Until today. Princess Cruises has announced that it will be the first line to bring back the "ye olde" tradition -- after some 20 years -- with a new program called the "Bon Voyage Experience," in which passengers' guests can join them onboard for approximately four hours, including lunch and a tour.
Of course, Princess isn't doing this just for nostalgia's sake or to give you a few extra hours with your best friend or grandmother before they set sail on dream cruise without you. The line is charging $39 per person -- and banking on the fact that you will get enough of a taste that you'll come back for a real cruise (with or without grandma). If you bite, Princess is willing to apply the $39 toward a future cruise booking.
Here's what you get with the "Bon Voyage Experience":
Priority embarkation (for passengers and their guests)
A four-course dining room lunch, with wine
A guided ship tour
A souvenir photo
The program will debut in March onboard ships departing from Los Angeles and Fort Lauderdale, and will roll out to New York, San Francisco and Seattle beginning in May. The maximum number of "Bon Voyage" guests allowed onboard any particular voyage is approximately 50. Guests must be invited and accompanied by a booked, sailing passenger.
Bottom line: It's a clever idea, one we're surprised hasn't been implemented in the industry sooner. Princess gets to promote its product in a very hands-on way, and folks -- especially those who are new to cruising -- can see firsthand what the hype's all about and if a Princess trip might be right for them.
As Cruise Critic member Shifra posts on our Princess forum, "I have friends and family that have never been on a cruise ship and are not sure if they would like it. This would be a great way for them to look around and have a nice lunch also." However, others are not thrilled with the idea; bigeagle12 writes, "Just what the embarkation process needs: more people."
What do you think about Princess' move? Are there other cruise traditions you'd like to see make a comeback, from dockside brass bands to colorful streamers for tossing from the lido (environmentally safe ones, of course)? Tell us!
--by Melissa Paloti, Managing Editor