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Is Cruising for You?

 

Is Cruising For You ?

by: Bob Braban - Editor - Travelwatchdog.com

The Market

In the past couple of years there has been a considerable growth in cruise ship capacity. A few years ago, long term planning in the cruise industry foresaw growth for years to come with the consequence that operators ordered ahead to dramatically increase the number of berths available. It is mainly in the past couple of years that these have come on stream; just at the wrong time. In addition, there were 44 new cruise vessels scheduled for commissioning between 2009 and the end of 2012 although it is inevitable that many will be cancelled. However, this is not bad news for everyone.

The great cruisers of the world are the Americans and, to a lesser extent, the British. Globally there is a serious economic downturn, the likes of which has not been seen in the lifetime of most of us. The bad news is that however upbeat the financial spokesmen may sound, this is not going to change for several years. Think back to the smaller problems of the early 1990's. When did that end? Not for more than 10 years. Psychologically, consumers were damaged and reluctant to spend; wary about whether the upturn was likely to be sustained. The consequence is that a very high proportion of the US cruise customers, those middle class retired professionals living partly on the income from a fluctuating pension fund, are likely to stay at home and save their money.

We have already seen very aggressive discounting in an attempt to fill places and it is our view that those who have the flexibility to make late bookings will make massive savings. If you have the flexibility and are not seriously committed to a particular destination or cruise line, you are probably in line to save 50% or more on some voyages.

The entire holiday market is having a very hard time and nothing is more certain than that a number of tour operators and travel agents will fall victim to economic circumstances. Make certain that you book only with ABTA bonded agents and get additional security by using a credit card (not a Debit Card unless it is Visa) to make the payment. If you want the best deals, make certain that you shop around and, if you are not bothered about precisely meeting a number of specific criteria, shop as late as possible. Not only will this get you the best deal, but it may also be the best way of avoiding market casualties. In the cruise market there will be fantastic bargains if you are a 'brinkman' cruiser.

What Kind of Cruise?

Cruise ships come in all shapes and sizes and offer a variety of itineraries. Some have as few as 200 passengers with others carrying up to 5,000. All offer the opportunity to unpack just once and stay in the same hotel whilst visiting a number of destinations. Quality across the range is now more even than was once the case. In the early days there was a wide diversity, today almost all offer a broadly similar product, with extreme luxury available for those who are prepared to pay a high premium.

Small ships are generally more friendly and have the advantage that they can get into the smallest ports whereas the larger vessels must anchor off-shore and tender their passengers to the port. Tendering can sometimes be a lengthy and annoying process. On the other side of the coin, the larger ships have many more facilities and are a little more stable in turbulent sea conditions, although with today's vessels there is little movement even in quite extreme conditions.

Where to?

Because of the reliable weather, the Caribbean has long since been at the heart of the cruise industry, but today cruise ships visit most major ports around the world, with many lines offering a complete circumnavigation of the globe in around 110 days. Find a destination that suits you and wait for the prices to tumble. It is unlikely you will be disappointed.

 

The Amazon - A river dweller sits in his house

 

For those who do not like to fly, there are numerous cruises that go out of Southampton, Dover and other UK ports. For some of these, the problem for many passengers is that there are more 'sea' days that with the cruises that start at a foreign destination. 'Sea' days are a bore for some and a joy for others. As a traveller who enjoys meeting people of other nations and seeing things that many years ago I could have done little more than dream of, sea days are a bore. My personal preference is to be off the ship for as many days as possible. For those who treat the ship as a relaxation and a chance to laze around a pool or take part in ships various leisure activities, they are often welcomed. It's just a matter of personal preference. Our Travel Stories menu carries details of cruises to The Amazon, River Cruising down the Elbe, The Baltic, East African Coast, The Caribbean, The Adriatic and the Black Sea.

Where to Book

There is a growing move in the industry to curb the heavy discounting and to do more of the bookings direct with the public. Dream on cruise companies! The interface with the public really involves three main facets: travel agents, on-line agents and newspapers and that is where you will get the best deals. Our advice is to be very wary of the on-line agents as many are borderline safe, but you can trust your high street travel agent and you can get really good deals from certain newspapers. At the time of writing, the Daily Telegraph carries, each day, a full page advertisement for cruises. Their price is almost impossible to beat. See you on board!

 

Best Advice

Whilst you are your cruise you will be offered a range of shore excursions at quite high prices. If you feel that you have the confidence to go it alone, you will save a small fortune. In almost every port there is a well established local market for shore excursions, the majority of them at 50% or less of the ship's cost. Indeed, very often the ship uses the same excursion operators and is paying them even less than 50%. The most outrageous example on a recent cruise was a ship arranged transfer from Venice airport to the cruise terminal at US$100 per person. Our cost US$49, for 4 persons!

 

 

 

 

 

Je me suis baigné dans le Poéme
De la Mer, infuse d’astres,
et lactescent Dévorant les azurs verts
Le Båteau ivre by Arthur Rimbaud (1854 – 1891)