Whatever Happened To “Just Cruising”?

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The Future: ‘World Class’ 6,000+ Pax (MSC)

In the past 20 years many cruise ships have more than doubled in size. In addition the new breed of mega-ships have become floating resorts. Many boast facilities that you would have once only expected to see at a land based resort or theme park.

Norwegian Joy (Courtesy NCL)

Steamer chairs and open deck space have gone out of fashion. Instead deck space is now used for climbing walls, ropes courses, surfing simulators, carousels, free-fall simulator, Go-Kart tracks and even Roller Coasters!

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Mardi Gras with Roller Coaster  (Courtesy Carnival)

Now I don’t want to sound like a killjoy, as these facilities are extremely popular with families/the young and the young at heart. However in general, they are not so popular with those of us who are a little more mature.

We are also seeing a higher level of technology appearing on todays ships. This  technology is often required to manage the high number of passengers. However technology is now also being used for entertainment purposes too.

Royal Caribbean have a ‘Bionic Bar’, with two robot-arms serving drinks. It is really nothing more than a very expensive gimmick. Once you have spent a few minutes watching it, you’re done.

Royal Caribbean also have the 360 degree lounge on-board their ‘Quantum’ class ship which is full of millions of dollars of technology including projected backdrop images and dancing video screens. The computer graphics were very impressive, but underneath all the hi-Tech, the show was quite standard in content: just people singing and dancing some pop songs.

Hi-Tech: Quantum’s 360 Degree Lounge (Courtesy RCI)

Was it one of the best shows that I have ever seen afloat? Curiously ‘No’. However it was almost certainly the most expensive.

In contrast, I’ve seen shows with a small cast, on a stage with some colourful costumes, that have been excellent.

Low Tech: Resident Show Company (Courtesy Fred. Olsen)

The big question is: Whatever happened to “just cruising”.

In my opinion one of the great pleasures of being at sea, is the sea itself.

I like the fragrance of the sea in my nostrils, the wind in my hair and to see the interaction between the ship and the passing land.

The sea is best experienced while walking around a wrap-around (full 360 degree) promenade deck, ideally made of teak.

I also enjoy a ship with an attractive ‘fan-tail’ – the stepped deck design at a ships stern often with an aft pool.

Marco Polo’s fan-tail – Click to enlarge

In contrast, many mega-ships are very inward focused on their facilities, with sea views sometimes being hard to find. For example, forward observation lounges have gone out of fashion. The views form today’s promenade decks are often blocked almost completely by lifeboats. The sun deck is often so high, maybe 15 decks up,  so the sea is a very long way away.

Norwegian Epic: A Prom without a view!

I don’t need gimmicks when cruising; I just want some good food, with good service, some relaxing/tranquil lounges and some interesting ports of call.

I like to be entertained at sea, but some good musicians, some singing and some good dancing is all that I require. I don’t need hi-tech entertainment, just a few coloured lamps and some microphones!

On the subject of ports of call: I must admit that I have been to ports on-board mega-ships, that were so dull, there was actually more to see and do on-board the ship, than ashore. Mega-ships are not all bad.

River cursing has become very popular, especially European rivers, within the past decade. It particularly attracts the more mature and discerning cruiser. I think one of the reasons is that River boats have no gimmicks. They offer a purer experience based on scenic river views, excellent food and service with some relaxation thrown in.

River boats often carry fewer than 200 passengers. In contrast we are now seeing ocean ships that carry 6,000+ souls.

Simples! Amadeus Princess (Courtesy Luftner)

Have you heard of the “Campaign for real ale”?

Well maybe it’s time to start the “Campaign for real cruising”:  The quest for a simpler/purer version of cruising without all the ‘gimmicks’.

I will be the first member. Join me!

Malcolm

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Below, one of shrinking number of ‘real’ ship left in service: