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Chapter 6 The pre-, post-, and off-ship cruise experience.

After reading this chapter, you'll be able to

* Categorize various types of precruise and postcruise options

* Describe how shore excursions enhance a cruise

* Explain how a cruise experience is perceived differently according to client types

As we've seen, what passengers can experience on a cruise ship is varied and impressive. Indeed, "cruises to nowhere," transoceanic voyages, and repositioning cruises manage to keep guests quite busy.

However, on most cruises, what takes place on shore is often crucial to the passenger's vacation. These port experiences can be divided into three categories: precruise, intermediary port stops, and postcruise.

Precruise Packages

Sometimes clients will travel to their cruise embarkation point and go directly to the ship. Often, though, they'll spend a day or more exploring the port. The simplest of precruise experiences is the air/sea package. Usually through a travel agent, the passenger will purchase air, the airport-to-dock transfer, and perhaps lodging. The package can be obtained either from the cruise line itself, or it can be arranged independently, component by component (e.g., the travel agent will book the flight, transfers, and hotel separately).

What are the advantages--both to the client and the agent--of purchasing a pre-or postcruise package through the cruise line?

* One phone call or computer transaction can set up the whole package.

* The agent will probably receive a commission on the air portion--not likely if it were booked through the airline.

* Some or all transfers (e.g., airport-to-pier, hotel-to-pier, etc.) may be included in the package price. This could be quite valuable: In some cities a taxi from the airport to the city or pier costs over $50 one-way.

* The cruise line's air deviation desk personnel (flight specialists accessed by telephone) and meet-and-greet staff are there to help out if a problem occurs.

* Air and/or lodging rates may be lower via the cruise line, or the flight may even be included in the cruise package price. (This latter arrangement, once common, has become increasingly rare.)

There can be some advantages, as well, to arranging the precruise experience directly with non-cruise-line suppliers.

* The selection of airlines and flights may be better.

* The airfares may be lower than those offered by the cruise lines. (This is a case-by-case situation.)

One common misconception: If a passenger misses his or her cruise line-arranged connection to the ship (e.g., a flight is late or canceled), the cruise line will obtain, at no extra cost, a later flight that will connect to the ship's next port of call. This is only sometimes true. The cruise line's personnel will do all that they can with the airline to solve the problem. Ultimately, though, it's the airline's decision. More often than not, no matter how much the cruise line pleads, the airline will charge the passenger for the extra flight to the next port of call.

This is why it's so important for a cruise client to take travel insurance (and for a travel agent to offer it). For a relatively reasonable fee, a cruiser can purchase insurance that will reimburse costs due to such things as

* Trip cancellation, delay, or interruption

* Lost or stolen luggage

* Medical expenses for accident or sickness incurred onboard or overseas (including emergency transfer from the ship)

[ILLUSTRATION OMITTED]

Both cruise lines and independent insurers offer travel insurance. Since problems may well go beyond an individual's or a cruise line's ability to resolve them without incurring cost, travel insurance is a very wise investment. However, since insurance benefits, conditions, exclusions, and coverage are complicated and change constantly, it's important to clarify your options and make careful comparisons before deciding which provider to buy from.

Cruise Itineraries

As you learned in Chapter 1, two major itinerary types exist: round-trip or circle (the vessel leaves from and returns to the same port), and one-way (the cruise begins at one port and finishes at another).

Round-trip itineraries tend to predominate at mass-market destinations like the Caribbean. How a one-way itinerary is used, however, differs. Cruise lines that serve mass-market customers and destinations will use a one-way itinerary when logistics dictate that they should. For example, a round-trip Vancouver-Anchorage-Vancouver voyage would be very long and/or require too many days at sea. More manageable is a Vancouver-Anchorage one-way itinerary, followed by an Anchorage-Vancouver voyage carrying a whole new set of passengers.
FIGURE 6-1 Marrying aboard ship

An increasingly popular precruise option is the wedding package.
Thousands of marriages take place aboard ship each year. A common
pattern: The ceremony and reception take place on the ship prior to
departure--that way guests can attend. After they disembark, the ship
departs, and the couple sails off on their honeymoon.


Some lines--upscale ones, primarily--favor another type of one-way pattern. They will offer, say, a seven-day Lisbon-Morocco-Gibraltar-Barcelona itinerary, followed by another seven-day itinerary that goes from Barcelona to the Balearic Islands, Corsica, and finish at Rome's port. They may then operate a five-day cruise around Italy to Greece. (If you have trouble picturing this, see the maps on pages 104 and 106.)

Why do they do this? First, it permits vacationers to combine voyages, creating their own extended itinerary. (Sometimes the cruise line offers them a discount on the subsequent cruise.) Also, it might be hard for the cruise lines to fill their ships with repeating itineraries, back-to-back, over a season, like mass-market ships do. Some lines even permit passengers to begin and end their cruises at whichever port they want, creating an even more customized itinerary.

Intermediary Port Stops and Shore Excursions

As you've no doubt concluded, most ships call on several ports as part of their sailing itineraries. When passengers arrive at each intermediate place visited, they have four options:

1. They may purchase a shore excursion through the cruise line. The advantages: The quality of the shore excursion provider has been preassessed by the cruise line; buying excursions onboard, before arriving at the port, is convenient and easy; the excursion takes into consideration ship meal and departure times; usually a ship employee accompanies the group; if something goes wrong and a delay occurs, the ship will almost certainly wait for the excursion group's return before departing.

2. They may buy a tour or activity (e.g., a dive package) from vendors who usually await them at or near the dock. They may be transported via a motorcoach, van, taxi, or even a private car. Private excursions by bus are often a little less expensive, but there are two problems: There's almost no way to preassess the quality of the offering. Also, as indicated earlier, if the tour gets back to the ship late, the ship may have already left.

3. They may simply explore the port and its environs on their own. They can stroll a picturesque street, do some shopping, and engage in whatever else pleases them. For their reference, the cruise line or travel agent may provide a map of the port. Passengers can even go back to the ship for lunch, then return to the port for the afternoon.

4. They may elect to stay onboard to relax, get some sun, and feel like they have the ship almost all to themselves (e.g., there's little problem getting a spa appointment or having easy access to health club equipment). A common reason to stay onboard at a port: The passenger has already visited the port, in-depth, before. (For a breakdown of what cruisers do while in port, see Figure 6-2.)

[FIGURE 6-2 OMITTED]

In a few rare cases, some or all of the shore excursions are included in the cruise price. Most often, though, passengers buy them from the cruise line. Occasionally, this can be done in advance of sailing but is more commonly done onboard ship by

* Filling out a form that's in the stateroom upon check-in and then turning it in at the shore excursion desk (usually near the purser's office)

* Buying it at the shore excursion desk during its open hours (there may be a waiting line, especially on the first day) or from a concierge (for passengers on an all-suite concierge level)

* On some ships, purchasing it interactively via the in-room TV

Passengers find out about the content of each shore excursion through literature sent in advance of the sailing, in-cabin brochures, video presentations, port talks (usually held the day before arrival at each port), and/or the onboard cruise orientation meeting (which, like the port talks, will be televised into staterooms live and repeated during the day). Shore excursion personnel onboard the ship are also quite happy to counsel passengers individually on which port experiences might be best for them.

Categories of Shore Excursions

Shore excursions come in every size, shape, and theme. They can be divided into three broad categories:

1. Sightseeing excursions. A group of people on a motorcoach--is this what sightseeing is all about? Not always. You could take a train from Skagway through the White Pass and Yukon Route. You might take an Atlantis Submarine ride down to view Bahamian coral reefs, or perhaps a seaplane over New Zealand's fjords and icefields. Even a walking tour of New Orleans's Vieux Carre qualifies.

2. Sports excursions. Golf, tennis, sailing, snorkeling--you name the activity, and if it can be done at a particular port, there's probably a shore excursion that will make it possible.

3. Miscellaneous excursions. Shore excursions may take you to a faraway beach (e.g., Virgin Gorda's The Baths), to a legendary shopping area (e.g., Beverly Hills's Rodeo Drive), or to a world-class museum (e.g., St. Petersburg's Hermitage).

[ILLUSTRATION OMITTED]

For more examples of shore excursion options, see Figures 6-3 and 6-4.

Veteran cruisers are especially savvy about shore excursions. Here are a few things they--and you--should know:

* Since ships often arrive at a port early in the morning and leave around dinner time, it's often possible to take two shore excursions in one day.

* Shore excursions that include a meal often represent an especially good value.

* Sometimes hundreds of people sign up for the same shore excursion, and a half-dozen buses will be waiting for them near the dock. The earlier you disembark, the easier it will be to take the first coach to depart and return--leaving you more time later in the day. Also, cruise ships don't always tie up at the dock. Because of the ship's draft and the harbor's depth, a ship may need to stay offshore and transfer passengers via small boat tenders. (This is call tendering.) Again, if you can take one of the first tenders out, you'll have more time later in the day.

* The larger the ship, the more shore excursion choices are likely to be available. Indeed, some see this as an advantage of a larger vessel.

* Certain cruise lines are very destination focused. Expect them to offer more ports on an itinerary and more shore excursions (or a few very unique shore excursions) at each port. Other lines put great emphasis on the onboard cruise experience, less on the ports. Some manage to do both.

* Independent concessioners usually operate shore excursions. Cruise lines do all they can to select quality excursion operators--after all, it reflects on their reputation. In some places (especially in Alaska) the cruise line may actually own the local tour operation, assuring even greater quality control.

[FIGURE 6-3 OMITTED]

[FIGURE 6-4 OMITTED]

Postcruise Packages

Postcruise packages are exactly like precruise ones. They're sold the same way. They represent the same possible components, options, and experiences. Some passengers prefer to do a package before their cruise, others after, still others before and after. (Most people, however, don't schedule any at all. They just fly to the port on the day of departure and fly out the day the ship returns.)

One issue that does sometimes come up: If a vacationer wants to expand the trip beyond the cruise but time constraints permit only one add-on package (pre-or post-), which should it be? Usually the precruise package is preferable, since it helps guard against a delayed or canceled flight leading to a missed cruise departure. If a flight after the cruise is delayed or canceled, it simply means that the passenger will get home later, which usually is less troublesome than missing the cruise departure.

We've just described only the simplest of packages. Some are complex, lasting for several days or even exceeding the length of the cruise. This sort of package is often called a cruise-tour. For an example of a 14-day cruise-tour of Canada and Alaska, see Figure 6-5.
FIGURE 6-5 A Canada/Alaska cruise-tour

DAY 1 Sail from Vancouver
DAY 2 At sea
DAY 3 Ketchikan, Alaska
DAY 4 Juneau, Alaska
DAY 5 Skagway, Alaska
DAY 6 Glacier Bay Cruising, Alaska
DAY 7 College Fjord Cruising, Alaska
DAY 8 Seward (Anchorage), Alaska
DAY 8 Motorcoach from Seward to Anchorage and spend the afternoon at
      leisure. Hotel accommodations in Anchorage.
DAY 9 Spend the morning sightseeing at the Alaska Native Heritage
      Center and then have an afternoon at leisure. Enjoy another
      evening in Anchorage.
DAY 10 Ride the Midnight Sun Express to Talkeetna. Motorcoach to the
       Mt. McKinley Princess Lodge for an afternoon at leisure and
       overnight stay.
DAY 11 Spend the day at leisure. Relax or choose from a variety of
       optional excursions.
DAY 12 Motorcoach from McKinley to Talkeetna and board the Midnight
       Sun Express to Denali. Enjoy a natural history tour into the
       park. Then, continue by rail to Fairbanks for the night.
DAY 13 Cruise an authentic sternwheeler down the Chena and Tanana
       rivers followed by a tour to the El Dorado Gold Mine. Evening
       at leisure in Fairbanks.
DAY 14 Your cruise-tour ends in Fairbanks.

Source: Princess Cruises


Port Experiences and Client Types

In Chapter 3 we briefly mentioned that the ship and port experience is very much perceived according to the passenger's likes and dislikes.

For example, families are strongly attracted to cruising because they're value conscious and time pressed. Cruises solve their needs nicely. Some lines feature special kids' menus (see Figure 6-6). Others offer an "endless soda" option--the child can have as many sodas as he or she wants for one reasonable price. A few lines provide children with their own daily newspaper. Several have a "kids-only" pool. Some cruise lines even go so far as to offer a full children's program, with a wide variety of special activities, each divided into several age-appropriate groups, and supervised by trained counselors. (See Figure 6-7 for examples.) A few even have staff dressed as cartoon characters onboard. All these features leave time for mom and dad to relax together while still having loads of time to be with their children.

But what about port time? Parents usually select itineraries and ports that satisfy the goals they've set for themselves and their children. Want them to have fun? An itinerary out of Port Canaveral that features a pre-or postcruise experience in Orlando is an obvious choice. How about children getting in touch with nature? Then Alaska's ports of call are ideal. Is the child about to study European history? A cruise among the islands of the Mediterranean would be a powerful, real-life motivator to academic success.

[FIGURE 6-6 OMITTED]
FIGURE 6-7 Examples of kids' activities

* "Kids-only" shore excursions

* Ping-pong tournaments

* "Coke-tail" poolside parties

* Nintendo competitions

* "Parents-not-allowed" movies

* Special tours of the ship

* Camp nights, where kids sing around a "campfire," listen to stories,
  and make s'mores (but don't get to sleep in tents!)

* Puppet workshops

* Beach parties

* Face-painting competitions

* Entertainment and performance programs

* Classes of all kinds: photography, computers, musical instruments,
  and more


Indeed, port experiences can take altogether different shapes, depending on the client's profile. Let's say a ship visits Cancun. (It will actually dock at Playa del Carmen, about 40 miles away.) A culture-seeker may devote the entire day to visiting the magnificent Mayan ruins at Chichen Itza. A diver, on the other hand, may spend his time exploring the waters off Cozumel. Ashopper will head straight for Cancun's hotel zone. A golfer will want to play Cancun's Poktapok course. And someone into fishing may want to deep-sea fish near Cancun or even at Isla Mujeres. Same port. Totally different experiences, depending on the client's interests.

One final but important topic: cruise travel for the physically challenged. As a result of the cruise lines' sensitivity to this issue and the nature of the cruise experience itself, many disabled travelers feel that cruising is the way to travel. Most modern vessels are fully accessible to the handicapped, with specially equipped staterooms and maybe even a staff member or two onboard who specializes in the diverse needs of the physically challenged. Most cruise lines request that a physically challenged person be accompanied by an "able-bodied" companion.

But what of the port experience? Some places, like Scandinavia, are especially sensitive to providing full accessibility for all people. Others (often underdeveloped countries) may provide a challenge to the disabled. Or if tendering between port and ship is required, it may be difficult for the physically challenged passenger to get to shore.

How, then, can the physically challenged maximize their enjoyment of a cruise? First, someone who is disabled should ask his or her travel agent to determine a ship's accessibility. (Both consumer and trade reference publications cover this thoroughly.) The agent will also find out if the line offers or can specially arrange a shore excursion customized to the client's needs and if tendering situations will occur. Finally, many physically challenged travelers book with a cruise tour group made up entirely of physically challenged people, with tour directors who specialize in this market.

[ILLUSTRATION OMITTED]

Another important point: Some travel agencies and tour operators are especially knowledgeable in arranging travel for the physically challenged. They may know the answers to these, and other questions, through their extensive experience.

Questions for Discussion

1. What are the advantages of booking a pre-or postcruise package through the cruise line? What are the potential disadvantages?

2. What are the three options that a passenger has when disembarking at an intermediate port?

3. List five things a passenger should know about a shore excursion.

Activity

Study the two lists of shore excursions given on pages 83-84. If you could pick two from the Caribbean list and one from the Mediterranean list, which would they be and why? Give and explain your answers below.

Caribbean

Shore excursion #1:

Reason:

Shore excursion #2:

Reason:

Mediterranean

Shore excursion #1:

Reason:

Marc Mancini, Ph.D.

Professor of Travel

West Los Angeles College
Bonus Activity

In this chapter and others, we've emphasized (and we will again)
how a cruise can satisfy a number of different client types.
Which type would you be? What would you most want out of a
cruise? Here's a quick quiz that will help you find out. The higher
your score, the closer you are to that client profile.

For each item, circle the degree to which you agree with the
following statements.

   5                4                 3              2          1
Strongly                            Somewhat     Agree very
 agree            Agree               agree        little     Disagree

The Active Vacationer

On vacation, I like to choose from a wide range      5   4   3   2   1
of activities, from shopping to sunning.

I like participating in sports, such as              5   4   3   2   1
volleyball, racquetball, and basketball.

I'm a regular exerciser and like to keep up with     5   4   3   2   1
it on vacation.

I'd be lost without my treadmill or stairclimber.    5   4   3   2   1

I'm interested in scuba diving or snorkeling.        5   4   3   2   1

Active Vacationer Total Score:                       --

The Adventurous Vacationer

Visiting the world's capitals and seeing all the     5   4   3   2   1
sites is something I've always wanted to do.

I like to visit places off the beaten track and      5   4   3   2   1
see unusual things.

I've often thought it would be exciting to walk      5   4   3   2   1
on a glacier, climb a mountain, or explore a
volcano.

Flight-seeing over exotic islands is my kind of      5   4   3   2   1
fun.

I enjoy getting close to nature and wildlife.        5   4   3   2   1

Adventurous Vacationer Total Score:                  --

The Romantic Vacationer

I like romantic dinners, dancing under the stars,    5   4   3   2   1
and a show every night.

I like doing new things with a "special someone."    5   4   3   2   1
I like to make new friends on vacation.              5   4   3   2   1

A breathtaking view, a stroll under a full moon,     5   4   3   2   1
and a quiet place to talk sound sublime.

I want our first vacation together to be             5   4   3   2   1
something special.

Romantic Vacationer Total Score:                     --

The Quick-Getaway Vacationer

I like to take several minivacations each year.      5   4   3   2   1

If I have a long weekend coming up, I want to        5   4   3   2   1
make the most of it.

I try to sample as much as I can and visit a         5   4   3   2   1
variety of destinations, even though my vacation
time is limited.

When I take a short vacation, I want to be wined     5   4   3   2   1
and dined, and I'd like to meet as many new
people as possible.

It's hard for me to get away for long periods of     5   4   3   2   1
time.

Quick-Getaway Vacationer Total Score:

The Family Vacationer

My spouse and I work and never seem to have          5   4   3   2   1
enough time to spend with the children.

Even though we have different interests,             5   4   3   2   1
our family enjoys vacationing together.

With a teenager, an eight-year-old, and a            5   4   3   2   1
toddler, our family needs four vacations in one.

We need a restaurant that satisfies all our          5   4   3   2   1
family's tastes-from burgers to continental.

We're planning a family reunion and are looking      5   4   3   2   1
for a setting that will please Grandma as well as
Johnnie.

Family Vacationer Total Score:                       --

The Affinity/Special-Interest Vacationer

I like to have a focus to my vacation.               5   4   3   2   1

When I'm on vacation, I enjoy meeting people         5   4   3   2   1
with interests that are similar to mine.

Learning something new can be as rejuvenating        5   4   3   2   1
as relaxing by the pool.

I have a passion for--(fill in your special          5   4   3   2   1
interest) and like to pursue it on vacation.

Rubbing elbows with a celebrity adds spice to        5   4   3   2   1
my vacation.

Affinity Vacationer Total Score:

The Single Vacationer

When traveling alone, I enjoy being introduced       5   4   3   2   1
to other singles.

I like meeting other singles in a relaxed and        5   4   3   2   1
comfortable setting.

I prefer to share expenses with another single,      5   4   3   2   1
so I need a vacation spot that will arrange this
for me.

I'm a night owl and am looking for a lively          5   4   3   2   1
crowd.

My dream vacation is one that offers ready-made      5   4   3   2   1
bridge, golf, and dinner and dancing partners.

Single Vacationer Total Score:

The Sophisticated Vacationer

When I go on vacation, I demand the very best.       5   4   3   2   1

I've traveled the world on business, and now I'm     5   4   3   2   1
looking for a special way to revisit my favorite
places.

I usually stay in a suite when I travel.             5   4   3   2   1

World-class cuisine and impeccable service are       5   4   3   2   1
important to me.

The more exotic the destination, the more I          5   4   3   2   1
like it.

Sophisticated Vacationer Total Score:
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Author:Mancini, Marc
Publication:Cruising, A Guide to the Cruise Line Industry, 2nd ed.
Date:Jan 1, 2004
Words:3946
Previous Article:Chapter 5 Who's who in cruising.
Next Article:Chapter 7 The geography of cruising.
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