How do I visit a Cruise Ship?

I am often asked by friends: “How do I visit a cruise ship”.  It is not easy to achieve, but it is possible.

In these times of international terrorism, you stand no chance of turning up at the dock and expecting to be let onboard a cruise ship.  It does not matter if you know a crew member or your friends are onboard, the answer is still ‘No’.  However, most cruise ships do welcome dignitaries, media and travel agents onboard regularly.  However they are not always so obliging to members of the public. 

Perhaps the best way to get onboard is to have friends in high places. Failing that, your first line of action should be to write a begging letter to the cruise lines administration office. It is useful if you can find out exactly who organizes ship visits and address the letter accordingly.  I have certainly had some successes in the past by simply doing this.  I’d suggest that you think of a good reason for your visit, such as: “I am keen to book a cruise on your ship, but would like to visit it first, to see if it suits my tastes”. If you can offer the cruise line some publicity in return, maybe you have a blog or web site, all the better.  However, this simplistic approach will not work with all cruise lines.

Some cruise lines do offer ship visits to loyalty club members.  These often include a lunch and a tour, but have a fee.  So being a ‘regular’ passenger with a cruise line can help.

Being a member of a maritime organization can also help. I used to organize ship visits for the UK ‘Ocean Liner Society’; an organization for ship fans.  Surprisingly the name did not carry too much kudos with the cruise lines.  I suspect they regarded the members as a bunch of amateur historians, rather than potential cruise passengers.  However most of the OLS’s members were actually cruise-addicts, but this fact often fell on deaf ears.

The pinnacle of my achievements was to get a party of 50 members onboard the Queen Mary 2.  However it took me five years of persistence by writing regular begging letters, e-mails and making phone calls.  Sometimes it is just quicker and less effort to save up for a mini-cruise.  The smaller cruise lines were certainly more obliging to me that the big ones. 

Now travel agents are generally very welcome onboard ships. The rationale is that if you invite ten members of the public onboard a ship, the line might sell ten cruises, if they are lucky. However, invite ten travel agents onboard and they might sell thousands of cruises on the cruise lines behalf.  Likewise a member of the media might well write an article which could be read by millions of people.  In addition the cruise lines often provide free drinks and lunch, so there is a cost implication for them, making inviting travel agents and the media much better value than Joe public. Therefore it is very difficult as a ship-fan, to compete with the professional visitors.   

However, if you can’t beat, them, join them. Your second line of action is to foster links with a specialist cruise Travel Agent. They will occasionally be offered places for ship visits, by the cruise lines, and invite their regular customers.  That could be you.  So good luck and I hope to see you on board.

Malcolm Oliver

Below, some popular ships:

4 Responses to “How do I visit a Cruise Ship?”

  1. Malcolm Oliver Says:

    Hi Artur, you best bet is to write to one of the cruise lines and ask them what they require for YOU to visit one of thee ships. They you might get a ship visit yourself! Regards

  2. Artur Rodrigues Says:

    I’m doing a school work on “ship visit”
    I would like to know what steps to take, the authorizations, the authorities and the documents that I must have
    Best regards
    Artur Rodrigues

  3. Malcolm Oliver Says:

    Hi Alan, Celebrity are very good, although they do not suit everyone, like any cruise line. Sorry but I DO NOT arrange ship visits. In fact they are pretty rare , unless you are a travel agent. Anyway, you CANNOT really tell what the cruise experience is like from visiting/having a meal on a ship. It is just not the same, for many reasons.

    A ship visit is rather like visiting the Albert Hall on a day without the audience or the band. It lacks the ambience and atmosphere of being at sea.

    You need to trust your friends, bite the bullet and book a short cruise. However I would avoid cruises less than 7 nights long, because even they can also be rather unrepresentative of a ‘normal’ cruise product. Sorry to disappoint you.

  4. alan brewster Says:

    We have many friends that have been on many cruises and they have recommended celebrity cruises. So would like to come onboard and have a taster. As my wife and I have thought about going on a Caribbean cruise. We would like you to put our names down to have a ships visit. Kind regards Alan and Lorraine Brewster.

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