Cruising – what’s your style?

We’ve spoken before about eating on a cruise ship – but you may not have considered WHY some cruise-lines push all-inclusive, while others offer a-la-carte extras.

The organization of amenities is an important area where the cruising industry has made changes in order to keep their ships running profitably.

One of these areas is the way dining works while onboard.

While dining services are usually included in the cruise’s cost, the setup of how dining works for the passengers vary by cruise lines.

Some still hold to the tradition of having separate dining times, while others have gone to ‘anytime dining’ – or a combination of both.

Of course, then there’s the ‘value-added’ options .. a standard dining room where meals are incorporated into the fare, but specialty restaurants where (for an extra fee) you get something spesh!

Typical of the ‘specialty’ restaurants is the Kai Sushi on the Sun Princess – or the Salt Grill on the Pacific Dawn.20150928_213803

The ‘a la carte’ option makes sense, in a way – because many passengers prefer to pick and choose their options and don’t want to pay for things they don’t use.

But other passengers hate the add-on costs, feeling they are being ‘nickel-and-dimed’ at every turn. How you feel about it is something only you can know.

Other changes that depend on individual cruise lines cover things like: formal-dress-only in dining rooms vs smart casual.

gra chefIt’s been my experience that on mid-price cruises (including those that sail out of Australia) the dining room is much more likely to be ‘resort smart’ than formal – even on ‘formal’ nights.

Most men, for example, will opt for a lounge suit on formal nights rather than a tux – and few women have full-blown cocktail dresses or evening gowns – especially if they have to fly to the departure port!

There are also theme nights  although these are more often observed sparingly, if at all these days – I was one of only about half a dozen people who wore fancy dress on an MSC cruise earlier this year. I have to say – the stewards all thought it was great, but I got some very strange looks from the other passengers. Can’t figure out why!

Anyway .. cruise lines have also gone from just a few, simple amenities, like shuffleboard, to an ever-increasing number depending on the size of the ship.

This includes casinos, spas, retail shops, swimming pools, libraries, pool tables, and the list goes on.

Each of these amenities were added in an attempt to attract and entertain a wider variety of passengers.

Particularly in the past decade or so, the largest ships contain ever-more ‘exotic’ amenities from ice-skating rinks to artificial surf to giant gimbals that lift passengers up into the air above their superstructure, and provide dizzying vistas from their eyries .. (yes, I’m looking at you, Quantum of the seas!)

titanic v modern cruise shipOh – and just how large are those ‘largest ships’? Well, The two largest cruise ships today are owned by Royal Caribbean International: the Allure of the Seas and its sister ship, Oasis of the Seas.

Just how big are they? The average ship to sail from my home port, Brisbane, is around 2000 passengers (that’s the typical load on the Sun Princess, the Pacific Dawn and the soon-to-be-stationed Legend of the Seas.)

Let’s compare those to the Allure and the Oasis. They can carry three times the passengers , are three times the tonnage,  are twice as wide, 100 metres longer,  and almost 20 metres taller.

Yup – they are big beasties!

I haven’t had a chance to travel on any of the big vessels – but I suspect we will, at least once, just to see what they are like.

I’d also love to try a small-ship cruise – especially on a specialty vessel like the WindSurf .. but don’t know when that will happen.

What are your faves? Do you have a preference for small / medium / large ships? for ocean / river cruising?  Let us know, in the box below – I’d really like to hear from you!

CORRECTION. An earlier version of this blog post erroneously stated that the Legend of the Seas carried a maximum of 3000 passengers. This is incorrect.

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