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Saturday, September 17, 2016

The Overhyped and the Overlooked

I agree with cruisecritic.com: art auctions, professional photos and candy stores on cruise ships are overrated.

And there are others I’d like to add to the list. I know this is a wholly subjective subject. You might not agree. But, here, for your consideration, are some things I think we can easily live without—as well as those that are often overlooked: 

Overhyped

Drink packages. While the idea of drinking what you want, when you want—no designated driver needed—can be pretty tempting, when we’ve done the math, we’ve found we’d have to consume a humongous amount just to break even.

Here’s an example: Royal Caribbean’s alcohol package is now $55 a day per person (or roughly $400 a week). With the average drink price at about $8, you’d have to down seven a day to get your money’s worth.*

I have no proof, but given how much these drink packages are hyped, I have to assume the cruise lines make out better than we do.

Celebrity’s Concierge Class. You’d think we’d learn after the first time. But it took three times on Celebrity’s Concierge Class—and three times complaining—before we finally owned up that it’s just not worth it. The flowers in your room are actually one lonely bud in a vase that opens up just in time for you to go home. The appetizers, which you now have to ask for, are decidedly unappetizing. Oh, you do get a bottle of sparkling wine the first day. And the towels are big. That’s about it.

Port shopping talks. There’s little substance in these. Unless you’re in the market for high-end jewelry, don’t waste your precious vacation time. And if your curiosity gets the best of you, you can always find them on the stateroom TV, playing over and over and over again.

Formal nights. It pains me to say this, but formal nights are simply not worth trying to cram a suit and tie or dress/shoes/shawl/evening bag into your luggage.Yeah, sometimes the food is better than other nights, as filet mignon and lobster tails still make a once-a-cruise appearance. But, it’s just not the big event it used to be.

Overlooked

Princess’ mini-suites. If you choose your cruise right (e.g., off season), you can get one of these for not much more than a balcony room. Yet the size is significantly larger; in fact, you’ll swear you’re in a hotel. Throw in two TV sets, more counter space and the like, and you’ll be downright comfortable.
Hotel-like comfort in a Princess mini-suite
Room service. For many of us, room service in a hotel is a rarely-if-ever-used luxury. It not only costs extra, but what you get costs extra, too. While some exceptions apply, room service on a cruise ship is free. That means delivery right to your door, and you don’t even need to get out of your PJs for it.

Buffet at night. I’ve often raved about the buffet at dinner, appreciating the vast array of choices (often including what the MDR is serving up), the appearance of international cuisine--including some spicy dishes--and the marvelous mellowness. And did I mention that you don’t have to dress up?

Lunch in the main dining room. This probably sounds perverse—buffet at night and lunch in the dining room. But, like the buffet at night, lunch in the MDR is a peaceful affair. It’s under-utilized, unhurried and completely relaxing. But you’ll only find it at limited hours on sea days.
The "Tutti" salad bar on Allure of the Seas--you'll only find it at lunch, in the MDR on sea days
Loyalty clubs. Now I recognize that not everyone can cruise repeatedly, but if you can and do, going with one line has its benefits. Particularly on Royal Caribbean. We made Diamond Club a few cruises back and now enjoy unlimited alcoholic drinks during happy hour, which has made us quite happy, indeed.

The view. What’s outside the ship is becoming less and less important than what’s on the inside. With bumper cars, casinos and ice skating rinks, it’s getting harder to remember what cruising is all about: the sea. 




* This package also includes non-alcoholic drinks.


Musing’s Top Tip: On a totally different topic, check out Musing’s piece on ways to stay safe while you’re wandering around port on the website www.cruiseportadvisor.com.