Did you know that almost 80% of Americans have never taken a cruise? Even so, the cruise industry has experienced a 2100% growth since 1970. Yep, you read that correctly – 2,000+ percent! Experts in the industry don’t see any reason to believe that growth will slow down anytime soon. In fact, the world’s major cruise lines are currently spending in excess of $6 billion to bring travelers more options and more ships with more amenities in the coming years.
What is it about cruises that makes them so popular and what has fueled such tremendous growth? What follows is a list of five reasons we believe a cruise is one of the best travel values available to today’s traveler.
Outside of transportation to the port (air and transfer service), a cruise vacation is all-inclusive. There are some specialty cruise lines, however, that do include airfare in the price of the cruise. It’s always important to read all the details and fine print of an offer.
Cruise rates are published per person and the price listed includes your cabin and unlimited dining options for the duration of your cruise. (Note: Taxes and fees will also be added to the total cost of your cruise, so the final rate will be a bit higher than advertised. Still, as far as what you get for your money, a cruise will always give you maximum bang for your buck!)
Gratuities for service staff and room stewards can be prepaid, in order to avoid hassle and additional costs at the end of your vacation. You can supply a credit card or pre-load an onboard account with extra spending money. This onboard account is used throughout your trip to cover any extras on the ship (cocktails, gift shop purchases, premium dining services, and shore excursions). There are also unlimited beverage packages or special gift packages or additional cost dining experiences that can be purchased and paid for ahead of time. We always pre-pay as much as possible before a cruise and, in terms of finances, my husband always says, “All we have to do is get on that ship and then we are good to go!”
We find it easiest to book our cruise and pay for it all at once (such as, right after we receive a large tax refund in March), but in the case of our European cruise this summer, we paid a deposit about 18 months in advance and then slowly paid off the balance due over the next year and a half. The great part of this is that most cruise lines will give you Best Price Protection. At one point a few months ago, there was a mega sale and we called Customer Service and they took $1,000 off the balance due on the cruise! As your cruise planner, Dream Destinations Unlimited will provide a price monitor service and do our best to shave money off of your balance as well!
Cruise ships are legendary for their culinary offerings and the fact that portions are unlimited and the fact that you can basically eat any time of day, 24/7. If you want to try both entrees at dinner, by all means…order both entrees. Usually, there are multiple dining options included in the cost of the cruise (formal dining room, buffet, sandwich shop, pizza place, etc), along with specialty restaurants at an additional cost (i.e. a steakhouse that charges $25 per person to your onboard account. You can still order unlimited amounts and quantities…you just pay extra for the premium experience.) My husband and I are foodies and we still contend that one of the best meals we have ever eaten in our entire lives was on the Carnival Sunshine at the pan-Asian restaurant called Ji-Ji. For a mere $20 per person, we were served a 5 course meal, which included an appetizer of the most delicious duck leg we’ve ever tasted, along with a complimentary carafe of sake sangria.
- Exotic Destinations
If you are one who has a hard time deciding where to vacation, a cruise might be just right for you! Many cruises have multiple ports of call, which means you can visit multiple destinations/countries in one vacation! Perhaps you’ll find a place to which you’d like to return for a longer stay in the future.
Don’t want to deal with obtaining a passport? No problem. As long as your ship leaves and returns from the same U.S. port, the only documentation you need is a picture ID and proof of citizenship. (Note: Make sure you always return to the ship well before leaving a port, because if the ship leaves at its scheduled time without you, it’s your responsibility to get yourself home. And if you are stuck in Jamaica, or any other non-U.S. territory, you’ll need a passport to fly back into the U.S.)
There are literally thousands of destinations and itineraries. And, with the additional option of river cruises, the world is literally open for you to explore!
Cruise ships have all kinds of activities for every member of the family! Forget about the notion that traveling at sea all day will be “boring” and “being stuck on a boat” will leave you “nothing to do”. That could not be further from the truth! The amenities on ships today are endless! Water parks, go kart tracks, rock climbing walls, gallerias for shopping, casinos, discotheques, Broadway-quality shows, comedy clubs, adult-only relaxation decks, spas, wine tastings, cooking and dancing classes, fitness centers with exercise classes, art auctions, mini golf, basketball courts, waterslides, literal parks and we could go on and on.
Bottom line: if it hasn’t already been instituted on some ship somewhere, it will be soon. There is no shortage of activities on a sea day and no excuse for boredom. Most ships have activities for young children, pre-teens, teenagers, Mom and Dad and even Grandparents. And that is just on the ship!
In port, the cruise line provides specialized shore excursions at an additional cost. So, you can pay a little extra to have a tailored destination experience or you can explore on your own. Travel agents are also great at finding customized tours and activities in port. These experiences run the gamut from cultural/historical tours, zip-lining in the rain forest, beach experiences, guided tours, swimming with dolphins, culinary tours and so much more.
The only way you are going to be bored on a cruise is if you lock yourself in your cabin and never emerge.
- Specialties & Themes
A lot of the time, we hear travelers say, “I would never take a cruise because I don’t like crowds!” First, the mega-ships are so large, the crowds are usually very spread out, so it isn’t as much of a problem as you’d think. But, to be sure, there are moments when there are long lines for things (such as disembarking at a port or waiting to enter some of the shows). In general, if a person is taking a cruise on a mega-ship, they are going to be prepared for a large number of people and plan for that sort of thing. We are also big believers in the motto, “Your vacation is what you make it”. In other words, your attitude going into it sets the tone for your entire experience. We all know the chronic complainers and you will certainly find them on a cruise ship. But vacation is no place for negativity! Relaxation and enjoyment are the order of the day!
More to the point, though…there are countless types and sizes of cruise line in this wonderful world. In terms of size, you have mega-ships that hold thousands of people, medium-sized ships (more like 700 people) and smaller ships that only hold 100 passengers. There are some cruise ships that are small and resemble sailboats and travel to destinations where mega-ships could never dock, due to size. Smaller groups can even charter a private yacht with crew and customized itinerary…for prices that are, surprisingly, comparable to some of the higher end cruise lines. And, in terms of finances, there are mainstream brands for the budget-conscious, mid-range, luxury and ultra-luxury brands.
In addition, there are themed cruises for every interest and niche. Generally, you can find a cruise to match any of your interests: art, food, ecotourism, adventure, spa and wellness, social justice, conservation, singles and couples, group itineraries, music, etc. We even just heard recently of a Nascar-themed cruise. The best part is…if you don’t find one that interests you, your travel agent can create a niche experience for you (for instance, a group cruise focused on quilting with onboard quilting workshops and quilting groups, etc). The industry continues to specialize and create new experiences every year. For a bit of direction, here is a great article about which cruise lines suit specific types of travelers.
Dream Destinations Unlimited would love to help you with all your cruise-related questions, concerns and travel needs. To schedule a complimentary travel consultation, contact us via Facebook or via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org!