To preface this column, let me say that I am a firm believer that planning travel for friends and family is perhaps the worst idea an agent can consider. With that said, last weekend I was a reception being held in association with a large boat show that was in town. To my horror (it IS almost Halloween) the topic of travel came up. As I slowly retreated to the other end of the bar, a so-called friend outted me as a “travel guy” who would probably love to chat about someone’s upcoming cruise. Actually, I would love to have a root canal first. Without drugs. But I was stuck.
As it ended out, my ‘expertise’ was not needed or desired. This woman was perfectly content to explain to the small, rapt group about her tips for cruising. She explained how her four cruises taught her a lot. Here are her four tips.
- Cruises are the best and most affordable vacation because everything is included up front in the pricing. (Well, except booze, gratuities and shore excursions.)
- Brand X is the best cruise line without reproach. (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’. Wait, I thought it was all included?
- Liquor can be expensive on board. I 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 have my husband shrink wrap the cases at work. They never catch it.
I was flabbergasted and disgusted. Despite my policy of no friends or family for customers, 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 date, I asked how she can be an expert when her experience has been limited to one brand and two ships. The scene had the potential to get ugly and I am thankful that my date had a better pulse on the situation than I.
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. There are more specialty restaurants, a downgrade of food in the general venues, and less inclusions. 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 for me. Maybe if the cruise lines upped the inclusions and the price, the experience might be a little better for everyone all around.
I would like to think her “tips” were her own; but I am afraid they (and other like them) are commonplace in the public for mass market cruise lines. I do not personally sell too many individual cruises, but you can be sure that I will be adding a list of “don’ts” to my groups and the few individuals I do sell. Are you finding that clients are really going out of the way to cheat the cruise lines out of revenue? For those that sell the higher end cruises, do you see this as well?