Chapter 1 Introduction.
* Define the term cruise
* Explain the history of cruising and how it affects today's cruise vacation experience
* Describe the contemporary cruise experience
* Distinguish among different types of itineraries
When historians of the future look back to the way people of our time traveled, they'll almost certainly zero in on one remarkable phenomenon--the success of cruising. They'll cite the fact that the number of people who took a cruise vacation increased by about 10% each year--a growth unmatched by any other segment of the travel industry. They'll note that the vast majority of cruisers said that they were very satisfied with the cruise experience. They'll marvel at the great, graceful vessels--both large and small--that carried just about every kind of person--married, single, young, old, wealthy or just getting by--to virtually every place on the globe. And, most of all, they'll be astonished by the level of service and spectrum of activities--both on and off the ship--that these passengers enjoyed. Once people have been on a cruise, they rate it higher than other types of vacations--and find the experience better than they thought it would be. (See Figure 1-1.)
We live in exciting times, when more and more people discover how truly wonderful a cruise vacation can be. And as a member--or a potential member--of the vast travel community that makes such cruise dreams come true, you should justifiably be proud.
As important as the present and future of cruising is, however, you should also know a little about its past. The cruise industry's genealogy is important. And it's a fascinating tale indeed.
Definitions and Beginnings
Before exploring cruising's ancestry, how about the definition of cruising? A cruise is a vacation trip by ship. It's that simple. This definition excludes traveling by water for purely business purposes (e.g., cargo ships), sailing on one's own small pleasure craft, or travel on a vessel for primarily transportational purposes (e.g., a short ferry ride). A cruise is primarily a leisure vacation experience, with the ship's staff doing all the work. Some cruise ships also transport cargo, and all of them carry people from place to place. But at the core of cruising--from the perspective of the traveler--is the desire to relax, to get away from it all, to experience, to learn, to be pampered, and to have fun. Today that almost always takes place on a vessel custom-built to satisfy these goals, though it can also take place on a freighter, a ferrylike ship, or during a transatlantic sailing. So long as the emphasis is on the passenger's desire to have a great time, it's cruising.
And that's exactly what was going on in ancient times, to a limited extent, in the Mediterranean. Of course, ships sailed this legendary sea mostly for practical reasons: exploration, commerce, migration, and warfare. But there were always a few hardy souls who came aboard just to experience the far-flung ports that these vessels visited, the most famous being Herodotus, who during his sailing compiled a list of the most interesting manmade things he saw. Today we call them the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World (see Figure 1-2). And there's a reason he did it: to provide other pleasure travelers of his time with a sort of guidebook to where to go and what to see. And like him, most of them did it by boat.
After about A.D. 500, "leisure" travel virtually disappeared. Certainly, some awesome seagoing trips took place (e.g., people from Tahiti sailed 2,000 miles to Hawaii, the Vikings reached North America, and controversial evidence exists that the ancient Chinese crossed the Pacific all the way to California). But these and other sailings were to explore, to trade, to conquer, or to settle. "Tourists" aboard these ships were a rarity. Pleasure was only an afterthought.
FIGURE 1-2 The Seven Wonders of the Ancient World * The Pyramids (Giza, Egypt) * The Hanging Gardens of Babylon (near Baghdad, Iraq) * The Statue of Zeus at Olympia (Greece) * The Temple of Diana at Ephesus (Turkey) * The Mausoleum (Helicarnassus, Turkey) * The Colossus (Rhodes) * The Pharos Lighthouse (Alexandria, Egypt)
The Arrival of Leisure Sailing
In the 1800s, shipping companies rediscovered that they could increase their profits by booking passengers aboard their merchant ships. A few of these travelers were wealthy patrons looking for adventure in faraway lands. Most of the others were relatively poor people looking for a new place to live.
Eventually, shipping companies began building vessels ("steamships," they were called) whose primary purpose was to transport people, not cargo. Technology helped make it possible, as wooden ships with sails were replaced by steel-hulled vessels that were driven by coal, oil, and steam--not wind. (The early steel ships also had sail riggings, which were only there to reassure passengers.) These transports became larger and larger, with names like Aquitania, Leviathan, and, yes, Titanic. Surprisingly, a few of the "steamship" companies that built the great turn-of-the-century vessels are still around today: Cunard, P&O, and Holland America.
Ocean liners were among the most astonishing creations to appear in the early 1900s. Their exteriors were majestic and boastful, their interiors as lavish as the great hotels of Europe--or at least parts of them were.
The major purpose of the ocean liner of those times was to carry immigrants, not the well-to-do. That was where most of the money was made. Ships were usually divided into two or three "classes." In first class were the wealthy; second class accommodated people of modest but sufficient means; third class, or "steerage," was for the masses. On any given sailing, there might be 100 passengers in first, 100 in second, and 2,000 in third.
The contrast between first class and steerage was striking. In first class, passengers dined in elegant surroundings, were entertained by tuxedoed musicians, and slept in the poshest of staterooms. (Though there's controversy about this, the word posh is said to come from the words Port Out, Starboard Home, which described the best side of the ship to have your cabin on when sailing between England and India.) In steerage, passengers ate soup and boiled potatoes, were entertained by their fellow passengers, and slept in vast dormitories on cots bunked two or three high. Nowhere on the ship were the two groups allowed to mix.
Yet these steerage passengers were so important to profitability that steamship lines actually designed their ship exteriors to appeal to immigrant beliefs. For example, steerage passengers would arrive at a port, dragging their ample baggage along, with no idea which ship they would take. They believed, naively, that the quality of a vessel could be judged by its number of smokestacks. So the steamship lines would often put extra funnels atop their ships--funnels that had absolutely no function except to attract passengers.
This sort of travel seems alien to us today. But consider this: About one out of four North Americans has at least one ancestor who arrived via one of these ships. There's a good chance, then, that you wouldn't be here if it weren't for an ocean liner.
The Luxury Palaces
During World War I most ocean-crossing vessels were converted into troop transport ships. After the war they were joined by a new generation of ships: bigger, sleeker, and, above all, faster. Speed became the most important goal. Indeed, something called the Blue Riband was awarded regularly to whichever ship could cross the North Atlantic in the least amount of time. Transportation, not "cruising," continued to be what passenger ships were mostly about.
During the 1920s and 1930s, though, ocean liners did begin to provide more entertainment, attract more of the middle class, and provide much of the pampering we associate today with cruising. Even the Depression failed to dent the business. A key reason: During Prohibition, just about the only place for an American to drink liquor was on the high seas. (Onboard casinos, however, were still a rarity.) Being on an ocean liner became a fashionable thing. Newspapers regularly touted the names of celebrities who were sailing on ships.
Ships continued to become larger, with their costs often subsidized by governments. Nations used ocean liners as symbols of their prosperity, taste, and might. The Queen Mary--now an attraction in Long Beach, California--was Britain's pride, while the France--now the Norway--was everything French achievement could be. These ships were huge, floating cities, every bit as big as many of today's cruise vessels.
The Birth of Contemporary Cruising
Though plenty might be going on aboard ship, it would be wrong to call transoceanic crossings "cruising," as we know of cruising today. The primary purpose was transportation, with no intermediate stops to see what was along the way. But even in the early 1900s, a few (usually smaller) steamship lines devised a product that was closer to a "cruise." During winter (when ocean crossings were least popular), they would concede the transatlantic business to their bigger competitors and "reposition" their ships to warmer places, like the Caribbean. (It was a nice way to avoid icebergs, too.) The experience--often called an excursion--became purely leisure. People would book a cruise to visit a series of exotic ports, to profit from the "health benefits" of bracing sea air, and to do interesting things while onboard their ship. Even a few around-the-world cruises appeared.
This vacation cruise business was a minor one--transoceanic transportation still dominated--until June 1958. During that month, airlines started the first commercial jet service across the Atlantic. Ocean crossings became a matter of hours, not days. And the cruise lines were instantly in trouble.
People bound for another continent suddenly found ships to be a slow, boring option. Within one year, more people were crossing the Atlantic by air than by sea. Only those who feared air travel or were looking for a very leisurely, away-from-the-ordinary experience continued to book transoceanic crossings. The joke was that ocean liners were only for "the newly wed and the nearly dead." Though they continued to sell their ships as transoceanic transportation, steamship lines--or at least some of them--concluded that they had to rethink their business dramatically. Crossings diminished, and cruising was in.
Modern Cruising Develops
Those smaller ships cruising the Caribbean became the business model nearly every company pursued. Let's think of ships as floating resorts, they said, that offer pleasurable activities, great food, superb service, and--yes--convenient, no-packing-and-unpacking transportation from place to place. The Blue Riband no longer resonated in the minds of consumers--"fun ships" and "love boats" did.
A few new liners, built primarily for ocean crossings, appeared in the 1960s. There were still enough passengers to justify them, and it was believed that more "modern" vessels would bring the passengers back.
But the emphasis on leisure cruising led to the rapid conversion of many existing ships into cruise vessels. The cruise lines tore out the bulkheads separating the classes, installed air conditioning, expanded pool areas, put in casinos, and converted staid function rooms into discos. Cruising became a major phenomenon, with cruise companies building new ships in the 1970s designed specifically for cruising.
Cruising gained even greater momentum in the 1980s and especially the 1990s. "Megaships" appeared that far exceeded the size and scope of the biggest ocean liners, while smaller super-luxury vessels targeted people who sought the very highest of experiences. There were high-tech masted sailing ships, too, and small expedition vessels that provided "soft" adventures. Massive paddlewheelers once again plied the Mississippi, and one ship, a super-sized catamaran-like vessel, carried over 300 passengers. Soon there was a cruise experience for just about everyone.
Each year millions of travelers choose to cruise. And far more intend to do so soon. One Cruise Lines International Association (CLIA) survey determined that half of all people in Canada and in the United States who are over 25 and who have a household income of at least $20,000 would like to cruise. That represents nearly 70 million potential cruisers.
What are their choices? Many people try out cruising by selecting a short itinerary, such as a three-day Bahamas cruise out of Florida or a four-day journey from Los Angeles to Catalina and Ensenada, Mexico. Some may even sample a one-day "party cruise" before actually taking a multiday sailing.
Cruise factoids * A cruise company typically purchases over $600 million of food and beverages each year. * Mass-market cruise lines spend about $10 per day per passenger for raw foodstuffs. For the most expensive lines, the average is about $40. * On a week-long cruise aboard a large vessel, about 5,000 cases of wine and champagne are used. * Many ship gyms use air-resistance exercise machines. The kind that incorporate actual weights would be too heavy. * A fully equipped ship-based gym and spa costs about a half-million dollars. * One-third to one-half of the people onboard a ship are crew members. * Large cruise ships typically carry $3 million of spare parts. * The typical dining room server makes $25,000 to $30,000 a year in salary and tips (and crew members have few onboard living expenses). * On most cruise lines, the number-one source of revenue onboard is beverage sales (so many places and opportunities to buy). * People who gamble on a ship spend about $10 a day. * In Bermuda, the typical cruise passenger spends $90 while in port. Source: Selling the Sea, Bob Dickinson and Andy Vladimir
Among the more popular itineraries, however, are five- to twelve-day cruises, with seven days being the most common. (In cruise terminology, a Saturday-to-Saturday sailing is called a seven-day cruise, even though eight days are involved in the itinerary. Even more confusing: Since the ship probably leaves Saturday evening and arrives the following Saturday morning, passengers are actually sailing on the ship for six-and-a-half days!)
The ship's agenda can be a round-trip or circle itinerary, with the vessel leaving from and returning to the same port. For example, a ship could sail from Vancouver, head northward through the Alaskan Inside Passage, turn back at, say, Skagway, and return to Vancouver (stopping, of course, at interesting ports along the way).
In other situations, the cruise might start at one port, but finish at another. A ship could leave Vancouver, but finish its trip in Anchorage. This is called a one-way itinerary. In all probability, the vessel would take on a whole new set of passengers in Anchorage and repeat the same itinerary, in reverse, to Vancouver. (For an example of each, see Figure 1-3.)
During the cruise, passengers experience a wealth of onboard activities (e.g., meals, shows, contests, lounging at the pool), which take place primarily on at-sea days (when the ship is traveling a long distance without stopping at any ports). On port days (usually the ship docks early in the morning and leaves in the early evening), passengers have the option of going ashore (most do) or staying on the ship. During most itineraries, port days far outnumber at-sea days.
The cruise experience can extend well beyond the cruise itself. Cruise clients sometimes arrive at the cruise departure port a day or two early and/or stay at the port afterward. Their lodging can be purchased from the cruise line or booked separately. (These are called pre- and post-cruise packages.) In a few cases the cruise line may even bundle and sell pre- and post-cruise hotel stays and at least some sightseeing for one price, as part of a larger cruise experience, or cruise-tour.
For instance, a cruise line could start its cruise-tour in Istanbul, with a two-night stay and one all-day city tour. The cruise itself would then begin, visit several Eastern Mediterranean islands, and finish in Athens, where another two-day hotel stay and city tour await the passengers. The entire experience would be sold at one price (though the option might be available to buy a cruise-only package, at a lower price). Another example: A family could purchase a package that includes, among other things, a three-night stay at an Orlando hotel, several theme park admissions, transfer to Port Canaveral, and a three-day cruise to the Bahamas, with transfer back to Orlando.
And what of flights? Here are three possibilities. Let's say a couple living in New York City wishes to take a cruise that follows a circle itinerary, departing from and returning to New Orleans. Their travel agent could book a flight for them to and from New Orleans. (In airline terminology, a flight to and from the same city is called a round-trip or closed-jaw itinerary.) Or the agent could purchase the flight directly from the cruise line. (The cruise lines contract with the airlines for space and resell that space to passengers.) In a few cases, the flight might even be included in the cruise price, but this is becoming less common.
What if this New York City couple wants to visit the Western Mediterranean? They would fly into, say, Rome, Italy. From Rome's port, their ship would sail westward and finish a week later in Barcelona, Spain. The couple would then fly home from Barcelona. (They could also continue on an extended land vacation in Spain.) When an air itinerary features a return from a different city than the one first flown to, it's called an open-jaw itinerary.
There's a third possible scenario. A couple who resides in New York City decides to take a cruise to and from Bermuda. The cruise begins and ends in New York City, so there's no need for air at all. (This would be booked as a cruise-only trip.)
This discussion of the various shapes a cruise experience can take may have triggered other questions in your mind: What other places do cruises go? How does a typical cruise unfold? What kind of people actually take cruises? All these, and more, will be answered in chapters to come.
Questions for Discussion
1. How did a transoceanic sea voyage differ from a modern cruise?
2. Explain why a seven-day cruise might be viewed as either six, seven, or eight days long.
3. Define the following:
* at-sea day
* port day
* circle itinerary
* one-way itinerary
* closed-jaw itinerary
* open-jaw itinerary
Obtain a brochure from one cruise line. Study it carefully, then answer the questions below: Cruise line: For which year?
Title of the brochure: For which geographic region?
1. Are there any cruises of four days or less? If yes, briefly describe one itinerary.
2. Are there any cruises of seven days or more? If yes, briefly describe one itinerary.
3. Does the cruise line offer pre- or postcruise packages? If yes, give a brief description of one of them.
4. Does the cruise line offer air? If yes, describe how it is offered (e.g., as part of the cruise price? as an "extra" that can be booked separately? anything else?).
5. What is the overall feeling you get about the cruise experiences described in the brochure? Would this be a cruise you would take? Why or why not?
6. If possible, visit this cruise line's Web site. Is the "feeling" you get about the cruise line the same or different from the brochure? What features does it have that the brochure doesn't?
Marc Mancini, Ph.D.
Professor of Travel
West Los Angeles College
FIGURE 1-1 Cruise vacations compared to other vacations Non-cruiser/ Cruisers vacationer perception Fine Dining 67% 81% Chance to visit several different locations 63% 79% Being pampered 66% 78% Relaxing and getting away from it all 55% 77% Being hassle free 46% 76% Being luxurious 64% 74% Being easy to plan and arrange 42% 71% High quality entertainment 53% 69% Good value for the money 31% 69% Variety of activities 42% 68% Source: NFO Plog Research Study Note: Table made from bar graph. FIGURE 1-3 Two possible Alaska itineraries Round-Trip Arrive Depart Day 0 Vancouver 5:00 P.M. Day 1 Cruising the Inside Passage Day 2 Juneau 2:00 P.M. 11:00 P.M. Day 3 Skagway 7:00 P.M. 9:00 P.M. Day 4 Scenic cruising Glacier Bay National Park Day 5 Ketchikan 10:00 A.M. 6:00 P.M. Day 6 Cruising the Inside Passage Day 7 Vancouver 8:00 A.M. One-Way (Northbound) Arrive Depart Arrive Depart Day 0 Vancouver 5:00 P.M. Day 1 Cruising the Inside Passage Day 2 Ketchikan 7:00 A.M. 3:00 P.M. Day 3 Juneau 7:00 A.M. 8:00 P.M. Day 4 Sitka 9:00 A.M. 6:00 P.M. Day 5 Scenic cruising Glacier Bay National Park Day 6 Scenic cruising College Fjord Day 7 Seward (Anchorage) 8:00 A.M. Source: Holland America Line