As with most investments, there are a lot of things to consider when choosing a travel destination, and it’s much more complicated than simply deciding on a budget and who you want to take with you. What most people don’t realize is that different types of vacations offer very different experiences, and that some “vacations” don’t offer much in the realm of relaxation, as is often the goal of a getaway. For example, a trip to Europe, although exhilarating, will leave most people exhausted by the end of it, and just in time to go back to work on Monday. Taking into account museums and tours that leave at dawn, an unhealthy combination of overeating and starving, as well as the jetlag you’re likely to be feeling, European getaways are much less of a “vacation” as they are a glorified school field trip. So if you’re looking for a truly relaxing vacation, one that will leave you refreshed and rejuvenated with wide eyes and recharged brain, then think palm trees, fresh coconuts, and bright azure-blue waves calmly rolling up onto a shore. Before you grab your Hawaiian shirt and sunscreen, however, there are still a few decisions left to be made before you can decide if you’ll have a Bahama Mama or a strawberry daiquiri. The destination within the Caribbean isn’t even half the battle, it’s deciding whether or not you’d rather take in a few islands on a cruise, or get to know one island more intimately at all-inclusive resort. But which one is right for you?
Cruise ships keep getting bigger and better, so much so that I can’t imagine a week is enough time to try everything on board and off! With Royal Caribbean’s new Quantum Class of ships, they’re boasting things like skydiving at sea, bumper cars, and an elevated observation globe which can take you off the ship and closer to the clouds. I remember when ice skating and water slides on ships were new and exciting, and I can’t wait to explore one of these two mega ships for myself. But all that aside, with so many activities on board, the average seven-day cruise might give you barely enough time to learn your way back to your room. Once you’ve arrived, you will see on your bed a towel animal of sorts, pillow chocolates, and a plethora of papers, chock full of super-awesome activities that you’ve always wanted to try but never cared to make time for. Well, here is your chance! What’s great about cruise ships is that they have people whose sole job on the ship is to keep everyone entertained throughout the duration of your stay on the ship. There are competitions, demonstrations, and amazing shows every night, ranging from Vegas-style visual masterpieces and Cirque-like shows to stand-up comedy and magicians. At some point in between the hairy-chest competition and ice carving, you will probably investigate the twenty-four-hour buffet or one of the (up to) 18 other restaurants on board, all of which have amazing food. More and more ships are also offering dynamic dining, a much needed change from the rigorous seating times cruises were always known for. But that’s not all! The best part about these mobile hotels is that they take you and your suitcase from one island to another. So at first you only had to decide if you wanted to go to a salsa lesson or bingo, and now you have to choose between scuba diving and horseback riding? Decisions, decisions, decisions… With so much to do and not enough hours in the day to fit it all in, cruises will teach you time management skills like nothing else ever could. They are also great for families with kids. Cruises have fantastic programs for kids of all ages, ranging from infants to more independent seventeen year olds. And the best part is that parents don’t have to worry about their pesky teenagers being out late because you know they have a designated driver and the ship is a confined area, so they can’t stray too far.
I would definitely recommend going to all the activities you can, especially if you’ve never cruised before. And if you have, then try something new you didn’t have time for on your last vacation! Why not go a little crazy on the blackjack tables (did I mention there are casinos on board?) What it comes down to is this: don’t be surprised when you find yourself exhausted and pale at the end of the week. With so much going on, there is little time left for hanging out by the pool and letting your brain rest. Unfortunately with cruises you don’t have beach access whenever you want it. There will be no place to bury your toes while at sea, and the palm trees are in short supply as well. On the bright side however, the air conditioning is plentiful, and thus makes cruises a popular option for the hot and humid summer months when kids are on vacation and parents need a break of their own. It is also important to remember that although the food may be free and plentiful, the only free drinks on board are lemonade and iced tea. In the end, while the cruise itself may be cheaper than most all-inclusive resorts, it would be wise to anticipate the vulnerability of the total package price. Not only will you probably need to book a flight down to the port, but also add to that all the onboard expenses which you will rack up somewhere between the shore excursions and the fruity cocktails you will only drink while on vacation. The point is, if you are someone who likes having a schedule and being active all day while being fed amazing food, you will love cruising.
Not a fan of schedules? Would you rather spend a week on the beach with a book in one hand and a margarita in the other? Then you will probably be more interested in an all-inclusive resort vacation. Before I dive into all of the exciting details, let me define “all inclusive”: the flight, hotel, food, alcohol, and transportation are all included in the price you pay before you leave for your vacation. You do not have to spend a single penny while at the resort if you don’t want to. Although resorts have a lot of the same amenities as cruises such as a casino, spa, nightclub, and some optional excursions, the biggest appeal of the staying at a resort is that you are on a beach. You can wake up in the morning, drag your half-asleep self over to a beach chair, and doze off again while getting rid of that winter white. All-inclusive resorts are a great option for couples who would rather be romantic and far away from screaming children. With ultimate all inclusive luxury adult only brands like Sandals, couples have lush and romantic playgrounds to enjoy alone time. For families, Beaches is a great option which boasts some of the best child care I have ever seen abroad, starting from newborns. With whole water parks and video game rooms, kids will never want to leave and parents will love having built in babysitters with their vacation! Even SCUBA Diving is included at Sandals and Beaches Resorts! Add to that over a dozen restaurants of finger-licking-good food and a bar every 100 ft or less, there is no shortage of options. The majority of people who stay at resorts don’t leave the property during the duration of their stay, which is a great and safe option everyone has. Not like you’ll be bored on the property! But there are also local activities you can sign up for at the excursion desks at every resort if you feel like exploring the area in more depth.
In the end, you can’t lose with either option. The rooms at resorts are much more spacious than on cruise ships, and many resorts have whirlpool tubs standard in their rooms, whereas on cruises you get a shower which will clean you head to toe if you soap up the walls and spin around a few times. But odds are you might spend a little more time in your room at a resort than on a cruise ship, but it all depends on how you prefer to relax: fitting in as many activities as possible in a day or not doing anything at all and just relaxing on a beach all day every day. The alcohol is free and plentiful at resorts, but the food is sometimes better on cruise ships, but it can be hit or miss both ways. Really comes down to the company and brand at that point. Cruise ships also give you the opportunity to visit several islands/countries in the span of a week, something that stationary resorts can’t offer. But if you’re prone to sea sickness and no amount of Dramamine can save you, then resorts might be the better choice.
There is no wrong choice, and I can’t honestly tell you one is better than the other. I have enjoyed many trips of both varieties, and have never had a dull moment, so do with your vacation what you want! Hopefully, this post left you a little more educated on the differences between the two and you are now better equipped to make the decision for yourself. Happy Travels!
Cruise ships have made several major headlines in recent years, and sad to say that few of those headlines, if any, were positive. That being said, the cruise industry is still booming, raking in about $29 billion annually, with 21.7 million annual travelers who represent only 4% of the traveling public. With newer and bigger ships coming out every year, it draws the question of when will enough be enough? Sure it’s nifty that the latest Royal Caribbean super ship has a skydiving simulator and bumper cars on board, but at what point will the cruise liners push the line too far straight into another disaster? With the help of social media, all of the recent disasters on board cruise lines have been made very public, to terrifyingly detailed extents, and despite a drop in sales and empty cabins on almost every ship, there are over 36 newer and bigger ships planned for the next 4 years! That’s adding almost 70,000 beds to a market which is getting older and depleting fast, failing to rake in younger and newer passengers for their fun new ships. With the sales recovery time after each mishap getting longer and more financially painful, will anyone be able to escape without going bankrupt?
First things first, the pool for repeat cruisers is quickly depleting with age. Cruises are more stereo typically associated with senior citizens taking an “easy” vacation, with lots of scheduled activities, strict/tight schedules, and formal dinners. This image misses the interests of the young active people with disposable time and income who can also travel on the off season, not just during school vacations. This growing group of adults is between the ages of 25-37, they are busy professionals but seek adventure and relaxation to get away from the mundane. They prefer to travel during the off season, and will often go with one or more friends or a significant other, no kids. These hard working adults need a vacation as much as busy parents, but avoid cruises because everything with cruises is geared either towards families with kids or older people. And worst of all: you have to pay for the alcohol! If only word of mouth and social media would be a better way to reach that tech-savvy group of young adults, and to inform them that they have the cruise industry misconstrued into a boring mundane experience when really it isn’t.
Unfortunately however, otherwise great marketing tools such as Twitter and Facebook have been part of the cause for that age group avoiding cruises, but for an entirely different reason.
Carnival Cruise Lines has had it rough these past few years, facing PR disaster after PR disaster. And social media hasn’t exactly helped to keep these events manageable, often times making the situation look even worse than it is thanks to bleak firsthand accounts. It used to take time before news stories broke, especially when it happened in the middle of the ocean, and updates were scarce. But now with everyone and their grandmother carrying a personal recording device at all times, the world can quickly and easily be informed of anything happening onboard in the greatest of real-time details. Cue the infamous Carnival Triumph “poop cruise” disaster of 2013. 4,500 people were stranded in the middle of the ocean for five days after a fire in the engine room left the ship without power, A/C, and a working septic system. Thanks to social media, combined with tortured and disgruntled passengers with nothing to do, everyone in the world got a firsthand account of life on board the “poop cruise”, as CNN cleverly dubbed it. This was not an outbreak, or a sickness, simply a plumbing issue that left thousands of people with a bad taste in their mouth, pun intended. Passengers were taking pictures of their buckets, their sad faces wrapped up in their bathrobes, recounting in great detail the tragic life on board the ship, and everyone in the world was following and retweeting. This was by far the ugliest of disasters on board a cruise ship, beating out any norovirus outbreak that has plagued the cruise industry for decades. Accounts like this not only leave past passengers questioning the safety of the super ships, but also leave potential customers frightened of the what-ifs. With more bad news than good, every additional mishap pushes those potential customers farther and farther away.
To make matters worse, it seems that instances like these are not as rare as the executives would like to have you believe. According to the blog Cruise Junkie, between 2009 and 2013 there have been over 350 incidents involving mechanical problems or accidents in the industry, most of them just didn’t make headlines. Truth is viral outbreaks are fairly common on board cruise ships, the worst of which plagued 700 people on board Royal Caribbean’s Explorer of the Seas. Lesser common events include the tragic sinking of the Costa Concordia that happened back in January of 2012 when the Captain wanted to impress his female companion and brought the ship so close to shore that he crashed it less than 100 feet from land, killing 32 and injuring 64 of the 4,200 passengers and crew on board. With hundreds of sailings each year, and maybe only a few incidents here and there, the odds of ending up on an ill-fated cruise are slim. In fact, out of the seven norovirus outbreaks last year, a total of 1,238 passengers were affected, which represents only .006% of all cruise passengers for the year. But the headlines, combined with social media complaints by the people unlucky enough to be affected results in an over dramatized view on the “dangers” of cruising. Unfortunately, nobody is interested in reporting about all the successfully completed cruises.
So the question remains if the cruise industry will survive if it fails to draw in the younger generations. At this point, the best methods will be to address all the bad press head-on, and explain the statistical realities behind these instances in real terms. By avoiding the issue, the fear of getting sick on cruise ships keeps growing out of proportion. What the cruise lines need to do instead is educate the public and not only address but also fix the issues by implementing new health procedures to mitigate spread of infections. The cruise industry is already making very low margins as they try to fill empty rooms by cutting down prices. With every subsequent misfortune onboard a ship, the passengers are going to be harder and harder to convince to return, which will inevitably keep the prices low for the near future. This poses a problem for all the newer high tech ships being built which will only be able to survive if they can charge premiums over the older ships, and still reach capacity.
All in all, with a shrinking public, why build so many new ships? The cruise industry seems to follow an “if we build it, they will come” mantra, but they need to hold off on building until they can attract the future generations of cruisers to fill those ships. Otherwise, it’s only a matter of time until they start going bankrupt one by one.