By Dr. Gary L. Deel
Faculty Director, Wallace E. Boston School of Business, American Public University
This is the final part in a two-part series on the superiority of cruise ship vacations over other vacation travel options.
In the first part of this series, I laid out the shortcomings of both car travel and airplane travel on the basis of time, comfort, and cost involved in the experiences. In this second part, I’ll explain why I think cruise vacations beat the pants off both alternatives in all three of these categories.
The Pros and Cons of Cruises
Cruises are decidedly my family’s favorite option in the vacation realm, but let me articulate the many reasons why.
Time — This is going to sound like a cheeky statement, but I would argue that the travel time involved in cruise vacations is effectively zero. Now, for the record, I concede that cruise ships are slower in actual speed than both their car and plane counterparts. However, the reason that I argue for a net-zero travel time is that with cruise ships, time onboard is considered a valuable part of the vacation experience and for good reason.
Sure, most cruise itineraries have ports of call that the ship will visit along the way, and we might call those “destinations” in the vacation sense. But for cruise travelers, the ships themselves are just as much of an attraction as the places they will visit along the voyage. And if that’s true, then time spent aboard a cruise ship while it’s underway can’t fairly be reduced to “travel time” in the same sense that this term is used to describe time behind the wheel of a car driving down the interstate or time spent crammed into seat 27A on a Boeing 777 headed across the country.
Think of it this way: No one plans a car trip or plane trip to go somewhere for vacation and then finds themselves filled with excitement about the specific part of the trip they will actually spend sitting in the car or plane. Quite the contrary — that part of the experience is just a means to an end. But with cruises, the time spent onboard has real value.
Comfort — Perhaps the biggest advantage of cruise travel is the comfort and enjoyment factor. You never have to be crammed into an uncomfortable seat during the trip, not for even a single second.
When onboard, you can go where you like and do what you want. And you don’t have to do any driving or navigating. The ship’s crew takes care of that duty, liberating you to partake in the endless food and entertainment options onboard: restaurants, bars, pools, casinos, spas, fitness centers, theaters, gardens, team and individual sports leagues, game shows and trivia, climbing walls, roller coasters, bumper cars, and even ice-skating rinks.
The list of things to do and see on the average cruise vacation is virtually endless. So in a very real sense, the journey becomes the experience — one that is just as valuable and enjoyable as the destinations themselves.
Cost — One would think that, with all the amenities, activities and creature comforts available to cruise ship travelers, the cost would reflect a heavy premium over other vacation options. But shockingly, cruise travel actually tends to be more affordable by comparison.
For example, my wife and I are regularly able to find cruise rates as low as $50 per person per night. Many cruise lines frequently offer promotions such as “kids sail free” specials, which means half of our party travels at no cost.
Take a moment and really consider what that means. My family of four is often able to take cruises at a rate of $100 or less per night total. That includes everything, meaning our means of conveyance, our lodging, our food (which is unlimited) and our entertainment.
Very few things — internet, shore excursions, optional specialty dining — come at an additional cost on cruises. The vast majority of amenities are included in the price of the cruise itself.
Now try to do some quick back-of-the-envelope math and compare that with a comparable trip you might take by car or plane. Add in the cost of the plane ticket or the gas and tolls to get where you’re going. Then add in the cost of your hotel, the cost of your meals, and all the things you might do along the way — museums, theme parks, shows, and so forth.
How many cruises do you think you could take for the same price? The answer very likely is several.
All things considered, I think it’s hard to deny the superiority of cruise vacations over other means of leisure and vacation travel at least on the subjects of time, comfort, and cost. This is not to say cruise travel is perfect. But nine times out of ten, when my family has a week available for vacation, we look to cruises to maximize our value and make the experience as enjoyable as possible. I would encourage any prospective travelers considering vacation options to give the points addressed in this series some serious thought before booking their next trip.
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.