The Culture of Modern Day Shipboard Cruising
Since Barbara and I first dipped our toes into the “Cruising Culture” in 2005 there have been so many changes, mostly all positive, with a few negatives.
First let me address the different social groups that are found on every voyage and these groups are different depending on the length of each cruise.
I would say that the majority of bookings are made through a travel agency that specializes in vacations at sea. The only two that we have ever used are “Travel With Alan” and “Cruise Specialists”, and if I were to place labels as to their cliental it would be “Blue Collar and White Collar”, with both offering door to door experiences, with some price differences that set them apart. For a first time cruiser I would definitely recommend “Alan” or TWL as you will get a travel package that is rock bottom in price but high end in value. He has such a base of customers that his weekly email offers usually sell out in just a few days. (Offers are by email only)
These bookings would constitute the largest culture group on board and both offer amenities during the cruise that include social gatherings, where you will sometimes meet folks that you have cruised with before. Options are galore with other travel organizations, surprisingly Costco offers cruises and excursions.
The next social group has grown exponentially thru our cruising years from five or six on a 17 day voyage we took in 2005 to the almost 165 in our group for the Voyage of the Vikings. That group is the “Cruise Critic Roll Call”. Today these groups start forming almost as soon as a cruise is announced, sometimes as early as a 18 months in advance. We always try to be included.
Folks meet on the Internet at CruiseCritic.com where important and valuable information is shared in relation to; scheduled ports, ship and crew size and condition, and most important to some, private excursions are formed and offered to any member and mostly at a lower cost than those offered by the ship. Usually someone in the group will offer to moderate, and arrange with the ship for a place to periodically “Meet and Mingle/Greet” during the cruise. Private information will be shared with the group moderator/leader by email, in some instances a Roll Call Directory is produced for private distribution to group members only. We still maintain contact with CC folks we have met through our years of cruising. The roll call for the Voyage of the Vikings seems to have a very compatible assortment of newbies as well as seasoned travelers.
Smaller, yet of no less importance are the daily social interactions with friends and family, table mates, team trivia and informal groups that like to meet in the early mornings for coffee and breakfast; three that come to mind are the “Round Table” on the Prinsendam in 2012, the “Oval Office” on the Amsterdam in 2014 and “The Sunrise Boys” during the final days of the Statendam in 2015.
Lastly are the random face to face interactions that can occur with anyone onboard who just enjoys the exceptional experience of “life at sea”, and the ever dancing waves and changing weather.
What are those changes that I spoke of in my first paragraph? Though we have not experienced some of these changes ourselves, since we did not cruise last year, we have however been following blogs that describe such things that cut back in service, cut back on costs, (for the cruising line) and various amenities that seasoned (yearly cruisers) have come to expect.For instance; Holland America is slowly repurposing their wonderful onboard libraries into spaces that will return more revenue, thereby eliminating the need for a librarian and internet manager $$$ – for older passengers, these libraries were treasures.(Libraries don’t outwardly generate revenue – staterooms do.) For me personally I think some of these changes are brought about by the fact that the industry has become one of the most popular means for a family to spend it’s vacation money and get the most bang for the buck – what’s not to like about sailing to wonderful destinations and only have to unpack and repack once? With all the new and larger ships coming online in the coming years it will be interesting to see if this way of vacationing will be sustainable.
See ya in Boston,
Jack W Cummings VOV 2017