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Cruise Ship’s Personalities

Written by: Kuki

With assistance from cruise line’s previous marketing campaigns and word of mouth from their friends and neighbors, many people view cruising through mental images of fine dining, fancy dress, lively fun on sun decks, and Las Vegas style floor shows.

Today’s cruise industry is much more complex than that; cruising today has multiple personalities.

Through the 1990s and into the early 21st Century, outside of differences in decor, and some minor differences in onboard programming, it could have seemed that one cruise on a cruise line would be very similar to a cruise on any other line. Though there were a few small niche cruise lines,  variations were basically  budget cruises, mass market cruises, and luxury cruises. The major factor separating them; price (and presumably upgraded service and food to match).

 The pricing categories remain similar today, though the industry may have branded them with new verbiage, sneaking “premium” and “ultra-premium” into the mix, while mass market lines are now referred to as “contemporary”.

Today however the variances in cruise lines are much more clearly established. Plus I think the cruise lines have become ”fleat of fleet” enough to change ships within their line to adapt to the “cruise personalities” passengers are looking for.

The most dominant personality in the industry at this time seems to be the “cruise vacationer”. And the “cruise vacationer” generally favor itineraries cruising in the Caribbean. Caribbean cruisers goal is to simply relax. The want to spend their vacations enjoying the ship’s amenities; relaxing time on sun decks, umbrella drinks, lots of culinary choices, and plenty of live entertainment (particularly in the evenings).

In ports of call they are mostly interested in spending times on beautiful beaches, some sight-seeing, shopping, perhaps some adrenaline inducing activities like zip-lining, jet-skiing, para-sailing, etc. They want a vacation, rather than having a desire to travel. They want something similar to a resort style vacation, but with a little more adventure. And honestly the cruise lines do an outstanding job of meeting those demands throughout the Caribbean, and to a lesser extent the Mexican Riviera.

Then there are “the travelers”. Other than perhaps a first time visit to the islands in the Caribbean, the travelers aren’t going to happy with a Caribbean cruise. Travelers want to see the world, experience different cultures and sights. This is a very fast growing sector of the cruise industry, and all of the cruise lines have reacted by redeploying ships all over the globe to meet the demand. Where a few niche lines, or the smaller ships of the luxury lines used to be some of the only options on many more exotic itineraries, today all categories of the industry are allowing the travelers many more choices in this area. With an eye to the interests of the travelers most cruise lines in areas around the globe are designing very port intensive itineraries. If it’s not a different port almost every day, then they are offering itineraries with more overnights in ports of call; something you rarely see on a Caribbean sailing.

Onboard activities as well as entertainment are also addressed differently on the cruises where the majority of passengers are likely more interested in the next port of call, than a late night comedian.

The “cruise traveler” is still quite different from the “world traveler”. It’s not that they don’t have the same wandering spirit, as they probably do. But for a variety of reason, they are willing to give up some of their wanderlust in favor of more secure and less stressful travel; still being able to return to the creature comforts and luxuries a cruise ship has to offer after day of exploring another port. As you often find the demographic on more exotic itineraries a bit on the older side, I’m guessing many of the people were world travelers, who may now find themselves with less physical abilities to endure the riggers of the “world cruiser” they used to be, yet still have the urge to travel, see more, and learn more. And cruising certainly eases most of the burden, while still fulfilling the urge.

While the cruise lines have moved ships to further reaches of the world, there has also been a concerted effort by them to attract the local populations in those areas. The Europeans are a fast growing segment of the cruise industry, as are the populations from China, Australia, and even South America.

  Where their choices to cruise closer to home were quite limited, today they have more variety in cruise lines sailing close to their homes than sail the Caribbean waters at certain times of year. For example,  more major cruise lines moving ships to Australia, and ships homeporting in Dubai. It’s no longer just ships sailing around the globe. It is a true globalization of the cruise industry. It also holds true that the ” cruise travelers” demographic meshes well with the locals boarding the ships in these distant areas, as they appreciate the oppurtunity to experience the different cultures blend together onboard.

Taking the traveler personality a step  further are the adventure/explorer cruise lines. These sailings are on smaller ships (in some cases less than 100 passengers) which venture into waters larger ships simply cannot go. They specialize in providing passengers with very up close, intimate experiences with the nature and wildlife of the areas they visit, such as Antartica and the less traveled inlets of Alaska. These lines are more attractive to those who might normally fit in the “world traveler” category, as in many cases they will take those passengers to areas and sights which are almost unreachable by land. They will also attract a mix of the “cruise travelers” who are willing to give up a few of the creature comforts of standard cruise ships to step into a more adventurous experience.

Currently the most “IN” category in cruising is River Cruising. Though River Cruisiing has been around for some time, the recent surge by River Cruise companies to add many more new ships to their fleets is working effectively to draw more interest.  They’ve been adding many modern amentities more familiar to those who have to this point experienced more typical cruising. Their main attraction is they travel slowly down rivers, allowing passengers to view places they would never visit on larger cruise ships. They also generally dock in the center of towns and cities they visit, and include tours of the areas in their fares. While I don’t believe they presently have much attraction for first time cruisers, they are certainly drawing “cruise travelers” who are interested in a more personal experience of the cultures within the areas they can access by river cruise, as well as the “world travelers”, giving them ease of access which would be much more limited by land travel.

Certainly all of these cruise personalities, combined with a few even more niche cruise alternatives, such as sailing ships, and barge cruising have expanded the selection and choices to enable you to match your personality with the personality of the cruise.

- A View From the Kuki Side of Cruising -

Posted: September 16th, 2014 under Kuki.
Comments: none

Why Teens Should Cruise

Written by: Kuki

A few weeks ago I wrote about why seniors should cruise. Clearly, being a senior I am much more familiar with that situation than I am teens.

But, honestly I was a teen once. And when my sons were teens, I know they loved cruising, and I think I may know why.

#1 – The very best thing about cruising when you are a teenager is someone else is paying. Whether it is your parents, or grandparents who are paying, it’s not really any more relevant to you than most anything they say to you when you’re that age.

However, it’s best to be really nice to them prior to the cruise, so they’ll get you (and the friend you’ve convinced them to take along) your own cabin.

#2 – Food is an integral part of the cruise experience for adults and teens alike; though probably for different reasons. For teens, the fact that pretty much every ship has a grill somewhere near the pool is the bonus for those teen appetites. For some reason teen metabolisms are such that you can almost eat whatever you want, and not gain weight (I used to be like that, but I’ve been adding a pound on each birthday since – no matter who’s birthday it is –  so be prepared).

While the grills are great for burgers etc. during the night, there are pizzerias for a slice at night with your friends, and if you followed my advice and got your own cabin, the ship’s 24 hr. room service is perfect for snacks in the middle of the night.

If you’re wise, and ever want to go on a cruise again while you’re still a teen, I recommend having dinners in the dining room with your family.

# 3 - Entertainment on ships offers great variety normally. Aside from most ships having teen clubs designed specifically with programs for you and other kids your age, every ship has a specific gathering place between every deck, just for you and all the other teens you meet onboard to hang out.  Don’t let any of the adults convince you  those are stairwells.

# 4- Communications on ships have improved greatly since the days I took my teens on cruises.  Today you can post to all your social media sites easily, even if the only electronics you take onboard is your smartphone. Just like your parents, you can stay in constant touch, assuming everyone you know needs to know where you are and what you’re doing every minute… just like at home.

If you don’t ever want to cruise again, you can call or text everyone at home as well, for as long as you like. No one will know until your family gets their cell phone bills.

#5 – Unless your family has chosen the absolutely wrong ship, you’ll find lots of other teens onboard.

If you can convince the family to cruise over the holidays (like Christmas) there could be more teens onboard than adults. And, even if there isn’t, it will feel like there is to the adults.

#6 – Freedom! In my experience on cruise ships parents pretty much give their teens permission to do anything they want to, whenever they want to… as long as they show up for dinners with the family.  Just let them know that if they are looking for you they should just check all the glass elevators, and eventually they’ll bump into you when the doors open.

 Perhaps I should stop with 6 reasons for teens to cruise. If I list all 10 reasons your families may think better of ever taking you on a cruise.

- A View From The Kuki Side of Cruising -

Posted: September 9th, 2014 under Kuki.
Comments: none

Finding The (Illusive) Great Travel Agent

Written by: Kuki

Over the years,in  every article I  ever wrote about choosing a cruise, or booking a cruise, I’ve recommended talking to, and booking with a travel agent; preferably one who specializes in cruises.

In my view, the alternative – booking directly with a cruise line – is the least desirable option available.

So, many times I’ve been asked the million dollar question ; how do I find that “great travel agent”? The answer is, there is no easy answer.

There is one thing about the business of travel agents that makes me crazy. That is, there is no governing body, other than the law of the land, which has any type of authority of  oversight of travel agents, or for that matter cruise lines.

There is an industry group that the vast majority of cruise travel agents and agencies are members of, called CLIA (Cruise Line Industry Association), which does offer some training and accreditation.

Though this organization is essentially a promotional, marketing and lobbying group for the cruise industry, finding a travel agent who has been granted the CLIA accreditation means they have met at least some minimal training standards. In many cases sales representatives for the cruise lines, may have never even been on a ship. And furthermore, if they have, it’s highly unlikely they have been on a ship other than those of the line they are selling for.

The business of travel agents has changed quite significantly over the past decade or so, and like many industries in that time frame much of the change has to do with advances in technology. The technological advances have changed the business model of most travel agencies.

Independent owner operated travel agencies do still exist, but are rare. Most have, at the very least joined a consortia. Consortia were originally formed to associate numerous independent agencies in order to improve their “buying power”; their ability to negotiate better pricing, and “preferred supplier” status with cruise lines, tour operators, etc.

The most significant change to the travel agent industry in recent years, due to, or because of technology,  is the rise in the number of home based travel agents. They may simply be hosted by a travel agency, or they may be part of a consortium, or the fastest growing segment; they become franchisees. Being a travel agent  through any of these relationships does not, in and of itself, make the individuals good or bad travel agents.

One can purchase a franchise for anywhere from $500 to $3000, and once accepted those franchisees may refer to themselves as independent operators. Some of those franchisees may still open brick and mortar stores from which to operate, but the majority are home-based agents. This offers no negative commentary on that situation. It’s just something I believe the consumer should be aware of.

Technology allows these travel agents to be just as effective as those in large store front travel agencies, while at the same time saving operating costs.

For a time only large Internet based agencies dominated sales via the internet.  Today the very vast majority of all types of travel agents have a “web presence”.  All of the consortia, and all of the franchise operations have developed web sites, to allow their associates to sell and market their services. To varying degrees, they have also all developed software and support systems to improve the abilities of their associates to further develop their business.

Before all these advances, there was a time when the large Internet based travel agencies were beginning to dominate the  smaller independent operators, so the cruise lines were lobbied to create “flat pricing policies”; forcing all travel agencies to sell cruises for the same price as what the cruise lines themselves were pricing the cruise at. This was their attempt to level the playing field for everyone selling their cruises.

Though, in theory these policies are still in place, when pricing out cruises today, you’ll find those flat pricing policies are not necessarily fact,, or enforced. In other words, as a consumer you still need to price shop, and not just assume you are getting the best price you can everywhere.

There are factors affecting that. Some travel agents are still find ways to rebate from their commissions, to offer their customers a better price. Though against “the rules” it is being done, perhaps more imaginatively than direct price discounting. There are also things the cruise lines themselves do which offers such things as preferred supplier status, overrides, etc. which  can have an effect on the travel agents bottom lines.

Some of these “industry secrets” do bother me somewhat. I believe the travel agents are certainly entitled to make a living, and be paid for their work. I do however encourage more transparency from them.

When choosing a travel agent my suggestion is to always interview them, and not just get a price quote. You are hiring someone to work for you! Even if you have no experience of ever hiring anyone to work you, with regard to choosing a travel agent, you are your own HR department.

You are hiring someone to work for you, take care of your interests,  and will be in a position to handle your money. Take the challenge seriously when making that decision. Ask questions, not just about the cruise and price they can offer.

Unfortunately, you may end up “kissing a few frogs” before you find your travel prince or princess. And, unfortunately neither the cruise lines, the consortia, or the franchisors will take any serious action to assist  towards correcting the actions of those “frogs” you encounter.

But, when you find your travel agent prince or princess, you’ll know it! When you do, be open and loyal, and nurture that relationship. Don’t leave them because you found somewhere else to save $50. It could cost you much more in the long run if you chose another “frog”.

- A View From The Kuki Side of Cruising -

Posted: September 2nd, 2014 under Kuki.
Comments: none

It’s Great To Celebrate On A Cruise

Written by: Kuki

Thankfully during the course of our lives we have many life events we celebrate. The celebration of many of those life events are easily arranged and enjoyed on cruise ships.

Birthdays are a great reason to celebrate. They occur every year, so we’re supplied with an annual reason to indulge ourselves. To celebrate you can go out for dinner with friends, or arrange to surprise your friend, spouse or family member (or try to) with some form of birthday party. Or you can plan ahead, and get your family or friends to go on a cruise, and let the entire duration of the cruise be your celebration. You tell me- - what’s better a party for a couple of hours, or a week on a ship?

Personally. I’d give up all the gifts in exchange for a week long party. Heck, I’m willing to celebrate the birthdays of people I don’t even like if it means I get to go on a cruise.

I particularly enjoy celebrating the birthdays of my children on cruises. ( note -I highly recommend leaving the children at home with their grandparents or other family members, and celebrating their birthdays at sea without them present).

Getting married on ships, or in ports of call, is a growing segment of the celebratory cruise market. There are plenty  of options to choose from. And making the arrangements can be accomplished relatively smoothly. You can use wedding planners who specialize in cruise ship weddings, and work with the cruise lines directly to ensure your onboard marriage ceremony goes smoothly, or work directly with the cruise lines. Both ways allow those getting married and their guests to relax and enjoy it. There’s presently many ships with wedding chapels on board, and many that will allow the Captain to officiate as you say your vows.

You can even arrange to have your wedding in port, before the ship embarks on it’s voyage, and have family and friends come on board to enjoy the wedding, even if they are not cruising with you.

Wedding in ports of call are slightly more difficult to arrange, though with a bit of research it’s easy to find companies in almost every port of call that will make all the arrangements for you. The only danger is if weather conditions, or other unforeseen circumstances cause the  ship to skip its scheduled visit to that port.

The advantage, of course, if that circumstance happens to occur, is both the bride and groom get extra time to realize that marriage to that person would be a terrible mistake, and have time to arrange for separate cabins for the duration of the cruise, and back out. From someone who has, to this point, been married for 32 years,,  marriage is not all that’s it’s cracked up to be. (I don’t mean that honey… if you’re reading this).

Which leads me to the next great occasion to celebrate at sea; anniversaries.

Every week on ships, there are couples renewing their wedding vows, for their anniversary celebration.  It’s very romantic to stand and restate your love for each other while at sea. Mrs. Kuki and I have chosen not to try this option yet, as we’re both not so sure we’d say yes again. If you’re planning to avail yourselves of this option, it is best to discuss it first, so there’s no surprise in the end result.

Though I haven’t had the pleasure of trying it, cruise ships are also a great place to go to celebrate a divorce. If the divorce is amicable, you can even go on the cruise with your ex spouse. This has in fact occurred in the past, where a divorced couple go on a cruise, and after mixing alcohol into the celebration, make the same mistake, and get remarried. Those situations aren’t that bad because they create another reason to cruise the next time they divorce.

Celebrating your children’s graduations with the gift of a cruise is another excellent idea. The generosity of such a gift is rarely overlooked. I do however recommend doing so for early graduations, like kindergarden or  elementary school, because doing so for things like college graduations (where the children are old enough to legally consume alcohol) easily drive up the total costs of your gift.

If you do it when they are younger, you can remind them for years, while they are growing up, how generous you were with their graduation gift.

A celebratory cruise upon retirement is an exceptional option as well. After all those years of working hard you’re finally able to treat yourself to relaxing, romantic, and adventure traveling, all in one wonderful package; a cruise.  It’s a particularly good reason to cruise if ,after all the other celebratory cruises I’ve mentioned previously, you have any money left. You’re celebrating surviving all the other “life events” without going broke.

- A View From the Kuki Side of Cruising -

Posted: August 26th, 2014 under Kuki.
Comments: none

Why Seniors Should Cruise

Written by: Kuki

Before anyone gets up in arms accusing me of ageism ( before even reading this piece).  And prior to the ”Grey Army”  being given its marching orders, to rebut  me full force,  I want to make it clear, I am myself a senior.

I’m one of you;  a card carrying member of AARP.

My hair is fully white-grey, and I wake up every day with a different part of my body hurting. So, as “one of you” I want to offer you 10 good reasons for seniors  to cruise, if in reasonably good health.

- #1 – There’s not many places we can vacation with so many public washrooms close by. And if your need happens to be urgent when you’re on Lido Deck, several hot tubs are usually near.

- #2 – Passenger deck hallways are significantly narrower on cruise ships than they are in hotels.  This makes it much harder for us to tip over. There may be some minor bruising from bumping into walls, but we  need less people nearby to help us get up.

# 3 – I do recommend cabins with private balconies for seniors. Interior, or even ocean view cabins can be problematic, as senior’s flatulence can be devastating.

- #4 – The toilets in the cabins on a ship are excellent for seniors. If we are having one of those days where it’s just a bit difficult to do our duty, we just have to sit on the toilet and flush. They  will suck it out of us.

- #5 – Entertainment on cruise ships is generally very good, and varied. For seniors, perhaps the best (if unexpected) entertainment is finding one’s cabin. We can easily while away hours each day trying our key in cabin doors on the wrong deck.

Another entertainment form for seniors is spending time at the Guest Relations Desk, voicing complaints, real or imagined. This experience provides us with excellent opportunities for social interaction if we aren’t travelling with a group.

- # 6 -  During ports of call shore excursions present a simple and easy means for seniors to explore the area. They also are designed in such a way as the seniors are easily able to control the pace of the tour to ensure their enjoyment.

If you feel the tour you’ve chosen is leaving too early, you can disembark the ship, board your assigned bus, and then tell them you’ve left some necessary medication in your cabin. You can then return to the ship, and  go enjoy a leisurely breakfast, before returning to your bus to begin your tour.

While visiting a particular site on a tour, if the tour has not allowed ample time for sovernir shopping on their schedule, one can feel free to make time to touch every item in every nearby shop or kiosk. Everyone else on the tour will be happy to wait for you before departing.

- #7 – The dining experience on ships is also incredibly well suited to seniors. The service staff are generally very caring; very well trained, and experienced in dealing with seniors. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve personally experienced service staff stopping by often, to ask me if anything is alright.

- # 8 – Cruise ships create a wonderful environment which often serves as a catalyst for romance for both young and old.  In the evenings you’ll often see young couples on a leisurely walk around the outside decks, holding hands and gazing at the moon and stars.  For seniors the experience can be very similar, though I recommend holding on to the railings instead of hands, and looking at where you’re walking instead of star gazing.

- #9 – A very nice touch for a relationship  is to renew your vows while on a cruise.  It is very easy to arrange to arrange this type of ceremony onboard, often with the ship’s Captain officiating.  The only difficulties you may encounter are remembering which person in attendance is your spouse, or if you start questioning yourself about why you married them originally.

- #10 – I did have 10 reasons when I started this piece, but… oh well… a senior moment.

- A View From The Kuki Side of Cruising -

Posted: August 19th, 2014 under Kuki.
Comments: 1

See What Ship Fits

Written by: Kuki

It’s likely that you’ve never tried on the underwear of a neighbor or friend (unless you’re a 12 or 13 year old girl). It’s also unlikely that you would think your friend’s favorite outfit would be perfect for you.

But, it’s surprising just how many people will choose to cruise on a cruise line, or particular ship, based soley on someone else’s choice of underwear or outfits. Well, not quite.

But many will book a cruise based almost entirely on that little amount of information.

The thing is, the most important decision you will make, which will have the ultimate affect on your enjoyment of your cruise vacation, is your choice of which ship to sail on. Just like underwear and outfits, you really want to find one that fits you, and your personality.

The cruise lines have done quite a stellar job during the last decade of identifying their ship’s personalities, and effectively making those personalities differentiate themselves from their fellow industry competitors.

Even ships within a cruise lines own fleet may be operationally very similar, yet, many of them do standout with their own personal idiosyncrasies; some of which you might love, and some less so.

If you’re investing your money and your time in your vacation, I think it’s of utmost importance to also invest in finding the cruise that is best equipped to supply you with the most satisfaction.

Admittedly there is plenty of misinformation out there that you have to sift through, and that is why a site like CruiseMates is invaluable.

The forums, where people post up to date information about their recent cruises, and respond quickly to questions asked, are a great tool. And, if by chance misinformation is posted, other members of the community respond pretty quickly to point out inaccuracies.

Professional, trained travel agents, who are cruise specialists, are another excellent tool, who’s advice and services are available free of charge (in most cases). They work and ard are compensated by the cruise lines based on commissions.

Unlike many consumer products, cruises are not something I believe is in your best interests to buy direct from the suppliers. The reason is simple; unlike travel agents, the cruise lines sales teams purpose is to sell you a cruise on their particular cruise line. They have no interest in finding one that fits you.  When you “step out of the dressing room”, whatever ship you are “wearing”, they are going to tell you it looks great. The cruise line sales teams know little if any real detail of their competitors.

Everyone has to find a cruise that meets the parameters of what comfortably fits in their budget. But, the cheapest isn’t always the best for you; nor necessarily is the most expensive.

Going to either extreme may leave you feeling like you are wearing your neighbor’s underwear… and stuff may pop out.

- A View From The Kuki Side of Cruising -

Posted: August 12th, 2014 under Kuki.
Comments: 3

Can You Lose Your Cruise Lust

Written by: Kuki

It probably makes perfect sense that I love cruising. For 14 years I’ve been avidly following the industry, and writing about it for CruiseMates.

Like many others who love cruising, almost as soon as I returned from a cruise, I was looking for the next one, if in fact I didn’t already have several more on the books.

Between 1996, and 2012 I’d cruised over 60 times. Yet, perhaps surprisingly, I haven’t sailed on a ship for 2 1/2 years. It’s not that I’ve lost my love of cruising. But over time, circumstances occurred in life, that combined to slowly diminish my lust for cruising.

In 2001, we were in Rome, Italy as a port of call while enjoying a Seabourn cruise, sailing in the Mediterranean (before all ships had internet service for passengers) and we received a message delivered to our cabin telling us that Mrs. Kuki’s mother was seriously ill, and not expected to survive.  We very quickly made arrangements to leave the ship before its scheduled departure from Rome, and with Seabourn’s assistance, made arrangements for our flight home.  We didn’t make it back in time for Mrs. Kuki to see her mother before she passed, but we were back in time for the funeral.

At the time I thought very little of it. I considered it an anecdotal experience; life and death happens. It doesn’t stop because you are cruising.

Then, in 2008 we, were on a Carnival cruise, off of the coast of Rotan, when I received a call in our cabin, notifying my father had been hospitalized, and might not survive. The ship was going to be in Rotan that day, then there was one more sea day before the end of the cruise. The choice I faced at the time, was to try and fly back home from Rotan, or continue on to the end of the cruise, and return home as planned. After considering the alternatives, and realizing because of the available options for connecting flights from Rotan to home, we would only get home about 6 or 8 hours earlier than if we stayed on the ship, I made the decision to continue on to the end of the cruise.

In the middle of the night, just prior to our scheduled disembarkation, I received the phone call notifying me that my father had passed away.

Though it had been seven years between these incidents, they did have a psychological impact.  Subconsciously I began to make excuses not to go on cruises. I did keep cruising, but nowhere near to as frequently as I had been in the past. I thought I was moving on, but in fact there was a barrier to my really enjoying the experience as much as I usually did. My lust was diminishing.

In 2012, while sailing in Hawaii on a Crystal cruise, just prior to leaving the islands before heading to the mainland, I received an email, making me aware my mother had been hospitalized, and was in serious condition. Once again I was faced with the decision of leaving the ship and flying home, or returning to the mainland to fly home immediately.  Thankfully, my mother survived that episode, so I wasn’t just coming home for a funeral.

But, in my mind I apparently decided I was not going to go anywhere again that was further than a direct 2 0r 3 hour flight home. I made excuses about not going on cruises. I turned down trips that were writing assignments for CruiseMates. I honestly hadn’t even realized I was doing it, until last summer when friends really wanted us to join them for a river cruise and land trip in Europe. I said I would consider joining them, when Mrs. Kuki finally spoke up and said “you’re not going to go anywhere” while your mother is still alive. And, I had no choice to accept the fact she was right. I had subconsciously made that decision.

From the 2012 incident until just recently my mother’s health continued to worsen, and almost continuously teetered on death. And with it, my lust for cruising.

Recently, my mother succumbed to her illness, and she passed on. I am, of course, still going through the mourning process. But, this time I was there for her when she became ill. I was able to do whatever I could to organize aid, comfort her at the end, and just be with her.

As I go through the mourning process, I do wonder of myself… Maybe now I’ll want to cruise again? There’s no question that I still love cruising. But, I am not sure I have the lust for it that I did. All of the wonderful memories I have from our many cruises, at least for the moment, are being drowned out in my heart by the 3 traumatic memories I’ve spoken of here.

For now there’s no way to know if that will  change. I am still grieving the loss of parents. And dealing with the “business of death” (handling the government documentation, legal requirements, and dealing with acting for her estate, etc.) makes it difficult, and extends the grieving process considerably.

I’m certain I still love cruising! Will my lust for cruising return? I don’t know.

I do know once life is somewhat straightened out again, we’ll certainly be getting on another ship to find out.

- A View From The Kuki Side of Cruising -







Posted: August 5th, 2014 under Kuki.
Comments: 5

The Dumbest Way To Try And Save Money

Written by: Kuki

To state it simply, one cannot predict when or where an event calamitous to your life, or that of a family member, can occur.

Yet, for  a much too large percentage of people planning a cruise, making the choice to save money in their cruise budget by not purchasing travel insurance is far too common.

The latest such case to reach the public eye is that of the Colucci family. The Colucci family was to cruise on a Norwegian Cruise Lines ship on June 1. On May  19 five year old Nicolas Colucci was found to have a large cancerous tumor growing in his liver, and required surgery as soon as possible, followed by chemotherapy treatment. They contacted NCL, not to cancel their cruise, but to request they be allowed to reschedule the trip. Their request was denied.

This is a heart wrenching story. No one amongst us can possibly not feel deeply for young Nicolas and his family. How could you not? No doubt everyone hopes Nicolas’ surgery went well, and prays his treatment has a positive outcome.

As this story became more public, in traditional as well as social media, the calls grew loud for NCL to change their mind, and allow the Colucci family to reschedule their cruise for a later date; understandable? Certainly!

Yet, I can’t help thinking— if the Colucci’s had purchased available travel insurance they wouldn’t even have to be dealing with  this; adding stress of their already horribly stressfull situation; having to deal with losing the family vacation they had bought and paid for.

There has certainly been a growing call for Norwegian to make an exception to their policies in this case, and on an emotional level, it’s easy to agree they should.

However, with the hundreds of ships sailing week in and week out, can anyone possibly think there aren’t multiple life (and trip) altering situations arising? They may be similarly heart wrenching diagnoses, deaths in the family, or domestic accidents, which force people to cancel and try and alter their cruise plans. In fact, it wouldn’t surprise me at all if there was some such case on every sailing each week.  And each and every such incident is traumatic to those involved.

In these situations it seems so many look to the “deep pockets”( the cruise lines) to cover the financial loss of the situation.

The fact remains, if the people who face these crisis had purchased the available travel insurance, there would be no burden added to their troubled situation, and little or no financial impact added to that burden.

Sadly, the situation of poor Nicolas clearly demonstrates, that no matter what your age, and no matter the state of your health, crisis and tragedy can and do occur.  That it is possible for you to purchase insurance for a few hundred dollars which will relieve you of the (sometimes massive) financial costs of these occurrences is actually very positive, and doing so is very important!

It is important to note that it very rare to have regular health care insurance which covers out of country travel. And even more rare that it would cover illness or death of family members. So purchasing actual travel insurance is absolutely essential.

I recommend purchasing a travel insurance policy which covers much more than only crises which arise before you cruise. You need to be covered for unforeseen events if they occur during your trip. In the event you or a family member become ill, and need to be treated in a foreign port, or worse yet if the need arises to be evacuated from a ship at sea; the costs can be astronomical.

Don’t be left in a crisis situation, looking for someone else to accept responsibility  for something you could have so easily been responsible for prior to your travel.

And, to be blunt, if you can’t afford to purchase the travel insurance, you can’t afford to travel.

The case of Nicolas Colucci is indeed a dilemma of the heart; a 5 year old struck with a terrible disease.  But I do have to wonder; if there is a maximum age limit for sympathy, and empathy, and understanding.

On June 28 my mother passed away. I wasn’t booked on a cruise, But, if I had been scheduled to cruise on July 1, would the cruise line be expected to accept responsibility for my life’s circumstances, and rebook me at a later date?

If, god forbid, my home burnt to the ground, who would I look at to be responsible for rebuilding it if I chose not to have insurance?

- A View From The Kuki Side of Cruising -








Posted: July 29th, 2014 under Kuki.
Comments: 2

Brand Ambassadors

Written by: Kuki

Almost a decade ago Carnival created a new position; naming their Senior Cruise Director, John Heald, Brand Ambassador.

John is incredibly popular, and he and his team maintain a strong presence with his popular blog, as well as his Facebook page.

In the time since John’s appointment as Brand Ambassador, as the use of the Internet has grown exponentially, an army (hundreds, if not thousands) of brand ambassadors have been created, without any official appointments or relationships to the cruise lines.

My own position with CruiseMates came into being due to the Internet. Almost by accident, I began with Cruise Critic, hosting live chats about cruising, and monitoring their forums. Then moving to join with Paul Motter and Anne Campbell, when they first started CruiseMates.

In the early days of both sites, the most common type of visitors was first time cruisers, looking for information, as well as a small mix of more experienced cruisers. The most common types of posts on the forums were questions ; simply searching for information, and people returning from cruises, who, for one reason or another, were displeased, and looking for a place to share their complaints.

Initially people were simply more willing to post their negative thoughts and experiences, than they were to speak on public forums about their positive experiences.

In the past decade the broadening commonality of people using the Internet has led to an explosion of user driven content; reviews, forum and social media posts, cruise related web sites (both commercial and personal), and personal Blogs.

The cruise lines were somewhat slow to join “the game”. But they now embrace it, and direct many resources to driving their presence, through their own web sites, blogs, and all of the various social media outlets available, to drive their message.

Brand loyalty is, of course, of considerable importance to any company. And, over years the cruise lines have generally been quite successful maintaining that brand loyalty. More recently, as cruise related websites, forums, social media sites, and blogs have grown in popularity, the cruise lines have most certainly noticed.

The difference between their own web sites and social media presence, and all of those privately owned and operated, is the cruise lines are less able to control the message.

Where, initially those with complaints about the cruise lines were more vocal about expressing their complaints,  today it is amazing how many more people are willing, and ready quite fervently spend their time writing very detailed reviews, and report their positive experiences, and their brand loyalty, through all the outlets I’ve mentioned earlier.

In fact, these brand loyalists may sometimes go to extremes to defend their choice of cruise lines, and to spend considerable energy deflecting complaints about their cruise line of choice.

So, where brand loyalty used to be limited to enthusiasts sharing their experiences by word of mouth, and by booking future cruises, with all the public outlets that exist today, rather than simply being brand loyalists they have all very much become fairly important public brand ambassadors. And, again, the cruise lines have taken notice, and will indeed even attempt to cater to those they see with growing voices.

- A View From The Kuki Side of Cruising -







Posted: July 22nd, 2014 under Kuki.
Comments: none

Lobster, Lobster Everywhere!

Written by: Kuki

There was a time when “lobster night” in the dining room was considered by many to be THE night to dine in the dining room on a cruise ship.

To be honest, to me, they were just bottom-dwelling crustaceans, and pretty ugly looking things too.

But to many cruisers lobster night was the top of the food heap, that seemed to define cruise ship dining.

I recall, not that long ago, when, since you could order as many you as you want, there was almost a contest to see how many lobsters a person could eat during dinner on a ship. The practice was so common, I  once asked a ship’s Hotel Director, if they knew what their ship’s record was for the most lobsters ordered by one person. With little hesitation he told me, 17.

Then, rather suddenly, lobster became less prominent on cruise ship dining room menus. I presume this came about because of budgetary concerns, and no doubt, as cruise pricing pressures grew, pushing down the price of cruise tickets. The desire to dine on lobster certainly hasn’t diminished, only the availability. We still even see posts in our forums asking what night is lobster night on a particular ship. And, just a short while back, I remember on an NCL cruise, a part of their promotions was stating lobster would be available onboard in one of their restaurants every night.

North Atlantic lobsters, from both Maine and the coast of Nova Scotia (Canada), are generally thought of world wide as the best/tastiest lobster one can find. Over the years, and many cruises, I encountered many supposed ”crustaceans experts”, who swore they could tell the difference in taste between North Atlantic lobster and those from other areas. I personally presumed the only reason it tasted good was the drawn butter they were drench-dipping it in.

But now it’s time for the lobster lovers to rejoice… and call the cruise lines… and demand a “claws” in your cruise contract… this year there is an enormous excess  supply of North Atlantic Lobster. The reports I’ve read today, say the price of lobster has dropped 25%. As of today you can buy North Atlantic lobster for $4 lb., with fisheries very concerned it is going to drop further.

With beef prices rocketing higher, you can seemingly buy lobster for less than you can buy even average cuts of beef. Being a meat and potatoes guy, I’m beginning to get depressed.

At least for this season, the cruise lines can probably serve you lobster for less cost than they can serve you a decent hamburger. But I have to admit, I didn’t research the cost of the butter.

Always available lobster bisque with whole lobsters in each bowl, and lobster-burgers for you crustacean lovers; leaving me having to dine in the extra cost ship’s alternate restaurants to find myself a good all-beef hotdog!

- A View From The Kuki Side of Cruising -



Posted: June 24th, 2014 under Kuki.
Comments: none