Cruising the High Seas, Yes Please!

The worldwide shipping cruise market is going from strength to strength. Passenger numbers are increasing by more than 5% annually, and ever-bigger new cruise ships are being built. The largest cruise ship in operation carries 6,000 passengers. Americans provide more than 70% of worldwide cruise passengers, who now total over 15 million annually.

Cruises are offered all over the world, but the most popular destination is the Caribbean, and the most popular length of cruise is 7 days, typically departing from and returning to a port such as Fort Lauderdale. Alcohol, gambling, on-board spending and shore excursions are all as important as the ticket price to the cruise ship owners. Popular large cruise lines include Celebrity, Carnival, Princess, Holland America and Norwegian, but there are numerous other lines offering a different size of ship, standard of service and destinations.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I had previous experience of ocean voyages in the 1960s, ranging from transatlantic student ships, to a Polish freighter plying between Hong Kong and Yokohama, to a plush first class berth on the SS France in addition to a Pacific cruise. The 1960s was the last decade before the cost advantage of jet planes and the rising cost of fuel put an end to traditional ocean crossings. The ticket I bought on my Pacific cruise was from Los Angeles to Auckland but, in the event, I was so bored by my fellow passengers (retired, rich and opinionated) that I got off in Tahiti, and flew on to New Zealand.

Now in the 2000s, cruising is booming with a continuing increase in overall passengers and a proliferation of types of cruise appealing to a wide variety of travelers. The reason why a transatlantic cruise appealed to me was primarily the price. I paid $599 for a 13-day voyage from New Orleans to Barcelona in April with the Norwegian Line, and that included a berth, all-you-can-eat food served around the clock, and on-board entertainment. These trips are called repositioning cruises; the ships have finished the winter/spring Caribbean season and are being relocated to Europe for the summer season, mainly in the Mediterranean.

The weather on my April trip was excellent, with calm seas the whole way; so calm in fact that the ship had to slow down so it didn’t arrive in Barcelona ahead of schedule. The food was varied and excellent. Norwegian Line promotes what it calls “Freestyle Cruising”. This means you can eat in any of the eight on-board restaurants without assigned seating.

In the evening I always went for one of the two main dining rooms and had a four-course dinner. The passengers were, I suspect, different from average cruise passengers: well-traveled, some academics, generally people with time on their hands and with no problem of taking care of themselves upon arrival in Europe, unlike usual cruise passengers who are returned to their port of departure.

I spent a minimum of time in the small cabin, which I shared with an old friend. When not eating, I spent time in the gymnasium, in the library, relaxing in a chair on-deck or watching the evening shows, which were of little interest to me. The service on board was impeccable; 56 different nationalities, including many Filipinos, provided a total crew/staff of around 1,000 on a ship whose passengers numbered only 1,400 (out of 2,000 maximum). One nice touch was that the cooks paraded through the dining room during each evening meal, applauding the passengers. The cruise included one half-day shore excursion in the Azores, before proceeding through the Straits of Gibraltar into the Mediterranean, and to Barcelona where we reluctantly disembarked.

Photos: Norwegian Spirit, 75,000 tons.
Docking at Azores
The Atrium (Main Deck)
My cabin (and feet)
Shipboard library
Cooks in procession

 

Jim Glendinning About Jim Glendinning

I am a Footloose Scot who has traveled to 136 countries. "I travel not to go anywhere, but to go. I travel for travel's sake. The great affair is to move." Robert Louis Stevenson
Read about Jim Glendinning and his book Footloose Scot: Travels In A Time Of Change

Comments

  1. Dorothy Zelazny Angrist says:

    JIM…….YOUR WEBSITE IS GLORIOUS………MAKES ME WANT TO TRAVEL…….WHO KNOWS……..MIRACLES STILL HAPPEN………..Light, Love & Rainbows, Dorothy

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