Musing on Cruising. A consumer’s report.

I have just finished most of Leg 6 on the Queen Mary 2. It seems a good moment to contemplate on the state and art of cruising. There must be very few industries where prices are lower now than they were 20 years ago. Cruising is one of them. Now you still need a pretty serious bank account to take a 90 day cruise with Cunard but the necessity of being ‘Upper Crust’ as Virgin Airlines describe it, with the casual dry wit they have always employed, is no longer such an important factor.

Generally speaking cruising has become less invested in an outdated class system than by the choice of the Cruise Line that most suits your lifestyle. The key factor is still really all about location, location, location; and destination, destination, destination. The cabin you choose can dramatically affect the price you pay for a cruise.

Would you rather have a small inside cabin on a more expensive ship or a larger cabin with a balcony on one of the many newer style ships: or to be more precise larger ships. How much time will you be spending in your cabin? With a larger cabin, room service and a comfortable balcony you may never want to leave it; is your goal the ports of call that your voyage takes you to.

The trend towards gigantic ships has lowered prices dramatically. Fresh on the heels of the worldwide financial downturn, which hit the cruise industry just as the devastating effects of the 9/11 attack were starting to be resolved. Ships are designed, planned and ordered  many years in advance, and there are currently just too many cabins available and in need of filling.

The cruise industry was giddy with delight in the late 80s/early 90s with the figures that showed only a tiny percentage of the population had taken a cruise vacation. They may have got a little carried away. One of the next large cruise ships to be brought into service will carry 6000 passengers, and that same line already has 21 ships in service. These are heady numbers and are resulting in discounting of tickets on a large scale if you are prepared to book your trip close to the departure. A little flexibility can cut your costs in half.

The general theory was that by lowering ticket prices a huge influx of passengers would be attracted to the notion of booking a cruise for the first time. Where the theory went of course was in assuming that these same passengers would spend the money they had saved on their ticket price on onboard services. Many of them didn’t and suddenly the industry was giving away  cabin on a cruise ship for less than the price of a modest hotel room.

Some of the smaller ‘uber deluxe’ lines which were all inclusive, free alcohol and no tipping seem to have been worst hit.The smaller lines are now being hit with the problem that because of their cost passengers realize they can get a wonderful suite on a newer ship, pay for their own alcohol, tip the staff and still find an enormous amount of extra cash in their pockets. These smaller luxury lines are now having to make cuts in their budget that any discriminative cruiser will notice.

Onboard the Queen Mary 2, all the entertainers performed one show using their ‘A’ material On a recent trip on a ‘Silverseas’ ship, I performed three 55 minute shows. alternating with ‘mini’ production shows that were performed on a stage that was so small that the overall impression was of a high-school production performed in your living room. The passengers on these ships are pretty savvy business people and I was astonished by amount of passengers who spotted the shrinking of the budget. When you spend $1000 a day, but could be on another ship for $100 a day, you begin to wonder such things.

However, every industry has been hit by recent events, and I suspect the inherent ‘recognition factor’ of a line like Cunard that has kept it’s standards high, will keep their cabins filled with happy passengers looking for a little nostalgia in their mode of travel. I am just as sure that a line such as Royal Caribbean International will weather the waves of future economic changes with their ice skating, rock climbing, water surfing giants of the sea will attract plenty of passengers who want to explore these new elements on a cruise vacation.

My only thought is that eventually these ships will get so big that it becomes easier to leave them anchored in the Caribbean and ‘tug’ the islands to the ships! One thing I am certain of is that this singular industry will find a way to fill their ships and make a happy profit again. In the meantime there are bargains galore and with a little surfing (on the Internet!) and flexibility in planning your vacation, the perfect cruise is waiting out there for you to arrive.

~ by Nick Lewin on April 9, 2010.

One Response to “Musing on Cruising. A consumer’s report.”

  1. Gee Nick, Maybe I will take a cruise!

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