It’s Hard to Beat Cruises for Value and Experience (Part I)

5 min readMar 12, 2021


Deel cruises part 1

By Dr. Gary L. Deel
Faculty Director, Wallace E. Boston School of Business, American Public University

This is the first article in a two-part series on the superiority of cruise ship vacations over other vacation travel options.

My wife and I both love to travel. We take lots of vacations — or at least we did before the COVID-19 pandemic. And we plan to continue after the vaccines reach worldwide distribution and it’s safe to do so again. One thing we’ve learned through many vacations across many different modalities is that it’s really hard to beat cruises for the overall value and experience.

So in this article, I want to lay out a bulletproof argument for why cruises beat the pants off other vacation travel options. We’ll look at a comparison between road travel (by car), air travel (by plane), and ocean travel (by cruise ship) and look at how they stack up across three simple but critical variables — time, comfort, and cost.

The Pros and Cons of Road Travel

Our family takes plenty of trips by car, which can be fun. But these trips are not without serious disadvantages.

Time — Unless you’re headed someplace nearby, car trips tend to take forever. For example, I live in Central Florida. If I want to visit my grandfather in Philadelphia, I could either take a two-and-a-half-hour plane ride, or drive 15 hours up the Eastern seaboard. And that’s assuming I don’t hit any traffic.

Of course, even with perfect conditions that is still too much driving to safely do in one day, which means I have to split it into at least two days. That means I’ll lose not only the actual drive time but also the time spent resting in between.

Comfort — Let’s face it — road trips are only exciting for about the first hour. After that, they’re an endless monotony of mile markers, gas fill-ups, bathroom breaks, and the common phrase (especially with kids): “Are we there yet?”

Perhaps the worst part is that it’s hard to enjoy the time along the way. Sure, passengers can do puzzles or play games or watch movies, but it’s impossible for the driver to participate, which means someone is always being left out. Then there’s the weariness and fatigue that comes with so many miles on the road and the way even the most comfortable car seats get gradually less so over time.

Costs — There is a lot of variability to the costs of car travel. It depends on how far you’re going, what car you’re driving, how much traffic you hit, how many tolls there are and a host of other factors. With gas prices on a never-ending rollercoaster, it’s hard to predict what a road trip might cost you ahead of time, but even in the best case scenario it likely won’t be cheap.

The Pros and Cons of Air Travel

Trips by plane, on the other hand, are economical in some ways but excruciating in others.

Time — Air travel is great because you can get where we’re going much more quickly. But “quickly” here is a relative term. Sure, if you’re traveling from Orlando to Atlanta, one hour by plane beats the heck out of six hours by car.

But for long international trips, the time in-air can be painfully long. I took a trip to visit the Shaolin Temple and study kung fu in China several years ago. It took about 22 hours’ worth of air travel to get there, and those flights were some of the most miserable experiences of my life.

Comfort — Plane flights, regardless of their time and distance, are made so much worse by the fact that plane cabins seem to be almost engineered with the aim of being as uncomfortable as possible. I’m 6 foot 2 inches tall, and roughly 200 lbs. I’ve traveled by plane a lot, both for business and pleasure.

I have yet to find a standard airline passenger cabin that simply allows for enough room for my legs and arms, let alone one that is genuinely comfortable. At least car manufacturers make a good faith attempt at comfort, even if they sometimes fall short.

It took us 15 hours to cross the Pacific Ocean on my trip to China and I was crammed in an economy middle seat the entire time. Trust me when I say that kind of experience is enough to prematurely spoil even the most thrilling destination one might be en route to.

Time spent on a plane could arguably be productive or even enjoyable if you’re comfortable and you have access to the internet or movies. But the fact that it’s nearly impossible to get comfortable in the first place — at least for me and for many others with whom I’ve spoken about this topic — makes the prospect of using the time profitably a moot point.

Now, I know what you’re thinking. “Well Gary…you could have reserved a first-class or business class seat; that would have been much more comfortable for you.” And that brings me to my final criticism.

Cost — Airline seats can be extremely economical, if you’re willing to fly with low-cost leaders like Spirit or Southwest, and if you’re willing to forego the luxuries of a first-class or business class seat. If those comforts are necessary, then the value very quickly vanishes.

When I went to China, my trip to the other side of the world was over $1,000 for a one-way coach seat. The same trip in a first class or business class seat would have been well into the five figures. Suffice to say, with air travel, value-oriented options mean intolerable discomfort, and comfortable options mean untenable cost.

In the second part of this article series, I’ll explain why I think cruise vacations are superior to both car and air travel.

About the Author

Dr. Gary Deel is a Faculty Director with the School of Business at American Public University. He holds a J.D. in Law and a Ph.D. in Hospitality/Business Management. Gary teaches human resources and employment law classes for American Public University, the University of Central Florida, Colorado State University and others.




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