Sea Travel - Luxury on the High Seas
A Popular Way to Vacation
Cruising is a major segment of the tourism industry and a popular way to vacation.
Unlike other means of transportation, where the vehicle is simply a means to get to one's destination, on a cruise, the ship is the destination as one's entire vacation centers around the ship.
My wife and I recently took a cruise on a recent vacation. Like other cruise ships, our ship, the Royal Caribbean Lines vessel the Serenade of the Seas, was basically a floating resort.
On board was every amenity imaginable including eight dining rooms, pool, spa, climbing wall, miniature golf course, theater, lounges, casino, mini shopping mall, art gallery and more. It had more things to do and, with up to 2,490 passengers and 890 crew, a population larger, than can be found in many small towns.
Cost Can be Very Reasonable & Fare is All Inclusive
While the total cost of a cruise varies depending upon the type of accommodations and extras one chooses, the range of prices varies from what an average income couple or family would reasonably expect to pay for a week's vacation to very expensive luxury travel.
As with other types of travel, taxes (including port fees in this case) figure significantly into the price and, depending upon the ports of call, the taxes can, and sometimes do, exceed the lowest cruise fare.
However, the cruise price is all inclusive in the sense that one can take a cruise and not incur any additional expenses from the time they board the ship until they leave the ship at the end of the cruise. In fact, the only additional costs of such a vacation besides the cost of the cruise and taxes which are paid at time of booking, would be transportation to and from the port of departure and return.
Once aboard, other than cabin size and location, there are no real distinctions between passengers as the crew goes all out to pamper and treat everyone as if they were all nineteenth century aristocratic tycoons.
Passengeers are Welcome to Spend As Much Money as they Wish
Of course, the cruise line spares no effort in giving those who wish to spend additional money every opportunity to do so.
First of all, passengers are not only asked but also given a list of suggested amounts, to provide a gratuity (tip) at the end of the cruise for the staff who clean their cabin and the serving staff in the restaurants. Given the service received, it seems more than reasonable to show these people your appreciation for their outstanding efforts in this area.
While access to most dining areas is included in the cruise price, there are some specialty ones in which you pay extra and, of course, there is a charge for any wine and cocktails you have with your meal.
Then there is the mini shopping mall which is stocked with expensive cameras, liquors, jewelry and designer clothing among other things. Our cruise included an art gallery stacked with art supplied by a major art dealer, a representative from which was not only on the cruise selling the art but also giving free workshops on art collecting and conducting two or three auctions during the cruise.
A Lecture on Marc Chagall
I attended a workshop conducted by the representative of the art dealer on the artist Marc Chagall and his friendship with and collaboration with Walt Disney.
The workshop was fascinating as was the auction that followed.
Given that many of the bids were well in excess of the cost of our entire vacation of which the cruise was only one part, I did not raise my hand to bid.
However, that was ok and I was still served free champagne and everyone else seemed to assume that I must have owned enough of what was being offered that day and was looking for something else.
Views of Our Cabin
Spending Money in Ports of Call
Optional excursions and activities in the ports of call are another opportunity to spend money. These are sold by the cruise line and you can sign-up and pay for them when you purchase your cruise or sign-up and pay while on the boat.
We took one bus excursion in one of the ports we visited as that excursion provided an interesting tour of a large area well beyond where we could make it on our own in the time we were on shore.
In addition to commercial excursions on shore, there are numerous opportunities to spend money in the local economy on shore.
Many high end jewelry and similar stores provide coupons and free offers to the on board activities director to hand out and direct people to their establishments.
The activities director or cruise line usually receives a commission on purchases made by people from the ship from these establishments. Other retail establishments simply take advantage of the traffic coming off the cruise ships of which there is are usually more than one in port at a time.
Photos to Remember Your Trip
Finally, there are photographs. Beginning when you first step on board and continuing at various points throughout the cruise, there is one or more ship's photographers whose job it is to snap pictures of you.
Some are candid, some are posed, some can be avoided and others cannot be gracefully declined. A few hours after being taken, the photos are available to view and purchase.
Regardless of whether you wanted your photo taken or not, you are under no obligation to purchase it. But they are available for purchase usually starting at $10 to $20 for a single 5 x 7 to packages of varying sizes ranging up to a hundred dollars or more.
Part of the Ship's Mini-Mall
Spending Made Easy
The cruise line makes purchasing on board easy for buyer and seller.
As the passengers tend to be multi-national and ports of call usually in foreign nations, the ship obviously wants to avoid having to stock and deal in multiple currencies let alone get involved in having to exchange currencies.
To avoid this, part of the pre-boarding paperwork includes a form where you provide credit card number for use on the ship (I think that you can deposit cash in lieu of a credit card).
An account is then set up for each family and their ship ID cards are used to pay for all purchases (including the tips unless you want to give cash to your serving staff). The sum of your charges are applied to your credit card at the end of the voyage.
My point here is not to criticize this extra commercial activity but rather to explain the process. While there are plenty of opportunities and inducements to get passengers to spend money, I found less direct sales pressure than I encounter in a regular store at home. All of the staff went out of their way to be polite and put passenger comfort first so I never felt any pressure to buy anything.
An Equalitarian Environment Where Everyone is Treated as if They are Rich
In fact one can say that cruise lines do a much better job at income redistribution than do governments.
Obviously the opportunity to generate large amounts of revenue from the sale of expensive art, jewelry and other things along with high priced wines at dinner enables the line to be able to afford to provide every passenger with a level of comfort and luxury that only the very rich could afford in the past.
In this way big spending wealthy travelers subsidize lower income travelers while the crew makes no distinction between passengers and simply assumes everyone is rich.
And, as pointed out in the book, The Millionaire Next Door, it is difficult to know now days if the couple in the small inside cabin is there because that was all they could afford or because they are rich with frugal roots and would much rather spend their money on some expensive jewelry or art rather than on a place to sleep for a week.
Links to My Other Hubs on Alaska
- Sawyer Glacier in Tracy Arm Fjord Alaska
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- Captain James I Waddell - The Man Who Fought the Civil War in Alaska
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