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Sailing under the new economic paradigm:

 

The is the second part of a piece that I wrote about cruising.  Since the first article, a few things have happened.  The U.S.   The cruise industry has had to react to the changing times.  Fact: many families who vacation on a regular basis have either cut back or cut out vacations entirely. So while not taking the cruise lines to task, I would however like to point out a few major and minor adjustments that have been made. economy has changed drastically along with the rest of the world.

 

Choosing a cruise.  The question will come up: Do I go with an online consolidator, such as Expedia, Priceline etc., or deal directly with the cruise lines?   Good question.  Where the consolidator can give you a good “upfront-no squabble” price, very few can offer upgrades, or price recalculations (reductions).  The cruise line agent can give you both.  If the price goes down, they can either reflect the change via ship credit, or upgrades to better cabins.

 

Which cabin to pick?  The previous article spoke about location, location and location.  This still holds true with this proviso:  Whereas under the old paradigm, bigger was better, or rather the heavier the ship the better it was. However, with oil at now over $70 a barrel, ship builders are now thinking stronger, yet lighter.  This means that the behemoth your parents sailed on was tighter and more solid; the modern vessels are more luxurious, but lighter, and less tight.  This translates that the engine vibration can still be felt towards the top and front of the ship as well as towards the bottom and the rear. 

 

Food services and food choices.  Cruises still will offer a lot, and I mean a lot of food: from casual dinning venues to the more elaborate and fancy.  Still, with the present economy, changes have to be made:  The elaborate “Grand midnight buffet” unfortunately on most cruises is a thing of the past.  To generate more revenue, many cruise lines now offer optional upscale dinning options.  This means for extra money, you can get the steakhouse experience, to the everyday Starbucks and specialty options such as sushi, or specialty desserts. All of these are of course for an additional cost.

 

Other cost factors.  Unless you are fortunate enough to live in or near Florida , for the most part you might have to consider your travel to and from your departure port.  For the present time, many cruise lines are offering an alternative: Many are now sailing from many East and West coast ports, e.g., Norfolk, Baltimore, Philadelphia, New Orleans, just to name a few.  On a personal note, recently my wife and I traveled twice from Baltimore via two different carriers.  The embarkation was a pleasant experience: we went through security once!  Liquids in our carry on were not a concern (although at the port, they x-rayed all of your carry-on as well as your checked bags.  What is to be considered in costs are the savings of not flying, vs. the additional port charges ( Florida seems to be the cheapest) and hence, a cheaper fare and of course parking (unless you have someone to take you and pick you up)

 

The final analyst is that you get what you pay for.  If you don’t mind a small inside cabin, then yes, you can save.  However, if you are on a vacation and want a little bit of luxury—spend a little bit more for more space, piece of mind and comfort. Tips are now prepaid or added on to your tab.  Believe it or not, cold hard cash on the ship is hard to spend except in the casino, everything else you have to put on your sign and sail card.  You can put cash on your sailing account instead of a credit or debit card.  The cruise lines are very accommodating. 

 

The Bottom Line: Food, Service and Accommodations.  You must see for yourself.  All of the ships will go to extreme lengths to give you excellence in all areas, especially these three.  Your cabin will be cleaned by the time you return from breakfast (provided you go out of course).  You will always have fresh ice in your ice bucket.  The last time we sailed, we opted to go for a suite, as much room as an average hotel room, which is premium size for a ship.  My complaint (minor) not enough electrical outlets to charge up my gadgets.  My compliment: our cabin was extremely clean.

 

The food was excellent.  On our last cruise to the Bahamas from Baltimore for 7 days, there was enough variety on the menu to make things interesting, yet some consistent “stand-bys” steak, chicken, and the like for some of us “old-timers” who like a little change, but not too much.

 

The service in all areas is excellent.  The cabin steward, whom you will rarely see, yet you see where he has been, at night, he folds towels into different animals every night. The wait service is great.  Our waiter’s assistant (used to be called busboy) was outstanding, I ordered iced tea the first day, and every day since, it was there before I asked.  There are other little things that they do that may be of little or greater importance to an individual.

 

Just remember: you are on vacation.  Somebody else is doing the driving, the cooking, the cleaning and etc., and you are paying for this convenience.  If, while sailing, something is not right, make mention of it and believe me, they’ll hop to it—they want you as a repeat customer. 

 

Caveat: At certain times, there will be lines.  Upon boarding, while dining on the deck to name a few.  Leaving from Baltimore <!-- /* Font Definitions */ @font-face {font-family:SimSun; panose-1:2 1 6 0 3 1 1 1 1 1; mso-font-alt:宋体; mso-font-charset:134; mso-generic-font-family:auto; mso-font-pitch:variable; mso-font-signature:3 135135232 16 0 262145 0;} @font-face {font-family:"\@SimSun"; panose-1:2 1 6 0 3 1 1 1 1 1; mso-font-charset:134; mso-generic-font-family:auto; mso-font-pitch:variable; mso-font-signature:3 135135232 16 0 262145 0;} /* Style Definitions */ p.MsoNormal, li.MsoNormal, div.MsoNormal {mso-style-parent:""; margin:0in; margin-bottom:.0001pt; mso-pagination:widow-orphan; font-size:12.0pt; font-family:"Times New Roman"; mso-fareast-font-family:SimSun;} @page Section1 {size:8.5in 11.0in; margin:1.0in 1.25in 1.0in 1.25in; mso-header-margin:.5in; mso-footer-margin:.5in; mso-paper-source:0;} div.Section1 {page:Section1;} --> the first time on RCL to Bermuda , we had an outside cabin, when we got there, to board, there was no line.  A little more than a year later, I opted for a suite win Carnival Cruise line, which entitled us for VIP check in.    When we arrived, there was an extremely long line.  With the VIP status, we were moved up to the front of the line for security, and was directed to a small room to the side to process us in.  Both times we arrived at the port, checked our bags on the ship, parked, processed through and had 2 picture taken in about 20-25 minutes, and we were on the ship to our cabins.

 

Enjoy yourself.  The more you know of some of the things I am telling you, the better prepared you will be.  I certainly hope this helps you