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Cruise With Only a Backpack

Written by: Kuki

In the late 1990s when I cruised several times a year, or more, I had to take along two 27″ suitcases, as well as at least 2 carry-ons, and Mrs. Kuki would drag along the same.

Our bags were so over filled it was crucial that we buy luggage on wheels or we’d have had to buy a porter’s carriage to travel with us. We also quickly learned all the packing tips, such as using dry cleaning bags to wrap all our formal wear before it was placed in the luggage (to prevent wrinkling). All of this as a result of ship’s “suggested dress codes”.

At that time cruise ship brochures quite specifically dictated what type of attire was acceptable on board, and once on board, made it understood their posted “suggested dress codes” were really the way they expected their guests to dress. The suggested codes addressed clothing expectations for passengers, for day time, pool side, and evening wear; all quite specifically.

During a seven day cruise there would be at least 2 formal nights, where men were expected to wear tuxedos to dinner, and women were expected to wear fine gowns. There were also 2 semi-formal nights, where slacks, a sports jacket, dress shirt and tie was the expected dress for men, and cocktail dresses was the norm for the ladies. Both on formal nights and semi-formal nights the  cruise lines made it very clear, sometimes in print in the ship’s daily newsletter, that the dress codes applied throughout the evening,  to any and  all of the ships public areas. Even nights designated in the dress codes as casual night, were defined as full length trousers, and shirts with collars for the men, and equivalent of the same for the ladies.

And the vast majority of passengers would dress completely appropriately to the descriptions in the suggested dress codes, as if they were laws. And if someone strayed too much from that evening’s suggested dress codes, they would actually be refused entry to the ship’s Dining Rooms, and directed instead to take the meal at the ships buffet restaurants on Lido and Pool Decks.

On lines like Cunard, and many of the luxury brands, every night was formal night, or at the very least men were expected to wear a jacket and tie on non-formal nights.

Fast forward to today and, with only rare exception, acceptable dress on cruise ships has changed so dramatically that casual dress is more the norm, than the exception. One can easily get by with a simple wardrobe, and a man can easily get by, and feel like they fit in quite well, with a sports jacket at the most, even for “formal nights”.

Casual dress pretty much dominates and defines today’s cruise ship apparel, with only the odd exception.

Norwegian Cruise Line led the parade when they introduced “Free Style Cruising”, and a dress code that basically said … dress as you like… within a few limits. “Free Style” dress codes seemed to be working, as traditionalists who wanted to dress up seemed to mesh favorably with those who wanted to dress more casually, and the other major cruise lines took notice. It became obvious that cruise passengers wanted to have the choice.

Shortly after, air travel changed as airlines began to put in place lower weight restrictions on luggage, and followed with fees for checked baggage.

Of course, technology has changed, and has to be taken into consideration for it’s effect in allowing people to more easily meet the luggage weight restrictions. I’d hazard a guess that a great many  people no longer carry cameras, books, etc. Instead they use tablets, and smart phones.

Both of these factors laid the path for the trend to alter dress codes on cruise ships.

Some cruise lines have pushed further down that path to casual cruise attire than others. In today’s cruise world, on many of the mass market lines even wearing dressier, or Bermuda shorts in the dining rooms on non formal nights is perfectly acceptable.

That’s not the norm yet, but the borders of acceptable dress are continuing to be stretched.

Aside from clothing items people area also taking a different approach to incidentals they require. Of course you need to take along any prescription medicines necessary, but many people are opting to purchase other incidentals as the need arises, either on the ship, or in ports of call.  There’s not many products you can’t find along the way, as opposed to packing everything you might possibly use, and paying extra fees to bring them with you.

As a result, today it is quite possible to feel comfortable packing only what you can fit in a carry on or backpack, and a small “small personal bag”, where you can avoid checking any bags.

It is quite possible to take a minimalist approach to packing for a cruise, with little worry about being under dressed or being turned away when entering a dining room on board.

- A View From The Kuki Side of Cruising -

 

 

 

 

Posted: November 5th, 2013 under Kuki.
Comments: 2

Free Air

Written by: Kuki

In this Blog last week my topic was positive changes I’ve been seeing in the way cruise lines have been improving their Air/Sea departments. This week one part that isn’t positive, and it makes me kookie…

We often see various cruise line’s advertising promoting “Free Air”. Last week, Mrs. Kuki noticed an ad next to my blog (go figure that she reads what I write. I’d best be more careful what I say).

The ad she clicked on was promoting a cruise with “free” air.

Mrs. Kuki is an experienced cruiser, as she has accompanied me on the majority of the cruises I go on. Yet, she was intrigued enough to click on the ad to look further.

This is one form of promotion that truly aggravates me, and makes me “Kuki”. I get “ticked off” when I feel any advertising of any product is less than honest, or even more egregiously, purposely deceitful.

Offers of “free air” with a cruise almost uniformly fall somewhere between those two categories.

With any such offers one sees, the simplest test is to contact your travel agent, or cruise line, and ask how much the cruise is without the “free air”.

Sometimes this is not just a test, but people wanting to know if they can save money by using frequent flyer or credit card awards points for the required air fare portions of their travel, or those who might live in or near the port of embarkation.

Either way, if yours is a valid question for a variation you are considering, or a test, it’s something you should do. In every case I have checked on costs the price of the cruise is reduced if you choose not to use the “free air”.

I am certainly not suggesting that one would always be able to find the necessary air transportation for less than the discount of the total fare the cruise lines offer when not using their air offers. In fact it’s quite possible the price from the cruise line will be less expensive than the price you could find on your  own, even if you’re planning on using any of your rewards programs, (because those awards points also have a real value).

However, quite plainly, if any type of lower cruise fare is available if you don’t use the “free air”, it clearly means there is NO “free air”. If the airfare were truly free, then the price of the cruise should be the same, if you are using the air portion of not.

Yes, reasonable, and relatively sane people  realize, and expect, there is some cost to air transportation. And though I almost fit somewhere into those two categories, the claim of “free air”, when it’s not, drives me nuts!

To my view the much more appropriate and honest description would be for the promoters to say “air fare included”. That description isn’t going to raise eyebrows, and attract attention, near as much as the  “Free Air” banners, but I, for one, would be much more comfortable knowing I am getting an honest description of the cruise line’s offerings.

Knowing they are deceiving me with the prices and descriptions in their promotions makes me uncertain about everything else they are telling me about their cruise products.

Perhaps people think I’m naïve to think everyone doesn’t realize this is just an advertising gimmick. But it’s obvious that the cruise lines doing it don’t believe that’s true. For some reason they believe it’s an effective tactic. That may be the point that aggravates me the most.

Tell me the air is included in your prices, and I know it’s an honest price, and all I’m really looking for is honesty, which will make more comfortable trusting everything else about the cruise line.

All of this talk about honestly makes me think I had better go back and rewrite or remove my various profiles on all the social media sites I’ve joined. I guess I  no longer get to be a bachelor billionaire looking for love.

- A View From The Kuki Side of Cruising.

Posted: October 29th, 2013 under Kuki.
Comments: 1

Cruise Air Making A Comeback

Written by: Kuki

In the way way back history (whatever that means), booking your air transportation and your cruise with the cruise line was a pretty good idea, and pretty common.

The cruise lines had contracts with some of the major airlines, and their offered pricing for the air portion of your travel was quite competitive as well.

In the mid 1990s, when I first started cruising, I rather routinely used this process when cruising, and was quite pleased with the result.

By the early in the 21st century, the costs of air transportation from the cruise line’s Air/Sea departments seemed to be rising quite dramatically. I’m not quite certain what caused the changes, but it seemed the cruise lines had decided to attempt to make their Air/Sea departments profit centers, rather than a service to encourage cruise bookings.

There was likely a confluence of things that changed the equation; the airline industry changed, with low cost carriers severely impacting the business of the larger established airlines; the airlines cutting out travel agent commissions; 9/11 impacting changes to not only the airline industry, but also putting a squeeze on cruise pricing (as it took lower prices to encourage a more fearful public); the growth of the Internet and it’s functionality for booking airfares; the economic collapse in 2008 putting further stresses on travel.

Whatever the cause, it became easier to go online and price shop for required airfare. Meanwhile the cruise lines began placing many travelers on airlines with seemingly with less thought given to easy routing itineraries. One would often find out they were booked with multiple stopovers, and less than desirable flight times. If you wanted to have the ability to easier routes, with better flight times the cruise lines would supply you that service, but for a fee.

It didn’t take long for me to begin to advise (and listen to my own advice) that it was much better and less expensive to book your own air, if air travel was required to get to a cruise. The only exception to that rule of thumb that I found was on one way air fares, where “open jaw” tickets were required because you were flying to one city, yet returning from a different city… such is necessary on repositioning cruises, full transit Panama Canal cruises, or occasionally on cruises in Europe, the far east, etc.

It does seem, to at least some degree, there is a move by some of the cruise lines to rebuild and upgrade their Air/Sea Departments. And, as in very common in the cruise industry, once someone starts an initiative, if it seems to be working, it’s not long before the other cruise lines are following. In my opinion that’s very likely going to happen here as well.

In early 2013 Celebrity Cruise Line introduced changes to their “Choice Air” program. http://www.celebritycruises.com/genericHtmlTemplate.do?pagename=celebrity_choiceair

Some descriptions of their program listed on their site…

“You have the flexibility to search different airlines and flights, so it’s easy to find exactly what you want. And, we save you time by filtering out flights that won’t work with your cruise”.

“We have experts on hand monitoring your flights, and if any delays or cancellations jeopardize your travel plans, we work quickly with the airline to get you on the next available flight to get you to your ship”.

“We guarantee the lowest airfare available**. If you find a lower fare within 24 hours of booking, we’ll award you 110% of the difference to spend on board your cruise—a benefit no other cruise line offers”.

“We have Celebrity Air Agents available 24/7 to help ensure your air travel is as carefree as your cruise. Just call. They’ll do whatever they can to help”.

Sounds pretty good, right?

I have to say I have not yet personally used, or attempted to use, these updated policies, so can’t offer an opinion as to its actual practice. But, at least in theory, it sounds very practical and useful, while still offering pricing equal to what you can find on your own, while providing services accompanying the airfare portion not available to you if you book your  air independently.

While I haven’t seen the other cruise lines reacting with same policies for their Air/Sea Departments yet, I do think it’s a matter of time before they at least follow similar paths.

Princess Cruise Line has updated their department policies for their “eZAir”. On their website they describe:  ”Competitive airfare pricing – See real-time airline inventory from multiple carriers at competitive rates in a side-by-side layout for easy comparison”.

I am certainly not yet suggesting it’s time to simply just trust the cruise line’s Air/Sea Departments to take care of all of those needs without checking against the prices you can find booking the air portion independently. I still say verify, verify, verify yourself!

However, I am suggesting checking their options and pricing is once again a viable option, and could well be worth that effort. I no longer warn against booking air through the cruise lines in any circumstances, with the exception of “open jaw flights”. Now it may actually save you money, and smooth the process of getting to your cruise.

Now “Free Air” from the cruise lines is a different topic entirely… that’s for next week.

- A View From The Kuki Side of Cruising -

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Posted: October 22nd, 2013 under Kuki.
Comments: 1

Are Ship Libraries Wasted Space?

Written by: Kuki

Even as cruise ships grow larger and larger, they are still individual structures, with a finite amount of space.

During the  design stages those involved in the process have to find ways to fit all the required and desired areas – accommodations, restaurants and dining areas, entertainment venues, recreational areas, pool areas, relaxation areas, spas, shopping, galleys (kitchens), storage for food and supplies, etc.; not to mention all the necessary mechanics needed for operations.

Due to the leisure aspect of cruising, space for libraries have also been included in that planning. It’s been incredibly common when on a ship, to see people laying or sitting about in public areas, reading. And that still holds true. In fact, I’d guess that might be one of the most popular activities on a ship, if not the most popular.

There are certainly variations in the size of the space dedicated to libraries from cruise line to cruise line; sometimes small areas with a few hundred books available; in other cases some very elaborately designed spaces covering space on more than one deck.

People still read as much as they ever did, if not more. But modern technology has quite rapidly changed the way people read. This is evidenced by the diminishing business of printed products, including books, magazines and newspapers. Newspapers are closing, reducing, or fazing out their print editions; bookstores are closing.

It is a distinct and growing movement; people are getting more and more of their information, news, and entertainment, from non print publishing. The move to getting that information and product from mobile devices is undeniable. And it’s not just the young doing it. Though they may be the group who’ve made the move most quickly, as the mobile devices have been developed to be more user friendly, the people using it have been constantly gathering steam to be almost universal.

The cruise lines have been somewhat involved in attempting to adapt to consumer technology, first introducing Internet Cafes on board, and then moving to bow to stern Wi-Fi access on many ships. I recall in early 2000, when on assignment to write Virtual Cruise Reports, each day I had to transfer my report to a floppy disc, take it to the ship’s engineering and communications room, and they’d forward it’s content to my Editor. So, that demonstrates how much things have changed in just 13 years.

Though they’ve made great strides, I think it’s obvious the cruise lines have had some difficulty keeping up to the speed of the changes. Yes, they’ve jumped all in to the use of social media, U tube, etc.  Cyberspace is vast and they are finding their feet in those arenas.

But they do seem to have forgotten about it in their ship design; surprising because, as I’ve said, they know they have finite space to use in their designs.

With the ever growing move by the public to use tablets, kindles, and other mobile devices to keep in touch, get their news, and read books of choice, quite soon there will be no need for libraries occupying space on board, other than a single rack or shelf somewhere.

The cruise lines might want to walk around their open decks and public rooms and see how their passengers are reading now, and at least start thinking about the changes for their new builds.

- A View From The Kuki Side of Cruising -

Posted: October 15th, 2013 under Kuki.
Comments: 6

Be Realistic With Cruise Budgets

Written by: Kuki

People’s spending habits can vary dramatically, so it is, of course, impossible to specifically quantify a budget that will apply to every individual.

Rather, in this article I’ll try and include a list, including all the actual and mandatory expenses, along with the incidental expenses you’re likely to encounter, and the optional expenditures you may encounter.

There are also variables from cruise line to cruise line which make it impossible to create a template where you could simply plug in numbers to come up with your total budget.

You should certainly research and explore to discover the policies of the cruise line you’ve booked with (or are considering booking with) which would affect your overall budget. In my opinion there is nothing more important to do in preparation for a cruise than to do the work necessary to create your own specific budget.

If you’re considering a cruise, it’s rather obvious that you’ll be required to pay the cruise fare. Included in the final total for your cruise fare are the gov’t taxes and fees, as well as port charges.

But that total is just the beginning of the calculation of the amount you’re actually going to spend by the time you disembark the ship, and return home.

For starters, you are going to have to expenses to get yourselves to and from the port (or ports) where the ship is sailing from, and returning to. Closed loop cruises, where the ship is leaving from and returning to the same place are common, but there are also itineraries where the ship leaves from one city, and ends in another city, or even country.

If you have to fly to reach those embarkation and debarkation ports the costs of those flights can certainly be considerable. But, aside from the actual costs of the flights, there are additional expenses to be added to your budget.

At times due to the embarkation port, and the ship’s sailing times, you may find you have to plan to spend an overnight in the embarkation city.  This means you are spending money on a hotel room for the night prior, as well as meals, and even an evening of entertainment if you choose, plus any transportation that requires. Some hotels offer a shuttle service from the airport, as well as to the ship; sometimes the shuttle if offered as a complimentary service, others offer it for an additional fee.

And even if you’re flying in on the day of sailing, there are additional expenses involved to get from the airport to the port (and back to the airport at the end of the cruise). The cruise lines offer “transfers”  (shuttle service) to and from airports, for an additional fee. Or you might choose a taxi or limo service for transportation. Whatever option you choose, there are going to be some costs involved.

People arriving a day prior to the cruise might choose a car rental, in order to have their own transportation for any plans they might want to make that evening. Of course, aside from the car rental costs, there will be expenses for gasoline used during your operation of the vehicle, as well as possible fees for parking at your hotel, and even the possibility of valet parking at the hotel.

If you decide to drive to your embarkation city you have to budget for the costs of the gasoline, and of course the fees for parking and leaving your vehicle for the duration of the cruise. And if the drive to the port city is longer than one day, you have to include the costs of a hotel or motel for an overnight stay, as well as meals, etc.

And of course, with whichever means of transportation you choose, there is always going to be tipping involved. Whether at restaurants along your route, or at hotels you stay at, there are times you’re going to find you are expected to tip. Even when you arrive at the port, and hand your luggage to the stevedores for transfer to have it boarded onto the ship, a tip of a dollar or two per bag is considered pretty standard.

Unless you are traveling on one of the luxury cruise lines, where gratuities are included in the cruise fare, you are going to faced with tipping. Even on the luxury lines the gratuities are not “free”, you are still paying them, they are just included in the fare costs. The other cruise lines generally have suggested tipping guidelines. These days pretty much all lines have some version of “automatic tipping” – where the gratuities are posted to your shipboard account daily. In most of those cases there is a means of reducing those amounts if you feel the service you’ve received doesn’t earn the full amount. You also have the ability, on most cruise lines, to prepay those gratuities before your sailing.

While there is always some discussion about the amounts of the cruise lines suggested tipping guidelines and automatic tipping amounts, I personally believe the crew work hard, and do earn those gratuities. As a result, I do recommend prepaying those gratuities, because you know they are paid, and done with as far as already being included in your budget.

The tipping doesn’t end there. Once on board there are tips automatically added to many of the purchases you make, on alcohol and other drinks you purchase, to service fees if you choose to dine in some of the alternate (surcharge required) dining venues. Then, if you choose to order in cabin room service, though there is no gratuity necessary, it is customary to tip ” a couple of bucks” for the person delivering it.

Though not dictated, you’ll also face situations where tipping is expected, on your visits to ports of call. There is certainly room for your own discretionary choices, but on tours and excursions, bus drivers and guides do expect to be tipped “something”. If you stop for a drink in a bar along the way, or lunch, the service people too are going to expect to be tipped “something”.

So, while you can choose not to tip in those situations, it is wise to give some thought to how much you’re likely to spend all those tips, and include that approximation in your cruise planning budget. A good starting point is to think back and take a realistic look at how much you spent on tips on a previous trip, whether it was a cruise or not. I think you’ll find those amounts to be quite significant, and definitely worth budgeting for.

On board the ship, aside from tipping, there are plenty of opportunities for you to spend money, in fact the cruise lines rely on you spending plenty of it on things that cost extra. One big area is drinks, both alcoholic and alcohol free drinks. There are some non-alcoholic drinks available which offered free of charge; normally in the buffet restaurants, as well as the dining rooms. Things like some selection of juices, iced tea, coffee, and milk are available free in those locations. However, if you order them at a bar on board there can often be a charge.  And pretty much every ship now has a specialty coffee bar on board, offering premium coffee brands at an additional cost (much like the trend on land).

Even in regard to food, while much of it is included in your cruise fare, on today’s cruise ship, alternate restaurants which require an additional fee are available, and a growing trend. Today’s ships offer anywhere from two to 10 of these types of dining establishments on board, with fees generally running in the $5 -$35 per person charge.

While it is possible to enjoy all of your meals at no additional cost, I think one needs to have a realistic look at how much you think you’ll partake in the optional facilities available. Because I enjoy the variety available when I cruise, I recommend at least budgeting for a couple of these experiences on a seven day cruise. In fact, because of the quality in food and experience available in these outlets, I recommend planning and budgeting for more, rather than less, use of those facilities than you might guess.

In today’s cruise industry there is a continuing growth of facilities and activities to offer passengers which cost extra, and drives more revenue. We can certain expect that trend to continue.

Recent changes on some cruise lines are the availability of private cabanas on deck; behind the scenes tours of the ship; some lines even have entertainment which is at a cost; some even offer the opportunity to pay for priority check in at embarkation.

It is very important to research the ship you may be considering to see what is available and take a serious look at which of those amenities you would consider spending extra to take advantage of, and budget for them!

During your days in port you are going to spend money. You might book ship’s excursions and tours; you may arrange your  own tours in advance privately; you may find a supplier at the pier; you may grab a taxi at the pier and negotiate a rate; you may walk into town or to the beach if that’s feasible in that port of call. But, whatever you might choose, the fact is you are going to spend money! It may be as little as a couple of bottles of water and a souvenir, or as much as a piece of costly jewelry, those decisions are entirely up to the individual. But the importance of budgeting ahead of time can not be stressed enough.

The economics of your cruise vacation is more important than choosing a ship, a cabin, or an itinerary.  The stress of not budgeting appropriately can linger much longer, and have much more of an affect on your life, than the fun you have during your cruise.

- A View From The Kuki Side of Cruising -

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Posted: October 8th, 2013 under Kuki.
Comments: 2

Cruising Takes Skill

Written by: Kuki

The uninitiated think, when compared to other forms of travel and vacation, cruising requires no skill.

I could just say they were right. But then I’d have to come up with a new topic for this week’s Blog.

It is possible to book, then go on a cruise, and likely enjoy the experience, with no skills; giving little thought to planning, and executing the plan. So, it should indeed be noted that even the most incompetent person can cruise.

However, like any undertaking, there are skills we can learn and use to make the experience even more enjoyable, and worry free.

I thought, to address this situation I would offer some multiple choice skill testing questions in an attempt to help you identify and quantify your level of cruise skills.

When booking your cruise do you:

A. Look for recommendations from friends and family, who you know have cruised before, for the name and contact information of a qualified travel agent?

B. Look in a phone book under Travel Agents, and pick the first one that has the word Cruise in their name?

C. Book it while you are grocery shopping at your favorite big box store to save time?

D. Go to Happy Hour at your favorite neighborhood pub and ask if anyone knows a travel agent?

When choosing your cruise, do you:

A. Discuss the many options available of both ships, and itineraries with you travel agent, in order to find the cruise that may suit you best.

B. Google cruise lines, and check all the cruise line web sites, sifting through all the information available to pick a ship that goes where you might want to go, and still offers all the amenities you are looking for?

C. See an ad on television and call to book that great looking ship you saw, and tell them you want to go to places you have heard of before?

D. Go to Happy Hour at your favorite neighborhood pub and ask the bartender or waiter/waitress if they’ve ever been anywhere before?

When considering Travel Insurance, do you:

A. Research, and carefully check the terms and conditions of various policies available from different insurance providers to find the policy which best covers your situation?

B. Make sure you buy trip cancellation insurance (because you’re young and healthy, and can save some money)?

C. Call every insurance provider you can find and ask if they also include an all you can drink beverage package?

D. Go to Happy Hour at your favorite neighborhood pub, and spend that “insurance money” on a fun night out?

During the planning stages for you cruise, do you:

A. Carefully lay out a budget that will be acceptable to your overall financial situation, which will include your souvenir purchases, activities for your ports of call, and some extra “fun money” for occasional casino visits, drinks on the beach, or unforeseen expenses.

B. Agree that you will play it by ear, but think of bypassing some activities or purchases on the trip in order to keep your spending in check.

C. Accept the fact you are going to be deep in debt after paying all the bills related to your cruise, and just set out to enjoy it all until later.

D. Go to Happy Hour at your favorite neighborhood pub and spend the money set aside for your cruise expenses.

Once you’re on board the ship, do you:

A. Carefully read through the ship’s daily program which is delivered to your cabin, and note and highlight the activities you’d like to see or participate in?

B. Check all the restaurant and dining room times, and count all the opportunities you’ll have to eat, and make certain you take advantage of all them, with little regard for other entertainment or activities you may be missing?

C. Buy a drink package as soon as you arrive (if one was not included by your travel insurance provider) and set your primary goal on board is to get your money’s worth?

D. Go to Happy Hour at your favorite bar on the ship, and spend $200 on drinks, while asking the bartender if the drink package available is worth it?

Statistical analysis of responses:

If you have read all the questions above and answered A, B, C, or D to any of the questions, you have wasted quite a bit of your time, and are at least somewhat incompetent,  but quite qualified to cruise, because you obviously enjoy everything having to do with cruising. That is the first, and most important skill necessary.

- A View From The Kuki Side of Cruising -

 

 

Posted: October 1st, 2013 under Kuki.
Comments: 1

Are The Cruise Lines Forgetting We “Older Folks”?

Written by: Kuki

At one time the most important base passenger demographic for the major cruise lines were the “older folks”.  Of course, at that time I was (or considered myself ) not in that category.

Today I’m a card carrying member of AARP, and pretty much qualify for every definition of being an “old fuddy duddy”.

Me and other proud members of the “fuddy duddy” demographic are beginning to feel like the cruise lines are looking past our needs to create a new passenger base; attempting to appeal to younger generations, and are directing great energy in their advertising campaigns, and on board programming, to draw young people and families into cruising.

We “fuddy duddies” are left having to search long and hard for the shuffleboard.

The cruise lines are filling deck space with water parks, rock climbing walls, rope courses,  zip-lines, and even surfing machines.

Lordy, Lordy, I do remember the one time I did manage to climb the  stairs to the top of a water slide, By the time I slid to the bottom I had forgot how I got there. I’d thought the slide was the entrance to the buffet.

There are benefits the cruise lines are forgetting when it comes to the bottom line, in relation to the ”fuddy duddy” crowd. We eat much less than we used to, and certainly less than the younger folks, and that difference could have a big impact on profits. Sure, we may complain more (about pretty much everything), but we eat less.

The cruise lines might also want to take note of how land based businesses in retirement communities do business. Early bird specials are a mainstay in such areas. On ships the dining rooms and restaurants don’t open before 5:30. That’s just too late for “fuddy duddies”.

Cruise lines could reduce the demand and stresses on later shifts in the dining venues by offering dinner service at 4:30.  The result would be limiting the vast majority of complaints to the 430 – 5:30 dining times.

As I’ve aged one of my biggest problems on ships has become remembering where my cabin is located. It could help a lot if there were age restricted decks; over 50s, over 60s, etc. , as there generally seems to be a great commonality of  personalities, physical abilities, and thought process (or thoughtlessness) in those various age groups.

A helpful side effect of such structuring would be improved speed of passage in the hallways on the decks inhabited by younger people.

It would also enable a very attractive option if the cruise lines designated elevators designed to stop at only the “old” floors. Younger people would be encouraged to use the stairs. As well, they’ll be happier passengers, as they wouldn’t be subjected to having to listen to the “fuddy duddy” complaints during their travel on board.

We would also appreciate if the cruise lines could come up with a more gentle system for laundry service on board. We’re still wearing the same jackets, shirts and ties for formal nights that we were wearing in 1974, and we’d like them to last another decade or two.

Admittedly, we’re not the best passengers to have on board for onboard spending. We don’t shop much on board unless the ship runs out of prunes, and we’re forced to buy laxatives from the shop.  There’s more wear and tear on the carpets because we shuffle our feet when we walk, rather than stride. We don’t drink near as much alcohol as we used to, because we fall asleep during dinner if we do. But, that also means there is less maintenance for you, because I can’t recall the last time I vomited in a stairwell.

Of course, I also can’t recall the last time I didn’t.

But, we do book a lot of cruises…because we don’t want anything left when we go.

- A View From The Kuki Side of Cruising -

 

 

 

 

 

 

Posted: September 24th, 2013 under Kuki.
Comments: 2

Cruise Thinking

Written by: Kuki

Take normal, reasonable, clear thinking individuals; wait until they are booked or going on a cruise, and their mind almost automatically take a turn.

Cruise thinking takes over from reason and rational. Even their vocabulary changes and adjusts. They suddenly start talking in cruise lingo in reference to pretty much any topic.

If someone books a flight on an airplane, are there internet or social media sites they immediately visit to see if there are other strangers on their flight who may want to meet for a drink in an airport lounge prior to boarding the airplane?

If you’re planning a family camping trip do you encourage your children to search the internet to see if they might find other families who are going to be in the same campground?

Or, if your vacation is to an all-inclusive resort do you attempt to organize a meeting with people you don’t know when you arrive?

The answers to the above are no. In fact, if anyone actually asked you those questions it would probably result in a incredulous look on your face. That’s because cruise thinking hasn’t taken control. You still have a rational mind.

Book a cruise and suddenly family birthdays, anniversaries, etc. become unimportant. Suddenly the only date that has any priority for you to remember is the date your final payment is due. It is spoken about as if you were expecting a new child; it is referred to as your “due date”.

As soon as a cruise is booked the body suffers a physiological trigger of the shopping gene. It sets off a need to start making a list of everything you must buy that you think you need for your cruise. Buying new things for your cruise is suddenly more important than buying groceries.

Those new to cruising think about their upcoming ability to “dine” 13 times a day if they choose. More experienced cruisers are planning which appetizers, entrees, or desserts they are going to order multiples of when they are served.

Cruisers all want to meet the Captain of the ship, or even dine with them, and think of it as honor. Yet, these same people would never stop by the cockpit when entering an airplane to meet the Captain. Anyone ever have an overwhelming desire to share their tiny bag of pretzels with the pilot?  Nor do people have any goal of meeting the manager when staying at a hotel or resort.

As one’s sailing date nears, the dominance of cruise thinking becomes even more clear.

No one wants to be a friend of someone who is cruising soon.

A friend may ask “How’s the family?”, and a cruiser will respond with a list of every item each family member is packing for their cruise. . Talk about political strife around the world and the cruiser will wonder aloud if it will affect their ship’s itinerary.

Without fail every comment or conversation seems to automatically get related to cruising. It’s just the way it is. No one likes a cruise thinker….. unless they are cruising with them.

- A View From The Kuki Side Of Cruising -

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Posted: September 17th, 2013 under Kuki.
Comments: 1

Choosing A Cruise – Part 2

Written by: Kuki

Today’s cruise world has truly gone global. If there’s a significant body of water, these days it seems some sort of cruise vessel is sailing upon it.

In my view there’s really three types of cruises – the travel cruise; the adventure/exploration cruise; and the pleasure cruise. While there are some features or amenities which cross-over amongst each category, the differences between them are fairly simple to spot, and to understand. So your first job in choosing your cruise is to decide what type of cruise you are looking for.

Part 2 – Travel Cruising

Some may wonder how cruising may even be considered as an option for those who consider themselves to be ”travelers”.

There is, in fact, a broad cross-section of ways and means to travel. One can attempt to embed themselves in an area or culture by devoting a  significant amount of time to a specific area to experience and learn about that area. But even in that endeavor there are different ways to accomplish the goal.

Dissenting opinions are common, whether staying in luxury hotels and touring an area can be considered equal to back-pack touring, as far as participating in and experiencing a community.

While cruising is yet another diversion from that type of travel, it is becoming ever more common for cruise lines to design itineraries more suited to the “traveler personalities”.  Typically cruises are noted for their short times in ports of call. Even on itineraries where that may be true, the fact is a cruise allows you to visit many more places in a shorter amount of time than most other form of travel.

And, of late, the newest trend in “travel cruising” has many of the cruise lines implementing more overnight stays in ports of call, or offering options for guests wishing to disembark the ship temporarily for a day or two of land travel, and meet the ship at a different port of call.

Due to various constraints, including the U.S. Passenger Services Act, these options are not yet common on sailings in the Caribbean. However, they are growing much more available for cruises in Asia, Europe, and the Middle East. In fact, where not disallowed by law, even if the options are not directly scheduled in an itinerary, passengers can choose to customize their itinerary somewhat, by leaving and rejoining the ship where they wish (at their own expense).

The most common denominator in what I refer to as “travel cruises”, is their itineraries most frequently visit a different port of call almost every day. Indeed, on those cruises, days at sea are rare.

The big advantage to traveling my cruise ship is the cruise does make the transportation portion of travel much simpler; it is just easier. So, you have to decide for yourself if the disadvantage of less time to immerse yourself in a particular place is made more desirable with the ability to transport more easily, and experience more places.

- Exploration/Adventure Cruising

There are enough variations within this category, that they could be slotted into their  own categories. However, as they are really niche markets, I’m choosing to leave them together.

The largest, as well as fastest growing segment of this category is River Cruising. It is fastest growing not only in the number of people interested in river cruises, but also in the significant numbers of new river cruising ships that are bring brought to the market.

As a result river cruisers have multiple options to travel through many regions of Europe, including the Netherlands, France, Spain, Germany, as well as many eastern European countries. River cruises also travel through Russia and China.

There are numerous reasons for the growing popularity of river cruising. Size and pace may be the biggest attraction, particularly to people who’ve tired of the sailing on the larger cruise ships, and the fact they are limited to visiting coastal ports.

During river cruises, while visiting some larger cities, you’re also visiting smaller towns and cities that you wouldn’t easily get to if not traveling by ship. To be able to traverse the rivers these ships are necessarily smaller (with less than 200 passengers). The  new generation of river cruise ships are including amenities, such as private balconies, that passengers on larger ocean going vessels have grown used to.

I would say River Cruising certainly fits the bill for the definition of ”exploration cruising” because of the up close, intimate experiences they can provide.

If you’re searching for more of an adventure experience, there are certainly options available a step beyond the river cruise. There are even smaller ships which can take you to Antarctica, or small exploration ships which can take you to parts of Alaska you simply can not reach on the larger mass cruise ships.

Options, options, and more options… to my view that is one of the biggest attractions of cruising.  Some people think of cruising in terms of their limitations. and don’t think about them in terms of all the options.

I think it’s important to consider them all, and find the option that you think will fit you best. You may eventually even want to try all of the categories available. But, to start with, pick one, and get cruising!

- A View From The Kuki Side of Cruising -

 

 

 

Posted: September 10th, 2013 under Kuki.
Comments: 1

Choosing Your Cruise

Written by: Kuki

There have quite literally been thousands of articles written with advice about how to choose a cruise.

That’s due to several factors; the evolution and continual changes within the cruise industry;  the broadening appeal and size of the cruise audience; and the fact there is really no “right” answer.

When attempting to offer useful advice to an audience of 16-20 million people it’s obvious that the goal is to provide general information to those contemplating a cruise, rather than a completely objective rating system of the various choices.

Today’s cruise world has truly gone global. If there’s a significant body of water, these days it seems as there is some sort of cruise vessel plying it.

In my view there’s really three types of cruises – the travel cruise; the adventure/exploration cruise; and the pleasure cruise.

While there are some features or amenities which cross-over amongst each category, the differences between them are fairly simple to spot, and to understand.

So your first job in choosing your cruise is to decide what type of cruise you are looking for.

Part 1 – Pleasure Cruising

The largest category is the pleasure cruise, and the largest sector within that category are the Caribbean cruises.

If you’ve never visited the islands of the Caribbean you might think of them as a travel cruise. Yet, the attraction to it is normally the ease of it – the ability to travel while enjoying the pleasure cruise portion.

The pleasure cruise segment, and Caribbean cruises,  attract the largest number of repeat cruisers. While many experienced cruisers, at one time or another, will on occasion at least try one or more of the different cruise categories, there’s also a significant portion who will repeat the same Caribbean cruises (or alternating Caribbean itineraries) over and over again.

In many cases their attraction to it is the ease of getting to and from the ship’s embarkation port.  For some it may be their desire to scuba dive, or snorkel, or hike in tropical yet familiar areas, or simply visit beaches they’ve grown to love. But the basics behind it all is the desire to cruise for simple, easy to do, pleasure cruising.

There’s also the segment within the pleasure cruising category who’s priority is to sail for the ship; the more days at sea, the better. They want to partake of and enjoy the entertainment, the dining, the shipboard activities, and the nightlife. And they may indeed even skip getting off the ship in ports of call they’ve visited before.

In choosing a cruise, it’s up to you to decide, if the pleasure cruise is what you are looking for. Once you’ve decided on that type of cruise, your choices are still plentiful, but much easier to narrow your search.

In part 2 I’ll talk about the “travel cruise” category.

- A View From The Kuki Side of Cruising -

 

 

 

 

 

 

Posted: September 3rd, 2013 under Kuki.
Comments: 1