By land or by sea, you want your taste buds tickled and a more pleasant experience surfing the Web.
We polled Cruise Critic readers on what cruise lines could improve in the new year, and it’s no surprise that at 43 and 42 percent, respectively, quality of food and service in the main dining room and cheaper, faster Wi-Fi technology are vital, even at sea.
Some might argue that vacation is a time to truly get away from it all. Cruise Critic member luddite went as far as to suggest increased fees for cell phone and Internet usage, while other responses echoed a rally cry for limited mobile device usage throughout public ship areas.
As we become more fiber-optically connected, though, the demands of a business emergency, an imperative Facebook status update or the gratification of a series addiction on Netflix are more pressing regardless of time, place or vacation.
With fees — hidden or spelled-out — at nearly every juncture, 34 percent of you called for the cutback of extra fees on items and eateries while onboard. And because no one likes getting nickel-and-dimed, more cruisers are asking cruise lines to “come clean” and be transparent about fees, especially regarding gratuities.
“If you tack on a mandatory gratuity, it ceases to be a gratuity and becomes a service charge. We like to tip, but not with a (metaphorical) gun to our head,” traveloscopy said.
“Call the ‘gratuities’ what they are, service charges, and include them in the listed fare up front along with the port charges,” Algebralovr said. “List them as ‘non-commissionable’ just like the port charges, so that they are a line item, but stop making them semi-optional. If all lines did that, all the lines would appear more equal when pricing, since the passenger could see the real cost of cruising.”
Many of those considering booking a cruise need to book flights, too. Flying just to reach a ship’s departure port can incur a hefty cost depending on where you live.
Beachbum53 suggests that for those living far from port cities, it would be helpful if airlines could partner with cruise lines to reduce costs. “After booking a cruise, it would be great if you could use your booking number as a means of getting a discount on airfare, even if it’s only 10 percent.”
More than a third of responses to our poll agreed they would like to see destination-related enrichment about their ports of call.
As the saying goes, “It’s the journey, not the destination.” But even while the journey aboard a cruise ship is certainly part of its draw, destinations are important. After all, it’s an opportunity to step foot in a new place and not just off of a ship.
“The destination is of prime importance to us,” Robb said. “Hate going to the same ports over and over.”
Cruisers not only want to become more immersed in ports, but they are also asking to increase the number and variety of ports available to visit — and they want more options when they get there.
About 21 percent of poll responders said they would like to see more interesting options for shore excursions in 2013.
Many have been sharing the sentiment lately that even as cruise lines race to build bigger and better ships, add modern amenities or state-of-the-art activities, some of their basic standards are suffering.
“I miss the level of service and hospitality of even just ten years ago,” Gangway Style said. “Staff reductions have impacted the cruising experience. Even the size of the ships’ orchestras is smaller. There is less live music and more electronic DJ-style music.”
“The decline of ‘traditional’ dining” has been documented by Cruise Critic editor-in-chief , Carolyn Spencer Brown, in her article for Conde Nast Traveler:
“Once the pinnacle of cruise dining — and an option that is always fee-free — the main restaurant typically was your table-away-from-home. Fabulous features included adventurous menus and intimate service by waiters who remembered your name, drink, and favorite grandchild’s middle name. But with more emphasis being placed on additional-fee special eateries, quality in these venues, by many reports, has sunk to new lows.”
Even the lax enforcement of once-standard ship regulations has cruisers miffed.
“On my previous cruises, smoking was permitted in certain areas, but it wasn’t enforced and there were men smoking cigars out by the pool in a smoke-free designated area,” browneyedgirlnb said. “While I have no problem with people lighting up, I choose to go where smoking isn’t an issue.”
SharonI believes cruise lines should “set a dress code policy and enforce it. No one should wear jeans on a cruise or shorts to dinner.”
Cruising is meant to infuse excitement and the unexpected into the days and weeks you are onboard, not sacrifice the things you are used to in your own home (good food, fast Internet) for the waterslide, the mudslide or the Electric Slide (*speaking of the Electric Slide, 28 percent of poll responders noted they would like to see improved and updated evening entertainment).
Going into 2013 and beyond, you should be able to have your cruise, and eat good food on it, too (and to log online and immediately post the pictures of whatever you were eating).
Want to hear an expert opinion on what 2013 has in store for cruising? Read more of Carolyn Spencer Brown’s Conde Nast article.
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