After three years of failing to go on an ocean cruise, I recently returned to one aboard a popularly priced ship (but not one of the monstrous, 5,000-passenger variety). Here are some characteristics that I truly believe are found on all similar ships, and some tactics for enjoying the experience:
EVERYTHING IS EXTRA. The cruise lines seem to have developed a policy of relying heavily on extra purchases made by passengers. Ask for anything-—even a glass of mineral water while dining—and you are charged extra for it. Smart passengers avoid the lures of these optional purchases: casinos, fitness classes, specialty restaurants, a dozen others, that can skyrocket your cost.
SHORE EXCURSIONS ARE PRICED IN THE STRATOSPHERE. The cost of a simple bus tour is beyond belief. Learn to sightsee on your own two feet, and you will save astronomic sums.
SPECIALTY RESTAURANTS ARE RARELY WORTH THE EXTRA FEES THEY CARRY. The quality of their meals is only slightly better than what you receive for no extra charge in the ship’s main dining room.
LEAVE YOUR LAPTOP AT HOME. What the cruise ships charge for WiFi and internet access will quickly run up a bill of a hundred dollars. You can do without the internet for your short week aboard.
LEAVE YOUR TUX AT HOME. Though all cruises designate a night or two as “formal,” no male wears anything other than a good suit with shirt and tie. On a recent cruise, not a single human wore a tux on those occasions, and I unnecessarily burdened my luggage by bringing mine aboard.
CHECK YOUR PASSPORT FOR ITS CONTINUING VALIDITY. Though most passengers know of the need for a passport to undertake almost any cruise, too many of them fail to check the validity date of theirs, and are turned away from the cruise if that date has expired.
NOTE THAT HARDLY ANY CREW ARE AMERICANS. You’ll never be prouder of our economy when you realize that except for occasional entertainers, hardly any Americans occupy cruise positions because of the grueling and underpaid nature of such employment. Almost everyone serving you is from Southeast Asia or Eastern Europe. You should tip generously, and you should also keep in mind the advantages of the citizenship you enjoy.