival to cruise vacations will test the waters in a very medium price range.
It’s easy to do. Go online and shop ships. See what ship fits your goals. After a few hours of pouring through the websites with excellent videos and snazzy offerings, you will undoubtedly have the ship-fitter blues. The choices are mind boggling.
For the party-hardy crowd, there are plenty of opportunities to make your first cruise one you will never remember. The all-inclusive booze package on Carnival runs about fifty bucks a day, and the bar staff is supposed to cut you off after 15 drinks. If anyone can actually keep from falling off the rails while doing a re-creation of the Great Wallendas act, then that could have been a wise choice.
Carnival is a gaudy cruise line with a couple of high-drama disasters in recent years. The Costa Concordia capsized due to a really bozo of a captain.
That captain was recently convicted of manslaughter and should be hung from the gallows. Not likely to happen, but he deserves it.
Capt. Bozo claimed he fell into a lifeboat accidentally. Yeah. Right next to the First Officer and the Second Officer. The only thing that they didn’t do was fall in alphabetically.
Then there was the engine room fire that disabled one of their ships off the coast of Mexico. Instead of being towed back to the closest port back in Mexico, Carnival management decided that somehow it was better for the ship to be at sea without power for four days while tugs would shove it across the Gulf of Mexico back to the U.S.
Apparently any idiot can get a job as an executive at Carnival.
My adventure on the Carnival Miracle was all positive in that we didn’t sink, and we didn’t catch fire. If it didn’t happen to you, it doesn’t count!
It was a great ship, and the designer gave Gaudi a run for his money in the décor department. The food was excellent, and the entertainment was fun. Carnival proved that when they weren’t actually torturing their customers, they could provide a great experience.
We didn’t even have any drunken college kids take a dive from a balcony, at least none that anyone noticed. The sharks have to eat too.
Another Carnival-owned line that we have traveled on is Holland-America. As a guest speaker on ships, I have to say that this company knocks themselves out to accommodate speakers, as well as passengers. They have that Old Dutch salt feel to the design and fabric of the ships. One would never know there is any commonality with Carnival. The average age on Holland-America isn’t quite pushing the Lawrence Welk crowd, but there are a few. Mostly the passengers weigh in (a joke) from about the fifties to eighties, with slight deviations below and above those age groups.
The Holland America ships are mostly what one would call small to medium size ships that accommodate about 1800 to 2000 passengers. They have officers that are Dutch, and décor and traditions are consistent with providing that legacy experience. The Holland America experience is really quite good and just a shade above in price over the most competitive arena shared by NCL, Royal Caribbean, and Carnival.
With the Dutch flavor to Holland-America, one has to wonder why one of the cruise lines doesn’t maintain a Vikings flavor with the staff dressed up in the cast of the History Channel series. I’ll bet no one would let their kids pee in the pool, or the chair hogs would spread their towels around the best seats if the staff approached wearing horned helmets and carrying bloody swords.
The experience on Celebrity, which is owned by Royal Caribbean, is a bit upper-crusty. Think of a country club with all the men showing up at pre-dinner cocktail parties looking like they were auditioning for an ad in GQ and the women literally glowing in their new dresses and bling. The passengers even behave better on Holland and Celebrity. I’d bet they would all show proper deportment if the Vikings took over Carnival. But the passengers are another dimension to this CRUISE FACTS guide to picking out a cruise. We have plenty of time to discuss them later.
Celebrity actually lives up to their name in about every way possible. While taking a cruise on Carnival is like going on vacation with everyone you just met at the mall, Celebrity is almost like a trip with all those voted most likely to have good manners in high school.
I don’t actually remember that being one of the categories in the silly contest that some oaf makes sure that graduating classes tally up in their high school yearbook, but if it was real, it would be a good way to describe Celebrity’s passengers.
If your taste runs more to tattoos, boisterous behavior, and a thong show which shows things you wish you never saw, then NCL, Royal Caribbean’s lower priced cruises, and Carnival would be your ticket.