On a recent cruise vacation some relatives returned from a two-week sailing in the Mediterranean an extra $6000 lighter after the cost of the cruise itself. That covered the drinks, shopping on board, cabin tips and the biggest drainer of them all, the shore excursions.
While definitely an experience to remember, the expense of the trip will certainly prompt some of those memories for a while to come!
Cruise lines are out to make money and I have no qualms with that but I wondered exactly what I would get out of such an experience. “Oh, you can always go back later” every travel agent chirps. Norwegian Cruise Lines offers a Western Med cruise that includes a day at Cannes or Nice. Nice! Problem is, the sailing is 5PM and everyone knows nothing really gets going until long after dark. The cruise lines know this and probably so do the hoi polloi. Besides, why blow a wad in Monte Carlo when customers could be losing big in the casinos on board!
For my eight hour “day” on the Riviera my options include paying my respects to Princess Grace, touring the Grand Prix course, knocking back a cocktail at Café de Paris in Monaco, drooling over the mega-yachts in the marina, prowling the film festival pavilion at Cannes and then up to the top of Mont Boron at Villefranche-sur-Mer for that magnificent view of the Cote d’Azur.
That, my friends, is a short list for one port-of-call with Barcelona, Malta, Naples, Rome and Livorno (choose Florence or Pisa for the shore excursion) on the same itinerary.
My ideal cruise, however, does not include over-priced, time sensitive shore excursions that tease me with the “flavor” of a destination to which I may never return in this lifetime. Give me instead a weeklong ocean voyage across the Atlantic or between Honolulu and Australia. I and my money stay on board ship to gamble, shop, hit the spa and dine at the premium restaurants, letting the cruise lines ka-ching all the way across. They make money and I’m well rested into the bargain.
British Airways and Cunard once offered a sail and fly package for those with truncated vacation time, allowing the customer to sail the Atlantic in one direction and fly back in the other. Short of adding on time at either end the journey was the vacation and on the QE-II it was in grand style even in the lower cabins.
I’d love to see a regular schedule of pure ocean sailings with no other purpose than simply being at sea and away from the world. Stop in the Azores, maybe, or Tahiti just so we can feel dry land and maybe a shore excursion but other than that just time away at sea with a good book, a deck and plenty of food. When we make port in Southampton, Barcelona or Sydney just kick me off with only the jet lag missing!