The Evolution Of Ocean Cruising
The Evolution Of Ocean Cruising
It started out as a worry-free travel experience, where everything was contained, and included on the journey. The cruise was all about the journey with everything you wanted or needed was on board the ship. A quick stop over in a port for a short land experience was a nice diversion from the rolling seas. However, most people were happiest being on the ship. All of the food, drink and entertainment was included in the trip and all one had to do was relax and enjoy everything being offered to them.
Ocean Cruising began to evolve...
The ocean cruise experience has changed a lot. There is so much more to this style of travel and leisure cruising than was ever thought possible. Instead of one type and size of ship, there are a wide variety of options for the type of vessel you want to sail on. Ships are now recognized by style, too. You have the budget lines, the moderate priced lines, the traditional lines, the luxury lines, and the Mega ships. From small ocean cruise ships, to the more traditional style and size, all the way up to the huge mega ships holding upwards of 6,000 passengers - actually; floating cities.
Now, even the small ocean cruise ships are offering multiple options for their destinations, and life on board. Over the last few decades leisure ocean cruising changed from an all-inclusive journey to a check list of a la carte elements each passenger could add to their experience. Certain Meals, Beverages, Amenities and Experiences were now costing extra.
The evolution continues...
This trend has started to swing back towards a more inclusive package, with the on-set of the all-inclusive river cruises. However, it is mainly the Luxury Lines that are making the switch back to all-inclusive. On most of the other ships the norm is still charging for almost all of the elements outside of cabin accommodation, some of the meals, and some entertainment.
The ships on the ocean today are still primarily about the on-board experience. The cruise lines are refurbishing ships and building many new ships that include more and more elements for the passengers.
Multiple restaurant offerings, more sit-down service venues serving a la carte meal options, and specialty restaurants, have been added to almost all ocean vessels today. There are more fast food options and cafes located throughout the ship to ease the burden of the much larger passenger count on board. Things like wine, beer and alcoholic beverages, soft beverages, desert bars, specialty coffee bars, and specialty restaurants have arrived where guests pay extra for these items and are charged before leaving the ship. With the advent of the internet, computers and wi-fi service became available at painfully slow speeds but with extremely high costs to stay connected on the high seas. Little has changed there, it is still slow and it is still expensive to stay connected from the high seas. Everything now costs extra and everywhere you wander on board the ship, there is another store, a kiosk, bar, restaurant, casino, lounge photographer, or other retail opportunity to spend money on things while on board.
Most passengers today, can't budget and don't have a good idea of what their cruise vacation cost in total. When they are ready to disembark at the end of their cruise, they often find large balances due on their account, that must be paid before leaving the ship.
Still the call of the seas is strong and people are still flocking to these ships for their escapes from regular life. The cruise lines have experienced some loss of market share to the River Cruise Lines and so they continue to compete for as many sea-faring passengers they can find. They are being very creative with adding new activities, elements, services, and inclusions. It's all about keeping their guests happy, coming back to them for their next water journey, and just plain old offering more...
Today, you can have a small ocean cruise experience or continue to live like you do at home with everything available - just on the ocean and not in your home town. Mega ships are floating cities with huge numbers of passengers (3,000-5,000 average), they have every activity available on land now at your fingertips on board the ship. Theaters now hold thousands of viewers, there are still cultural elements like lectures, museums, celebrity events, libraries and even a planetarium. There are pool areas that are more like water parks and there are real parks. Besides the traditional on-deck games, there is rock climbing, paint-ball, full running tracks on top decks, on-deck movie theaters under the stars, ice-skating, bowling, and even some golf. Almost anything you can do in a city you can now do on board a ship.
In an effort to keep past guests, and to compete with the itineraries of the river cruises, the ports of call have evolved, too. There are now more and more remote areas being included in the cruising itinerary. Instead of just getting off the ship and exploring, now there are many tour itineraries with private guides, coach tours, and more unique experiences on land. Most of these cost extra, although more and more luxury lines are offering these into their package costs, to complete with the River Cruise offerings.
The ocean cruise experience is still very much about the on-board culture and nature of the trip. More and more elements have been added to keep the passengers happy and the ship being the ultimate destination.
There is a shift happening to bring ocean cruising back into the all-inclusive boundaries it originally started. However, only the luxury lines seem to be fully "on board" with this concept. Most of the other lines are still charging extra for most elements outside of the cabin accommodation and regular meals.
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