Anyone that’s taken a cruise knows that the story in cruising is more, more, more. More people, bigger ships, more to eat, see, and do.
But cruising is constantly evolving. Part of that evolution is something disappearing. In some ways it can be a bit sad to see things that you enjoy being taken away. (Longtime cruisers know its always sad when a ship they’ve sailed is retired and scrapped.) But don’t mistake of thinking that something going away is always a negative.
In many cases, the things that disappear can be annoyances and seeing them gone is a positive.
So what could change in the coming years? From small items to major moves, here’s what you might say goodbye to in the future…
Free Room Service
This is one that’s quickly on the way out. It used to be that room service was free. You want a midnight turkey sandwich? Just pick up the phone and place an order. That’s definitely not the case anymore.
First there were charges for ordering room service at certain times. So if you ordered before, say, 9 p.m., then you could have room service for free. Order the same thing at 3 a.m. and there would be a cost.
Then there were charges for certain items. Maybe simple things like a piece of cake or a sandwich were offered for free. But if you were getting a full meal, then there would be a charge. Now most lines seem to have fees for room service — either charging by item you order or having a flat fee no matter what you get.
Often continental breakfast is still free but outside of that, you have to pay. Given the trend, it seems obvious that a fee for even that could be on tap.
Paper Daily Schedules
We all know that the pandemic changed so much, and yes, that includes in cruising. Anyone who sailed before the shutdown knows that each evening you had the room steward drop off a paper daily planner for the next day. Inside, it listed everything going on around the ship the next day, helpful information, and things to know.
Anyone that’s sailed since the pandemic knows they are harder to come by now. Some lines still drop them off at the room each evening, but many have moved to just having the planner on the cruise line app. So any time you want to see what’s going on, you have to pull out your phone.
If you still want a paper copy to see things at a glance, they are available at a central spot like Guest Services. But how much longer will that be the case? Does it make sense to continue designing and printing daily schedules when the vast majority of people are no longer using them?
Food is a big part of cruising. Any cruise will have at least two places that are included with your fare to eat — the buffet and the main dining room. Outside of that, however, it varies widely.
First, every line outside of Virgin Voyages offers specialty restaurants where you have to pay extra if you want to eat there. So if you want to go to the steakhouse or the fancy Italian spot, it’s usually an extra charge.
But lines have very different philosophies when it comes to free versus paid restaurants. Some cruise lines such as Carnival are fairly generous with what they offer in addition to the buffet and dining room. The overall trend, however, seems to be toward adding in more and more paid options. And included food seems to be more like snacks instead of places where you can get an actual meal.
We don’t think the buffet and dining room are going anywhere, but outside of that? Don’t be surprised to see the included options dwindle.
Small Ships for Large Lines
For you lovers of the older days of cruising when ships were much smaller with far fewer passengers. Sorry, that is disappearing in most cases.
To be sure, if you want to pay luxury prices, then there are plenty of smaller ship options for you. But if sailing on a mass-market line, then smaller vessels are disappearing.
In the early 1990s, the average size of a new ship was around 70,000 gross tons. Now ships being built push the envelope at 150,000 gross tons or more — and the largest hitting 250,000 gross tons.
It’s just a fact that new ships being built for major lines are bigger than they used to be. As those older and smaller ships age out, it reduces your options for passengers who prefer sailing small.
Nasty Soot & Emissions
One thing that could disappear — or more accurately be reduced — is something that cruise lines have slowly been working toward with long term plans. That’s reducing the environmental impact of cruising.
All the major lines have long-term plans to reduce their environmental impact. In fact, in their most recent annual report, Carnival has an entire section on climate risk, including risks that “cruising no longer aligns to consumers climate values.”
If you’ve been on the back of a cruise ship, it’s likely you’ve seen soot on the deck and railings. Or you’ve for sure seen the exhaust billowing out. Thankfully, newer ships are burning cleaner fuel like LNG, albeit not a perfect solution. Ports are also working on offering up shore power that ships can plug into when docked so they don’t have to burn fuel at all while docked.
Carnival Corporation, for instance, says they peaked their emissions in 2011 despite adding considerably to capacity since then. So hopefully, emissions and the carbon impact across the industry will continue to disappear.
Some Ports of Call
What might disappear from your next cruise? What about some ports of call? This is for two reasons…
First, while many ports welcome the cruise tourists and the dollars they bring, others aren’t so excited. Key West in particular, voted to limit the visits from cruise ships on both number and size. That was overruled by the state, but further action closed two public docks, limiting the island to one cruise ship per day.
Other ports around the world have also fought against ships docking due to issues from overtourism and environmental factors.
Beyond that, cruise lines increasingly are turning the ship into a destination offering so many things to do and see that passengers want to spend time onboard. Then there are private destinations that have grown increasingly popular like Royal Caribbean’s CocoCay, MSC’s Ocean Cay, and Carnival upcoming Celebration Key.
These spots become ports of call on practically any cruise in the area. Between the ships offering so much and destinations being close by, don’t be surprised if outside ports of call — thought never going away — get overshadowed.
Extra Charges (More All Inclusive)
Now we’ve talked about a number of free things disappearing like room service and included restaurants. But we actually think some of those extra charges will also disappear.
We see cruising taking two different routes. Some will continue with the path of selling cheap fares and then charging for anything extra.
But other lines are jumping at offering bundles that make the cruise more all-inclusive. Instead of buying the cruise and paying more for wi-fi, and then more for a drink package, and then more for a specialty restaurant, these sorts of things are all included in the cruise fare.
Celebrity, Princess, and Norwegian all have this sort of offer and it seems to only be getting more popular as they add more features to booking this way.
Kids Everywhere (Rise of Adults-only Areas)
When Virgin Voyages introduced adults-only cruising, it was a major shake-up to cruising. Now, adults had an entire cruise line that focused solely on them instead of having to account for families with children when it came to entertainment, food, and more.
Even before, however, the “kids everywhere” idea on cruise ships had been disappearing. It looks to continue.
Already major lines like Carnival and Royal Caribbean carved out adults-only spaces like the Serenity deck on Carnival ships giving adults their own spots free from younger passengers.
Now we’re seeing Royal Caribbean open Hideaway Beach on CocoCay, a brand-new carve out of the island that charges admission, but is also only for adults. Don’t be surprised if over time, cruise lines continue to offer more spots where kids aren’t allowed.
Simple Room Options
It used to be simple to pick a room. Select your cruise, and then go inside, oceanview, balcony, or suite. Those same options are still available, but with tons more for you to choose from, having a simple room choice is something that’s definitely disappearing.
Today, cruise lines continue to carve out unique spaces. Some of these are essentially resorts within a resort where you can get a balcony room, but in a more exclusive part of the ship with more perks and different design.
Others are unique suites and rooms that go from just a little nicer to places that look like a New York penthouse.
Think of it like automobiles. Anyone who wants to buy just a simple car knows that’s a lot harder today as you have all sorts of brands and packages to choose from. Buying a cruise cabin isn’t that complex, but the simplicity of your choices is disappearing.
Empty Spaces Onboard
We’ve talked about the rise of mega ships that are so much bigger. One reason for that larger size is not just more passengers you can carry, but also more things to do on the ship. New ships are loaded with things to do everywhere you turn.
Anyone that’s sailed older ships, however, knows they were just built differently. Frankly, many of them just had large open spaces — especially on the pool decks. No pools or restaurants or waterslides, just open deck.
For those that like to have a little breathing room, that sort of blank space is actually pretty nice. But let’s be honest, space is at a premium and having wide open areas doesn’t make a ton of sense. That’s why the newest ships — and those that get refurbished — have seemingly every inch dedicated to something.
Being Disconnected at Sea
If you want to disconnect from everything back home, for decades there was arguably no better vacation to take than a cruise. In the middle of the ocean hundreds of miles from land, of course you aren’t going to see that text or check that email or see that call.
We think it’s unfortunate in a lot of ways that being able to disconnect is quickly disappearing. First, there’s been a major push by the major lines to push people to their phones. This is largely with the cruise line app that has the ship map, the schedule of activities, reservations, your onboard account, and more. Then there are moves like having QR codes to pull up menus. The bottom line is that you can cruise with your phone, but it’s not as convenient.
Then online access is also being offered wider than ever. The packages offered by cruise lines typically include wi-fi. And even if you don’t have it included, given how wi-fi access enables everything from checking email to streaming a movie, many people opt for the service.
The result is that yes, you can cruise and disconnect, but those days seem to be disappearing fast.