Living on a Really Expensive Boat

from the see-the-world-on-pennies-a-day.-a-LOT-of-pennies. dept.

From Rohirrim, via Natrooski’s TV-viewing habit, comes one of those stories I’d be much more up on if I only stared at the tube more often: life aboard The World, a mega-luxurious cruise-ship-cum-floating-home. You can buy a decent-sized residence aboard the ship for somewhere between $2.5 million and $7.5 million, or, if you’re tight for cash, you can rent for $2K to $4K per day. I’ve never been one to obsess about the lifestyles of the rich and famous, but browsing through the descriptions of the amenities on this thing, I confess I found myself boggling at the thought of what life aboard her must actually be like.

One Response to “Living on a Really Expensive Boat”

  1. ivan hild Says:

    Dear sir;


    I would argue that most cruise ship experiences, when all is said and done, are not worth the time or money involved. By this I am not singling out any particular cruise line. Nor am I claiming that each and every cruise line offers only a bad experience. What I am saying is that virtually all middle class cruises, which, after all, make up the bulk of cruise activity, are not what they are cracked up to be, particularly as they are depicted in cruise line brochures. The ships may be newish and mammoth-sized (in some cases, almost three times the size of the ill-fated Titanic), but the huge number of passengers carried (often in excess of 2,000) are normally shoe-horned into claustrophobicly small cabins, are given only the most mundane of food (the word gourmet should be stricken from the cruise brochure lexicon), and are entertained by stage performers whose talents recall Major Bowes Original Amateur Hour. Let�s start, however, with the ship�s cabin. In the middle class range, cabins usually run between 140 and 175 square ft. To visualize that size, imagine the garage space taken up by a full-sized car and two or three bicycles. That�s it. And that even includes a tiny bathroom and one tiny closet. In such cramped quarters, beds are necessarily small and often have only the thinnest and least comfortable of mattresses. Because all newer cruise ships are completely air-conditioned, steel walls seal out the fresh air as well as cut off most views of the water. And the public rooms of such ships are usually so gaudily decorated that they bring to mind images of Las Vegas gambling hotels.

    The Caribbean Cruise

    The most popular itinerary for a middle class cruise is the Caribbean. On some cruises, as many as five Caribbean islands are visited in a seven-day sailing. (In truth, a seven-day sailing usually turns out to be a six-day sailing, but why quibble?) Passengers learn that most Caribbean islands are virtually identical: two or three seedy towns separated by a small mountain range over which, for an outrageous price, a taxi will transport the traveler. Most island people who cater to the cruise ship trade are virulently anti-white and provide only the most mediocre service for which they expect a healthy tip. And the island shops that sell jewelry, cameras, and clothing invariably charge sky-high prices. Caveat Emptor.

    The Scandinavian Cruise

    If one contemplates a European cruise adventure, things become even more problematic. Take, for example, a summertime cruise that stops at the Scandinavia ports of Stockholm, Gothenburg, Copenhagen, Oslo, or Helsinki. For such places, a cruise ship�s itinerary will normally allocate only a few hours � not enough by far to experience the true flavor of a typical Scandinavian city. Because the territory between such cities is almost as interesting as the cities themselves, the best way to see Scandinavia is by train or rental car. Scandinavian trains deposit passengers smack in the middle of all major cities and rental cars (dirt cheap if reserved in the States) provide a maximum of traveling flexibility. Scandinavian roads, largely uncrowded and posted with clear directional signs, are among the best in the world. When it comes to making a water transit, say from Stockholm to Helsinki, modern automobile ferry boats provide all the necessary conveniences and comforts that a traveler might desire (restaurants, casinos, and even individual cabins for overnight sailings), and all at a price less than half that charged by cruise ships. And because the ferry boat is the way most Europeans travel through Scandinavia, a side benefit becomes the opportunity to meet the locals on their own terms. In sum, by looking beyond the bogus blandishments of cruise ship advertising, the traveler obtains the proverbial more for less.

    The Price of a Cruise

    Much is made of the low fares currently being offered by cruise lines, the result of a momentary confluence of soft demand and expanded supply of cruise ship cabins. Indeed, today it is possible to purchase a ticket on a middle class cruise ship for $900 or less. However, to that must be added $300 or so for a round trip air ticket from the traveler�s home town to the ship�s port of embarkation, another $300 to cover the cost of touring those five Caribbean islands, $150 more to pay for shipboard purchases not covered by the cruise ship ticket, and perhaps $100 for that end-of-cruise ritual known as Tipping the Staff. All told, a seven-day cruise will cost an estimated $1,750 per person or $3,500 per couple or $500 per couple per day. Compare that to the daily cost of a first-class land-side resort that offers rooms at least five times the size of a cruise ship�s cabin, superior food, swimming pools that are Olympic-, not matchbox-sized, a service staff that is professionally trained, and a hotel d�cor that usually approaches something resembling good taste.

    Cruise Ship Advertising

    The most objectionable aspect of the cruise ship business is its fraudulent advertising. Annually, the industry spends hundreds of millions of dollars creating in the minds of potential customers the impression that a cruise ship provides a higher plateau of living. Cooperating in this bit of deception are newspaper and magazine travel writers who are motivated by little more than their editors� lust for the cruise ship advertising business. And added to that are the armies of cruise ship travel agents who, though many have never seen a cruise ship, are ready and willing to pass along the swollen depictions of the cruise experience concocted by the cruise line public relations department. For first-time passengers, therefore, the only information available about the anticipated cruise of their choice are distorted visions of contented couples lounging before almost-vacant shipboard swimming pools, sumptuous dinners-by-candlelight with European waiters attentively hovering nearby, and enchanted strolls through romantic ports-of-call.

    Partisans of Cruise Ship Travel

    Despite the shortcomings of middle class cruising, there remains out there a clientele seemingly devoted to the cruise ship experience if one can believe the extravagant descriptions found in letters to the editor of most travel magazines and the Rating the Cruise Ships section of many cruise ship internet websites. In these correspondences, one learns how a certain cruise ship missed the mark on minor issues (that surely will be corrected by the next sailing), but delivered all the right goods when it comes to the big matters, and to the point where the latest sailing episode ranks for these folk as the greatest experience of their lives. To this end, we must extend our sympathy for a life inadequately lived. Indeed, the cruise ship has its place, particularly for couples forbearing enough to forgive the thousand little lies that make up the cruise ship pitch. For those who demand a correspondence between what is promised and what is delivered, however, the experience may not be so pleasant.

    Ivan Hild
    September 26, 2004

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