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Old 09-24-2004, 07:58 PM
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I received this as a cruise review, but no ship, sailing date or itinerary were included. So I thought I would post it here because it seems worthy of discussion. I admire Ivan's willingness to state his position and not be reclusive in his identity. Ivan, I would love to get to know you. Here it is: (BTW, Ivan, I am Tom, sir was my father....VBG)

Ivan Hild
Age: 55

Dear sir;

I would argue that most cruise ship experiences, when all is said and done, are not worth the time or money involved. By this I am not singling out any particular cruise line. Nor am I claiming that each and every cruise line offers only a bad experience. What I am saying is that virtually all middle class cruises (which, after all, make up the vast bulk of cruise activity) are not what they are cracked up to be, particularly as they are depicted in cruise line brochures. The ships may be newish and mammoth-sized (in some cases, almost three times the size of the Titanic), but the huge number of passengers carried by these ships (often in excess of 2,000) are normally shoe-horned into claustrophobicly small cabins, are given only the most mundane class of food (the word gourmet should be stricken from any cruise brochure lexicon), and are entertained by stage performers who bring back the memory of Major Bowes Original Amateur Hour. Let’s start, however, with the ship’s cabin. In the middle class range, cabins usually range between 140 and 175 square ft. To visualize that size, imagine the garage space taken up by a full-sized car and two or three bicycles. That’s it. And that even includes a tiny bathroom and one tiny closet. In such cramped quarters, the beds are necessarily small and, for some unaccountable reason, often have only the thinnest and least comfortable of mattresses. Because all newer cruise ships are completely air-conditioned, steel walls seal out fresh air as well as cut off most views of the water. The public rooms of such ships are usually decorated in a garish excess of mirrors, chrome, gaudy paintings, and outsized chandeliers, making the boat itself look something like the lobby of a Las Vegas gambling hotel.

The most popular itinerary is the Caribbean. On some cruises, as many as five Caribbean islands are visited in a seven-day sailing. (In truth, a seven-day sailing usually turns out to be a six-day sailing. But why quibble?) Passengers learn that most Caribbean islands are virtually identical: two or three seedy towns separated by a mountain range over which, for an outrageous price, a taxi will transport the traveler. Most island people who service the cruise ship trade are virulently anti-white and provide only the most mediocre service for which they expect a healthy tip. Shops that sell jewelry, cameras, and clothing invariably charge sky-high prices. Caveat Emptor.

Much is made of the low fares currently being offered by cruise lines, the result of a momentary confluence of soft demand and expanded supply of cruise ship cabins. Indeed, it is possible today to purchase a ticket on a middle class cruise ship for $900 or less. But to that must be added another $300 for a round trip air ticket from the traveler’s home to the ship’s port of embarkation. Yet another $300 must be budgeted for the expense involved in touring those five Caribbean islands. $150 more goes to pay for shipboard purchases not covered by the cruise ship ticket itself. And lastly is the end-of-cruise tipping ritual for those of the ship’s staff who have been of service. Mark that down for $100. All told, then, such a seven-day cruise totals $1,750 per person or $3,500 for a couple. On a per-day basis, that works out to $500. For a comparison, see what that same $500 a day will get at a first-class land-side resort, especially if one thinks in terms of discounted prices, not rack rates. And remember too that rooms at most upscale land-side resorts are easily five times the size of a cruise ship cabin. Food is miles better. The air one breathes is real instead of being mechanically-chilled and possibly even recycled. The swimming pools are Olympic-sized instead of matchbox-sized. The service staff is professionally-trained. And there’s even a chance that the hotel’s décor is in good taste.

The above criticism, of course, applies foremost to a typical Caribbean cruise. If one contemplates a European cruise, things get even more problematic. Take, for example, a summertime cruise that includes the Scandinavian ports of Stockholm, Gothenburg, Copenhagen, Oslo, or Helsinki, all beautiful and exciting towns in their own right which require days for exploration, not the few hours usually allocated by a typical middle class cruise ship itinerary. Because even the territory between these cities is worthwhile, the best way to travel this region is not by cruise ship, but by train or rental car, making the necessary water transit by local auto ferry boats – huge, modern ships unlike anything in the United States that usually schedule departures every few days. Cheaper by far than any cruise ships, these ferry boats take the traveler’s rental car and provide all the necessary conveniences to make the trip comfortable. Sailings that extend overnight even offer individual cabins, and thus eliminate the need for a day’s land-side hotel room. Since this is the way Europeans travel, a side benefit becomes the opportunity to meet the locals on their own terms. In sum, by avoiding the romantic blandishments of cruise ship advertising, the traveler gets the proverbial more for less.

Perhaps the worst aspect of the cruise ship industry is its fraudulent advertising. The industry spends hundreds of millions of dollars annually to create the impression that a cruise offers a step up to a higher plateau of living. Deceitful cooperation on the part of newspaper and magazine travel writers and the deceptive practices of most travel agents insure that cruise ship propaganda goes unchallenged, keeping the wheels of cruise ship commerce spinning happily. For the first-time cruise passenger, this means that there are no objective sources of information about the true nature of a cruise. All he knows is what he sees in TV and magazine ads -- images of happy couples sunning themselves beside almost-vacant shipboard swimming pools, sumptuous dinners-by-candlelight with European waiters attentively hovering nearby, and romantic ports of call that evoke the image of some long-ago Bogart movie. As they say, fat chance. A majority of first-time cruisers return home regretful about their week aboard ship, wishing they had not spent the family egg money on such a disappointment.

Ivan Hild
September 19, 2004
  #2 (permalink)  
Old 09-24-2004, 07:58 PM
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I received this as a cruise review, but no ship, sailing date or itinerary were included. So I thought I would post it here because it seems worthy of discussion. I admire Ivan's willingness to state his position and not be reclusive in his identity. Ivan, I would love to get to know you. Here it is: (BTW, Ivan, I am Tom, sir was my father....VBG)

Ivan Hild
Age: 55

Dear sir;

I would argue that most cruise ship experiences, when all is said and done, are not worth the time or money involved. By this I am not singling out any particular cruise line. Nor am I claiming that each and every cruise line offers only a bad experience. What I am saying is that virtually all middle class cruises (which, after all, make up the vast bulk of cruise activity) are not what they are cracked up to be, particularly as they are depicted in cruise line brochures. The ships may be newish and mammoth-sized (in some cases, almost three times the size of the Titanic), but the huge number of passengers carried by these ships (often in excess of 2,000) are normally shoe-horned into claustrophobicly small cabins, are given only the most mundane class of food (the word gourmet should be stricken from any cruise brochure lexicon), and are entertained by stage performers who bring back the memory of Major Bowes Original Amateur Hour. Let’s start, however, with the ship’s cabin. In the middle class range, cabins usually range between 140 and 175 square ft. To visualize that size, imagine the garage space taken up by a full-sized car and two or three bicycles. That’s it. And that even includes a tiny bathroom and one tiny closet. In such cramped quarters, the beds are necessarily small and, for some unaccountable reason, often have only the thinnest and least comfortable of mattresses. Because all newer cruise ships are completely air-conditioned, steel walls seal out fresh air as well as cut off most views of the water. The public rooms of such ships are usually decorated in a garish excess of mirrors, chrome, gaudy paintings, and outsized chandeliers, making the boat itself look something like the lobby of a Las Vegas gambling hotel.

The most popular itinerary is the Caribbean. On some cruises, as many as five Caribbean islands are visited in a seven-day sailing. (In truth, a seven-day sailing usually turns out to be a six-day sailing. But why quibble?) Passengers learn that most Caribbean islands are virtually identical: two or three seedy towns separated by a mountain range over which, for an outrageous price, a taxi will transport the traveler. Most island people who service the cruise ship trade are virulently anti-white and provide only the most mediocre service for which they expect a healthy tip. Shops that sell jewelry, cameras, and clothing invariably charge sky-high prices. Caveat Emptor.

Much is made of the low fares currently being offered by cruise lines, the result of a momentary confluence of soft demand and expanded supply of cruise ship cabins. Indeed, it is possible today to purchase a ticket on a middle class cruise ship for $900 or less. But to that must be added another $300 for a round trip air ticket from the traveler’s home to the ship’s port of embarkation. Yet another $300 must be budgeted for the expense involved in touring those five Caribbean islands. $150 more goes to pay for shipboard purchases not covered by the cruise ship ticket itself. And lastly is the end-of-cruise tipping ritual for those of the ship’s staff who have been of service. Mark that down for $100. All told, then, such a seven-day cruise totals $1,750 per person or $3,500 for a couple. On a per-day basis, that works out to $500. For a comparison, see what that same $500 a day will get at a first-class land-side resort, especially if one thinks in terms of discounted prices, not rack rates. And remember too that rooms at most upscale land-side resorts are easily five times the size of a cruise ship cabin. Food is miles better. The air one breathes is real instead of being mechanically-chilled and possibly even recycled. The swimming pools are Olympic-sized instead of matchbox-sized. The service staff is professionally-trained. And there’s even a chance that the hotel’s décor is in good taste.

The above criticism, of course, applies foremost to a typical Caribbean cruise. If one contemplates a European cruise, things get even more problematic. Take, for example, a summertime cruise that includes the Scandinavian ports of Stockholm, Gothenburg, Copenhagen, Oslo, or Helsinki, all beautiful and exciting towns in their own right which require days for exploration, not the few hours usually allocated by a typical middle class cruise ship itinerary. Because even the territory between these cities is worthwhile, the best way to travel this region is not by cruise ship, but by train or rental car, making the necessary water transit by local auto ferry boats – huge, modern ships unlike anything in the United States that usually schedule departures every few days. Cheaper by far than any cruise ships, these ferry boats take the traveler’s rental car and provide all the necessary conveniences to make the trip comfortable. Sailings that extend overnight even offer individual cabins, and thus eliminate the need for a day’s land-side hotel room. Since this is the way Europeans travel, a side benefit becomes the opportunity to meet the locals on their own terms. In sum, by avoiding the romantic blandishments of cruise ship advertising, the traveler gets the proverbial more for less.

Perhaps the worst aspect of the cruise ship industry is its fraudulent advertising. The industry spends hundreds of millions of dollars annually to create the impression that a cruise offers a step up to a higher plateau of living. Deceitful cooperation on the part of newspaper and magazine travel writers and the deceptive practices of most travel agents insure that cruise ship propaganda goes unchallenged, keeping the wheels of cruise ship commerce spinning happily. For the first-time cruise passenger, this means that there are no objective sources of information about the true nature of a cruise. All he knows is what he sees in TV and magazine ads -- images of happy couples sunning themselves beside almost-vacant shipboard swimming pools, sumptuous dinners-by-candlelight with European waiters attentively hovering nearby, and romantic ports of call that evoke the image of some long-ago Bogart movie. As they say, fat chance. A majority of first-time cruisers return home regretful about their week aboard ship, wishing they had not spent the family egg money on such a disappointment.

Ivan Hild
September 19, 2004
  #3 (permalink)  
Old 09-25-2004, 01:51 AM
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Tom,

for your information, this has also been sent to the Admins of at least one other message board I read.

I'm not going to comment on the posting here, with one exception: claiming that a seven-day sailing actually is a six-day sailing is pure nonsense, of course. It's one of the positive aspects of the American cruise industry that it usually states the length of a cruise in nights, which is in contrast to e.g. some German operators which would claim that a one-week cruise (e.g. Sunday to Sunday) is eight days, which I consider misleading to say the least.
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Old 09-25-2004, 07:03 AM
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Raoul, thanks for the "head's up". It is an interesting perspective, however.

Tom
  #5 (permalink)  
Old 09-25-2004, 11:37 PM
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Ivan, I am replying to say that basically I agree with you about the "mass market" cruises. I agree that they are too crowded, cabins too small, food mediocre, lines everywhere, etc. etc. Not to mention the cost of water, soft drinks - everywhere you turn someone has their hand out. Not to mention the bingo and trivia and the ship photographer taking your photo every minute, and posting for all to see..... Totally agree.

We took our first cruise on Celebrity many years ago, and were turned off by all ofthe above. I didn't like having to say, "escuse me" every few seconds while making my way around the ship. I didn't like making small talk with the same people, with whom I had nothing in common, at the dinner table each night. I didn't like lining up to get in - anywhere.... I didn't like the "conspicuous consumption" of the march of the baked alaskas, and the focus on shopping to the exclusion of any cultural info about the port being visited.

Then, a few years later, we were fortunate enough to experience a cruise on Silver Sea - what a difference! All the things I hated about cruising were totally absent on this ship. Open dining - all inclusive beverages - no tipping - no annoying ship photographer - no tawdry production shows. Most importantly, No Crowds! Of course, that first SS ship only held about 300 pax. The next cruise we took was on the SS Whisper, which holds about 480 pax I think. What a truly wonderful experience. Impeccable service, truly lovely food, and the ability to dine when and with whom you wish. Our experiences on Silver Sea hooked me again on cruising - but ONLY on luxury lines. We took RAdisson Seven Seas in Tahiti - the Paul Gauguin - what a wonderful experience. The cabins on SS - truly luxurious - walk in closets, marble baths with separate tub and shower, I could go on and on - People who have taken the other Rad. ships, like Voyager and Mariner, rave about the space, the cabins, and - above all - the service.

There is simply no comparison between the mass market lines and the luxury lines. All of the drawbacks you mentioned are absent from the luxury lines. I have not tried Crystal because it is a more traditional experience (assigned seating and times, tipping, pay for beverages). And the ships are larger - at least 1,000 pax.

Of course, you will pay more for a luxury cruise. To me, it is worth it to pay more for a relaxing truly high quality experience. I would never cruise again if I had to cruise on the mass market lines.

Glenda
  #6 (permalink)  
Old 09-26-2004, 12:30 PM
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Maybe I can pick up on Ivan's last comment:

"A majority of first-time cruisers return home regretful about their week aboard ship, wishing they had not spent the family egg money on such a disappointment."

This is obviously untrue otherwise the cruise industry would not be enjoying the growth it is.

Cruising doesn't suit everyone, and it doesn't appear to suit Ivan. Equally we all don't enjoy the budget to cruise on the likes of Radisson, Silver Seas, Crystal, etc. It is also true that everyone doesn't spend the additional money that Ivan indicates on extras, either because we can't afford to or choose not to. Enjoyment is not necessarily in direct proportion to how much you spend.

But back to the main point. Cruising is enjoyed by many because it is so different to staying in a single place. Before I Retired my wife and I enjoyed a number of vacations in the Caribbean, but boy were they expensive and Ivan is correct that many of the islands are quite small and have limited offerings for visitors. Most are a laid back beach vacation. By comparison you can cruise the Caribbean for much less money and have an extremely enjoyable vacation.

Everyone spends to their own taste and budget, but the 11 night Caribbean cruise on Celebrity Horizon that my wife and I enjoyed in March cost us under $1,100 each including everything. The cruise itself cost $725. And as a postscript Michael Roux's inspired catering was outstanding.

So each to their own choice and budget, but I suggest that the major cruise lines are only succeeding because they really are offering what the majority want, and they have plenty of repeat cruisers to prove it.
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  #7 (permalink)  
Old 09-26-2004, 01:34 PM
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I agree with FloridaKeith - to each his own! We all have different expectations from cruising, and different levels of tolerance for crowds, standing in line, small cabins, etc.

My statement of course was just my own opinion comparing the mass market lines with the luxury lines. I do agree with Florida that more and more people are enjoying cruising - I have stock in one company and I am glad that this type of vacation is growing in popularity!

Glenda
  #8 (permalink)  
Old 09-27-2004, 11:19 AM
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Just to add my two cents to this conversation, "to each his own" is definitely right. Although I enjoy "mass-market" cruising on the likes of Carnival, Royal Caribbean, etc., and have not had the opportunity so far to experience luxury lines, my favorite cruise so far was on a very casual (jeans and flannels), very tiny ship with no casino, no pool, no spa, but an incredible chance to get close to the destination - in this case, Alaska. Not for budget travelers in the least, the cost on Cruise West is closer to a top-level cabin on a luxury ship, but what a wonderful time we had. And talk about no crowds - with only 71 passengers onboard (and 25 crew), we may have crowded into the ship's lounge for evening naturalist talks but definitely didn't overwhelm the ports we called on! Everyone on a first-name basis, including the captain. Not for everybody - but for some, the perfect cruise!
  #9 (permalink)  
Old 09-29-2004, 05:23 AM
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L.s.,
it is a nice story. Nothing wrong by putting someone with both feet on the ground. (aren't we all a bit cruise-crazie). However,...without names of ships, dates, etc., is it is a bit of a "make-up" story.
N.b. given in de search-machine Google "ivan hild writer" and the answer is style-like stories.
Hendrikus.
  #10 (permalink)  
Old 09-29-2004, 12:37 PM
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Hendrikus, I don't quite understand your reply. Are you saying you disagree with Ivan? Are you saying Ivan isn't a real person? Your meaning is very unclear.

It really doesn't matter, because I agree with 90% of the points he made, and am glad that someone spoke up to clarify some of the negative aspects of mass market cruising. This way, people can make more of an informed choice about the type of experience they want. Sure luxury cruises cost more, but sometimes when you add all the extras you pay on mass market cruses, not that much more.....

Glenda
 
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