This article contains commentary which reflects the author's opinion
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Bruising for the Cruise Industry: How the Cruise Industry is Affected By Covid-19, Part V
One of the most common questions I get when I am having a conversation about why I like to cruise is, “Why should I cruise?” or “Do you think I would like a cruise?” Both of these are very valid questions when you are planning your family vacation. Cruises, theoretically, are expensive. This means that you do not want to spend your hard-earned, saved money on something that you will not enjoy. So I want to take a moment to tell you why I love cruising and see if those things appeal to you.
The main reason I tell people as to why I love cruising is cost. While the sticker prices for cruises may shock some people, if you calculate what you are getting for the cost you will find that it stacks up well with any other type of vacation. When you cruise, you are getting your room, your food and your basic entertainment covered. There are some add-ons for excursions, gambling, drinking, and specialty dining, but you can enjoy a 4-9 night cruise without spending another dollar once you get on board.
The average hotel in the United States Costs between $100-$130 per night in a normal year. This is for hotels without free breakfasts or any of the other major perks, so we are just going with the base rate. Now let’s assume that we are going on a week-long vacation. Per person, this would be about $350. Next, lets talk about food.
The per diam for food in the United States is about $50-$75 a day, per person. This means on a 7-day vacation, you will spend more for your food than you do for your room. We can call it $65 a day to make things easy or $390 for the week (without tips). You also have entertainment, for 7 days the entertainment is estimated at about $300 per person.
Don’t Forget to Tip!
Tips are something I always like to talk about in this equation because people often forget about them when they are looking at cruise prices. The people on the cruise work for less than minimum wage and rely on tips. If you “prepay” your tips, you are basically tipping 6 people $2 per day (or $12 per day total). This means you are looking at an $84 tip for the week, or $14 per person, for a whole week of them waiting on you hand and foot.
If you look at the tip you would spend on dinners alone for the average vacation, you are looking at $78, and that is just for the food- not the transportation, baggage, or any amenities. So $84 seems like a pretty good rate for a staff of 6 people who want to make your life heaven for a week. This brings the total of the “week on your own” trip to about $1,200 per person for your vacation (kids cost less but they also cost less on a cruise so it is a wash). This is of course, before the flights, which you will likely have to do with the cruise so this is also a wash.
Compare this to a 7-day cruise (which generally you can get for about $100 a day), which includes your food, entertainment, and room. Now we do need to add the tip, so that brings the total to about $800 per person for a one week cruise. This is a savings of about $400, and you do not have the worries of looking for stuff around the hotel to do. Another great perk is that cruise lines have a door to door package.
Here you can check your bag at the airport and not have to do anything but claim it until you get home. The cruise line arranges for your airline tickets, your transportation to the port, and all of your boarding necessities. This makes it great for travelers who do not want to be bothered by details on their trip. It helps to have a travel agent for this.
Another reason I love cruises is because of the destinations. Very rarely do you get to go on a vacation and get four stamps on your passport. Most vacations go to one country if they even leave the United States. I am a firm believer in that when you see the rest of the world, you realize how good we have it here in the United States. Thus, I always make an effort to see as many new countries as possible. This may be harder with the current Coronavirus scare.
On a standard 7-night cruise with a good cruise line (in the price range above), you will see 3-4 ports. Some of the higher lines do half days at a port, which allows you to see more ports that are close together, so that can be an option. Depending on the part of the world you are looking at, you may see diverse cultures, or you may get to see nuances within a given region.
If you really want to explore the culture in an area, make sure to talk to your travel agent about it. A good travel agent can set you up with a cultural experience that really immerses you in the location. The reason you want to do this through your agent, or through the cruise if you do not want to use an agent (bad idea), is because they will direct you to ‘approved’ vendors, i.e. people who will not rip you off or leave you stranded.
Away from Tech
Because I write most of the day, almost every day, my eyes need a break from screens. This is one of the main reasons I love cruising. I do not pay for the internet package. I want to be away from technology. Yes, when I am in port I may cheat and look at my phone if I have service- but by and large, I go to get away from tech.
If you are a person like my girlfriend who hates being away from tech, There are several options that can help you stay connected while you are away. Most ships have (expensive) unlimited connection plans that you can purchase before you board. This means you will have access to the whole trip. You can also “pay-by-minute” to use designated stations on the ship to check messages and email.
One thing you must remember is that you should never use the ship’s roaming. This can be up to $10 a minute and lead to massive phone bills. I traveled with a young lady at one point who left her internet on and her phone did an update while she was at dinner. This cost her over $1,000 and the phone company would do nothing to take it off of her bill (the cruise line did give her a partial credit to help). My advice is to set your phone to airplane mode, shut off the wifi, and if someone needs to get a hold of you, let them call the cruise company.
One of the great things about cruises is that they serve multiple purposes. Depending on the line you can cater to exactly what you want. Whether you are traveling with family, as a couple, single and ready to mingle or for business, there are packages that will meet your needs. This is why travel agents are so important, they can help you find the right cruise.
If you are traveling with your family, then you want a cruise that is designed to take care of your needs. Royal Caribbean, Costa, Norwegian, and Celebrity are all known for having good amenities for your family. Some of them even offer deals where kids sail for free if they are sharing your room. If you are traveling with kids, remember that this is a vacation, but it is also other people’s vacations- so sometimes it is best to skip the main dining room and hit the buffet if it is getting close to their bedtime.
If you are traveling as a couple, then you can look at higher-end cruises like Royal Caribbean, Virgin, Viking, or Princess. All of these have an adults-only area where kids are not allowed (Virgin is adults only). This can allow you to have “your time” without having crowds of families. Candlelit dinners at specialty restaurants can also add to the ambiance of the trip.
If you are traveling alone, my recommendation is Carnival. This is a great cruise line for singles. Costa and MSC also have good reputations in this category (though MSC is also good for families). Some cruises have a singles night where you may meet that Mr./Mrs. right, if that is what you are looking for. They also tend to have less expensive drink packages.
Finally, business travel on cruises is great. You have a captive area where you will not lose anyone, conference centers, and the food is covered. It is like a convention that is already built for you. If you want to schedule a cruise for businesses, you should try to do it a year in advance (at least). The rooms and galleries book quickly. Royal and Princess are known for being good in these areas.
Are you a Cruiser?
Cruising is something that you have to look at whether you want to do it or not. If you have it in your mind that you will hate it, then you will likely hate it. If you have it in your mind that you will love it, then you will love it. The main rule is, “do not over plan.” Leave some time open for the lifestyle to help you along.
When you plan for your cruise, always budget a little extra. While most things are covered, do not miss an opportunity because you left your wallet at home. That necklace at a shop, that chance to ride a Sea-doo or that night at the casino can all be great memories, but only if you allow for them. I generally plan $1,000 per person for an interior cabin (4-7 days) and $1,300 for an exterior cabin.
That’s if you are going to play with a tight budget. Otherwise, I budget about $150 per day just to have fun with. Regardless of your budget, you can likely find a cruise that fits your needs. Whether it is a 3-night starter cruise or a 14-night adventure of a lifetime, you have the ability to decide what you want to do on your trip. This is a great chance for you to explore the world, so to answer, “Are you a cruiser?” That is really up to you.