Things are looking good for the cruise industry. More ships are plying the world's waters than ever before and the number of passengers is increasing. This year cruise passengers from North America alone will exceed 3.6 million, up from 2.1 million in 1985.
The trend is not surprising. "Travelers are becoming more savvy. They see cruising as a better value than a land tour," says Mary Di Landro, spokeswoman for Cruise Lines International Association in New York City. "The price is all inclusive."On a cruise you live in a world of exotic ports and moonlit nights. Daily cares are left behind. A steward cleans your cabin and makes the beds. A waiter hovers over your table as you ingest gourmet meals that stretch well into the night. Scenery floats by your stateroom window like scenes from a movie.
Land excursions take you to the top of a glacier in a helicopter or down a white-water river in a raft. And cruises take you everywhere - from the frozen fiords of Scandinavia to the warm waters of the Caribbean.
The Deseret News interviewed a handful of veteran Utah cruisers to see what piqued their interest in this particular form of travel, what itinerary captured their hearts and what tips they had for first-time cruisers.
Here's what they had to say.
"When I talk about cruising I mention the five s's: sun, sea, surf, sand and sex," says Martin Kedra, production supervisor for Varian Associates in Salt Lake City. He and his wife, Linda, have been on three cruises; two to the Caribbean and one through the Panama Canal. They have already booked their next cruise to the Mediterranean.
"All the ports in the Caribbean are pretty much the same. The islands are beautiful, the sea is beautiful and the weather has always been beautiful. All the cruise lines do basically the same thing. They make you feel like the rich and famous."
The Kedras alternate shore activities. "On one island we do nothing but beach; on another we shop; on another we do the glass-bottom boat or snorkel. We try to mix it up. We like to get off the boat and seethings, but we also enjoy the time spent cruising."
Their most memorable cruise was through the Panama Canal. They disembarked in Acapulco where they spent an extra night. "You can't ask for anything better than that," says Kedra. "It's really special when you're on that kind of an outing and it's just the two of you."
Tips for first-time cruisers: Shop around for the best price. "On our first cruise we didn't know how to deal with travel agents as far as discounts were concerned," he says. "We paid the full rate. I guess the travel agency felt guilty because after the cruise it sent us $100."
On their upcoming Mediterranean cruise the Kedras used a little more savvy. They started at one agency and checked around with others. "Nobody could match the deal she gave us so I stayed with her. I don't pull any punches. I say `This is the deal I got at . . . Beat it.' "
Kedra also says you can sometimes finagle from your travel agent a free night at the port of embarcation.
Cruising was a lifelong reward to 72-year-old Clella Blackner. "I worked hard all my life and I'd never been anywhere. I wanted a nice vacation and I'd heard a lot about the Caribbean. That's where I decided to go."
Blackner has also cruised the Mexican Riviera and Alaska's Inside Passage.
"Cruise ships are lovely and they have all that lovely food. The entertainment is good and you don't have to put your bag out in the hall at 7 o'clock every morning."
On one cruise she saved a little money by trading cabins. "Someone wanted the type of cabin we had and the cruise line offered us a couple of hundred dollars to change cabins."
Salt Lake CPA Richard B. Bunker and his wife, Vardie, took their first cruise to the eastern Mediterrean 17 years ago. "We wanted to see the ports of call but we didn't want to stay in hotels in Egypt and Turkey," recalls Mr. Bunker.
Advantages of cruising include sanitation. "You don't have to worry about your food or water."
Price is another. "The cost is up front. You know before you go how much it's going to be. On some of the trips we've taken we figured it was cheaper to go on a cruise than take a land tour."
Tips: "Take all the shore excursions you can. It may cost you a little more than you want to pay, but it's worthwhile because you may never get back there again." The Bunkers, by the way, consider port cities the most interesting part of the cruise.
How to save money: "Use the same cruise line. Once you're on their list they offer specials to you first. Our cruise to the western Mediterrean was less than half-price. That was right after the Achille Lauro incident and they had a lot of cancellations."
The only difficulty about cruising for 82-year-old Rowena Miller and her 79-year-old sister Dorothy Jacobson is getting there. "You can't do anything but endure the long flights and give yourself plenty of time to change planes," says Miller, a veteran of 20 cruises.
Miller and Jacobson offer these travel suggestions:
- Wear loose fitting clothes on the plane and carry extra socks so you can take off your shoes.
- Pack at least two days before you leave and then rest.
- Change your body time to your destination time by eating when you would be eating at your destination.
- Don't eat too much on the plane.
- Pack light. "We have the smallest suitcases of anyone on board," says Miller.
- Take shoes that are broken in. "We pack two pairs of walking shoes and one pair of dress shoes."
- Do your homework. "We choose a ship that caters to older people," says Miller. "We also look for one that has a good reputation. One that's clean, has good service, is reliable and has good food."
What's their favorite cruise? "The last one."
Wallace L. Thomas and his wife, Eleanor, are veterans of 11 cruises. They have already scheduled their 12th. Mr. Thomas, who is confined to a wheelchair, wouldn't consider traveling any other way. "My wheelchair has been all over the world. Cruising is a way of life for us."
The Thomases recommend cruising with a travel agent. "She takes care of the details. If there's a glitch, she handles it."
Cruising has given the Thomases a world perspective. Bali, which they visited on a cruise of the South China and Java Seas, was particularly interesting. "The people there are so small. The buses they arranged for us were converted pickups. An average American took two seats. Some of our more expansive tourists took three."
New friends are another advantage. "You make so many friends aboard a cruise. We still correspond with people we met many years ago."
"Cruising is the fastest growing segment of the leisure industry," says Jay Griffin, vice president of sales and marketing for Beehive Travel.
"There's a cruise and a price out there for everybody," he says.
Popular cruise destinations
- South America
- New York to Montreal (via the Maritime Provinces)
Getting more for your money
- Book six months or more in advance
- Book at the last minute
- Book through a travel agent that offers volume discounts
- Get a cabin on a lower deck
- Share a cabin with another couple or with your children
- Cruise during the shoulder season
- Give the same cruise line your repeat business
-If you've never been on a cruise, take a three- or four-day `test' cruise to see if you like it.
-Get the cheapest cabin
-Take half as many clothes and twice as much money.
-Go on as many shore excursions as you can.
-Compare prices from one travel agency to another.
-Request speciall meals through your travel agent when you book the cruise.
-Most cruise ships offer two sealings for meals.
-Request the one you want when you book the cruise.
-Pack extra prescription medications and eyeglasses.
Ask your travel agent for the 20-page booklet "Cruising: Answers to Your Questions," or send a self-addressed, stamped (45 cents), business-size envelope to Cruise Lines International Association, 500 Fifth Ave., Suite 1407, New York, N.Y., 10110