Last weekend I was a cocktail party in town and of course the conversation came up about travel. Initially I retreated into my corner because I am a firm believer that friends and family need to remain with cell phone plans and have no part of my business plan in travel. But I was outted by another so-called friend as a “travel guy” who would love to talk about someone’s upcoming cruise. Ugh!
Well, thankfully they did not need any of my opinions or expertise as this woman explained how she was an avid cruiser and knew all about the best cruises. Of course she had only sailed with one brand. And had never flown to a port to embark; but I let her continue on. Here are her four tips for cruisers.
- Cruises are the best way to travel because they include almost everything in one up front price. (Well, except booze, gratuities and shore excursions.)
- Brand X is the best cruise line out there bar none. (Mind you, this is based on her vast experience cruising with…one cruise line.)
- A good way to save money on a cruise is to have the “front desk” take off the tips and then you can cut them down to whatever you like. We like to go to the buffet on the last night so we don’t need to tip all the waiters and the Maitre D’.
- Liquor can be expensive on board. Simply buy a case or two of water at the grocery store, empty it out and fill it up with rum, vodka, gin or tequila. Reseal the bottles and send it with her husband to work to re-shrink wrap the cases. They never catch it.
I was flabbergasted and disgusted. Despite my promise to myself, I started to engage her. I explained that the crew members depend on the tips and some make $50 a month in salary. I explained that people cheating the system on the booze is specifically why the overall pricing is going up and the inclusions are going down. And just before I was dragged away by my girlfriend, I asked her how she can be an self-proclaimed expert when her experience has been limited to one brand and two ships.
Undeniably, the cruise experience for most mass market cruise lines has been cheapened. In their quest to satisfy their shareholders (and this is not wrong) they have had to adjust accordingly. Just recently Carnival added more mac n cheese and meatloaf to their menus under the guise of adding more “comfort food.” (FYI, the M&C is awesome). But of course it is a lot less expensive than a steak or lobster. Cruise lines do not pay their ship board employees a living wage so they depend on tips. When the tips started to decrease, the cruise lines added them back in. Booze was even included (and still is) on some brands. But when you have a mass market product, you likely are going to attract a mass market crowd hell bent on beating the system.
I thought I had heard it all before, but this shrink wrap cheat was a new one on me. Maybe if the cruise lines upped the inclusions and the price, the experience might be a little better for everyone all around.
As for my cocktail party conversation, we ended up leaving early before I said something I know I would regret. Anyone care to guess what brand? Oh, and one more thing…please don’t pass these tips along to your clients!