Sunday, May 20, 2007

Cruising in General --- Today's version

Do you remember the TV show, The Love Boat, which debuted in 1977 and ran for nine seasons? The popularity of that show coincided with the interest in cruise holidays which began around that time. Each year since then, the number of ships and the number of passengers has increased steadily until at this time between 10 to 15 million passengers choose this type of vacation every year.

So what makes cruising so popular with holiday makers? Let's look at what a modern day cruise ship offers to its passengers. First of all the accommodations. One of the things I really appreciate about a cruise holiday is that you unpack your clothes and stay in the one place while the ship itself changes location. You are not packing and unpacking and sleeping in a new bed every night. And just look at our Zaandam stateroom, relatively spacious at 195 sq feet, including a sitting area and a private bathroom. There's generous storage space, a television and DVD player, complimentary bathrobes, hairdryer, all toiletry products provided and best of all, a wonderful steward who cleans your stateroom daily and turns down your bed at night. Should you feel so inclined your breakfast will be delivered to your room or any other meal for that matter, 24 hours a day. Just like any first class hotel in any part of the world.

I think that's what you could say characterizes the cruising experience. The wonderful friendly service is impeccable at all times throughout the ship; in your stateroom; at the lounges and bars, and in the various dining areas.

The service of food begins at 7 am every morning and you can eat in one part or another of the ship through until midnight. With breakfast, lunch, dinner, afternoon tea, snacks, even a late night buffet from 11pm to 12 midnight no passenger is ever without a choice of food and very good food at that. Anything you can possible desire in the way of food is available and there were eight different bars on board to supply your beverage requirements.

So now that your basic needs of shelter and food are taken care of, how do you entertain yourself all day? Once again from 7 am, starting with the organized walk on the Promenade deck, until after midnight with the Disc Jockey in the night club area, there is some kind of entertainment going on continuously. How about the gym for some stretching or aerobic classes or just using the equipment? Would you like to try the treadmills with the built-in TVs or the elliptical machines, the steppers, the exercise bicycles, all top of the line? Perhaps the spa is more to your taste or you might like to take in a current film in the very comfortable theatre? Bingo anyone? How about bridge or basketball or deck tennis? If you are at sea the casino is always an option or the library where you can read and borrow the latest books, read magazines, listen to music, play scrabble, do a jigsaw puzzle. Every day the staff will supply you with the New York Times crossword or a Sudoku puzzle. Why not attend a lecture on the wildlife of the region with the onboard naturalist? Cooking classes anyone?

Of course you can swim in the pool or dip into the hot tub, or enjoy the jacuzzi or the sauna or just laze on the deck chairs and watch the scenery, which is rather spectacular on an Alaska cruise.
A photo I took of the three storeyed organ in the centre of the ship

After dinner each night, in a special two level theatre, you can enjoy a Broadway style song and dance show, or perhaps a comedian or a musician, and all of these shows are extremely professional. Or perhaps listening to music and dancing is more to your liking? A sing along with a pianist in one of the bars or a trio playing light classical music in a lounge will while away your evening if you prefer. There is never a moment when there is not something to interest you.

But let there be no doubt, this is a money making operation. In theory, this is an all inclusive vacation and you can manage, with difficulty, to avoid spending any more money on board. But it's not easy. All drinks are charged extra at the bars, wine with dinner, even soft drinks. And the prices are usually hefty too. Considering all alcoholic beverages are duty free on the ship, A paid $7.50 plus 15% gratuity for a glass of ordinary wine with dinner. The spa prices are outrageous in my opinion and they charge extra for yoga classes and pilates classes and spinning classes. Bingo and the casino are cash cows for the cruise lines, as well as the photo taking services. Internet services are very expensive. I paid $103.95 US for 250 minutes of wireless Internet connection or $25 per hour, while I noticed on shore the rate was $6 per hour. Shore excursions arranged through the ship are always much more than they would be through tour operators on land, but people pay it because it is convenient rather than scrabbling about when you disembark.

People always worry about tipping on board but most cruise lines simply add a fixed amount onto your bill. Every time you order a drink 15% is automatically added while a $10 per day charge per person is added as gratuity for your cabin steward and dining steward and other behind the scene personnel. I don't consider that $10 to be unreasonable because these are very cheerful hard working people who work seven days a week for a year at a time, no days off. Many of them have families in Indonesia and they are separated from them for these long periods.

Just one last thought on the cruise ship industry. Pollution. Yes, the larger the industry becomes the larger the pollution problem becomes. Each large ship generates daily an enormous amount of waste from sewage, sinks, showers etc. Those cruise ships are dumping this waste off our coastlines outside the three mile limit. Some are treating the waste before dumping, because the technology is there. Diesel engines are also a huge source of air pollution and the Zaandam was recently fitted with a seawater scrubber system to reduce pollution from its engine emissions. The Holland America line prides itself on its recycling operations and its concern for the environment, with each ship having an environmental officer. I hope that all ships are vigilant in this endeavour and we must support our law makers when they make laws to guard our coastlines and our waterways.

A very wet day at the Mendenhall Glacier, just outside Juneau, Alaska
Yes I really did go to Alaska


Eurodog said...

Another great post, jmb.
Thank you.

eastcoastlife said...

Wow! Alaska.
You have an exciting life, jmb.

Annie Wicking and Loman Austen said...

Wow how wonderful.. What great photos...

Thank you for visiting my book review blog.

best wishes

Janice Thomson said...

An organ on a ship??? Wow...what will they think of next.
What a beautiful photo of the glacier you have more?
Thanks for such good posts...I enjoyed cruising Alaska through your eyes.

Welshcakes Limoncello said...

Hi, jmb. I've never been on a cruise so this is a real insight on what it is like. I can see the attraction now though I don't think it would be for me. I didn't know there were lectures and cookery classes on board and I'd never thought about the pollution issue. As you say, let's hope all lines behave responsibly over this. Great pictures. I especially love that last one of ALaska.

jmb said...

Thanks Eurodog, cruising is an interesting experience, to say the least.

jmb said...

not really but every now and again something exciting happens. Alaska is just next door, luckily

jmb said...

Hi Annie,
thanks for returning the call, I was very interested to read your reviews

jmb said...

Yes Janice, can you imagine? Four times a day it spontaneously played music, no doubt some internal computer was controlling the whole thing. The decorating theme on the Zaandam is music, so there were lots of musical instruments displayed in glass cases, etc.

jmb said...

I don't know whether my post made it sound wonderful or a nightmare. Luckily there are lots of places where you do not feel amongst a crowd.
The pollution issue is a big deal and I want to believe that they are dealing with it. There is so much cruising in the Mediterranean and it's such a closed system. I always wondered about it when I was eating the fish caught every day off the coast of Sicily.

lady macleod said...

Wow what a great travel log.

I am pleased to hear about the recycling attempts by cruise ships.
You are right, we have to remain aware of the laws governing waste disposal in our oceans.

Gorgeous photographs, thank you for sharing them.

jmb said...

Hi Lady Macleod,
I hope you enjoyed the posts on Alaska and cruising in general, now and then.
I would like to believe that the cruise ship industry is vigilant in these matters, although I am sure that there are some who are not.
thanks for stopping by

Sienna said...

Oh my goodness, look at Alaska, that is just beautiful... (but coldish looking:))

Cruising, 15 million is a lot of people, big know I always thought I was a sea kind of person, but after your other post on sailing to England I realised how much I would "miss" the land, earth, trees..this is really interesting...I have never heard anyone discuss the reality of cruise ships before, I am finding it so interesting...our dear retired local GP (Doctor) always wanted to take his wife on a cruise, but of the carrier? ships, (his Mum was a ship's doctor on one), just before he retired I said go for it ! Sail away...but he got cancer and now battles through treatments for that...I wish he could hear your interesting experiences about sailing, he would love this.

Thanks so much for sharing all of that with us, you know what I'm going to do now...write out that cheesecake recipe!! Thanks so much.


Ellee said...

Lucky you going to Alaska. My family had a cruise last year and it was terrific. I recommend it as something that different generations can share together, that the ship will have plenty of entertainment to amuse all tastes. The food and service was great too. Our cruise took us around the Med, it was very special and we would love to do another one.

jmb said...

Hi Pam,
Alaska was coldish but beautiful. I would like to do a cruise around New Zealand and end up in Australia to visit the relatives. I have never been to New Zealand, although I have travelled so much.
I'm sorry that your retired GP is missing out on his cruise but hopefully after his treatments he will be able to go.
That was our life last year as my husband went through radiation treatments for one cancer then operations for a malignant melanoma.

jmb said...

Hi Ellee,
I'm glad that your family enjoyed your Mediterranean cruise. You are so right, it is ideal for different generations of a family, who can all pursue their own interests but interact as they please.

james higham said...

Half your lick and those photos! You made the comment, JMB, that you didn't know what I saw in this blog.

Fabulous posts like this one which carry one away to another place - that's just one of the things.

james higham said...

Oops - that was meant to read "luck".

jmb said...

Hi James,
I did have a frown on my forehead until I saw the correction. Glad you found it interesting, cruising sure is a different world and I haven't totally decided if it's for me or not. Although I have been a few times. The old boy likes it a lot because he loves to eat, although still skinny.

Josie said...

JMB, I had no idea cruise ships were that luxurious. For some reason I have always imagined them to be just slightly more well appointed than the BC Ferries (I have no idea why...) but these pictures are beautiful. That would be my idea of the perfect vacation.


jmb said...

Hi Josie,
Yes, they are pretty luxurious. I think it is perfect for a week at most, although I have been on slightly longer ones.

To be honest, if you go for the lowest category stateroom, which is still fine, you can sometimes find a cost of around $100 to $120 per day per person, which is not outrageous in my opinion.

Donnetta Lee said...

Oh, oh, oh. Those beautiful pictures. Sounds like heaven. Good thoughts about the money for the employees aboard, too. Know you had such a wonderful time. Alaska! Wow!

jmb said...

Hi Donnetta Lee,
Thanks, it was fun, such beautiful scenery, although it was a little chilly.

leslie said...

Hi jmb, glad you posted about cruising. A lot of people have weird ideas about what it's like. I've been on 2 cruises to Alaska but now want to go to the Med. I, too, prefer being able to just unpack once and then enjoy all the amenities. I'll have to show Josie all my photos of my 2 cruises so she'll see just how luxurious it is.

Lee said...

A wonderful post, as usual, jmb. I've never been on a cruise. I'd suffer from motion sickness for sure. I can't even sit in the rear seat of a car without getting car sick. I'm fine when driving a boat, but I'm not a very good passenger. So, I'll just go along with you on your cruises and enjoy them that way. ;)

jmb said...

Hi Leslie,
I'm glad you enjoyed the post and that you enjoyed cruising to Alaska. I hope you get the chance to go cruising on the Mediterranean soon,

jmb said...

Hi Lee,
You know I can get very car sick but for some reason I don't get seasick, well not so far anyway.
You have to believe that it's a different kettle of fish on these huge ships with their stabilizers.

ipanema said...

i love the last photo. why not open a Flickr account jmb. I'll be the first to favourite your photos! You can protect them too.