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 on-board 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 often 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 sometimes 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 to the public. Likewise a member of the media might well write an article which could be read by thausands, even millions of people. In addition the cruise lines often provide free drinks and lunch for their invited guests, so there is a cost implication for them. This makies inviting travel agents and the media much better value for them than inviting 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.
However it is not all bad news. Some lines do occasionally sell visits with lunch or dinner to the public. Cruise and Maritime Voyages (CMV) do each year. They offer festive lunches and dinners, with ano on-board show and the option of an overnight stay, in port. All you need to do if book, pay and bring some I.D.
So good luck and I hope to see you on board.
Below, some popular ships: