On the whole, cruising is pretty great. Where else can you visit multiple ports in the span of just a few days, all the while being entertained and well fed, all at a reasonable price? The same sort of trip on your own would cost 2-3 times as much when you factor the cost of flights, restaurants, and hotels.
Still, that’s not to say that cruising is perfect. There are still plenty of things that the cruise lines could do to make traveling aboard the ship even better and make any trip more enjoyable.
Here are some amazingly simple things the cruise lines could start doing that would make a big impact on your vacation.
Offer Free Soda
Restaurants love the markup on soda. While they can charge a couple of bucks for some sugar water, it costs only a few cents per glass. Cruise lines are no different. While tea, water, and lemonade are free, sodas cost extra on the ship. It’s typically about $2 per drink, or you can get an unlimited soda package for about $8 per day.
Sure the cruise lines make some money, but considering the minimal costs of each drink, they could just include soda in your cruise fare with a minimal impact to their bottom line.
Have Clearer Pricing
A big draw to cruising is that it’s an affordable vacation. Look to book a cruise and you’ll likely see some crazy low “headline” prices. The issue is that nobody pays that little to sail.
Every headline price you see is per person, based on two people cruising. That means even if you book the cheap rate you see advertised, it’s doubled in price right off the bat. Then there are port fees and taxes, which can add hundreds. Then there are gratuities, which technically aren’t required but may as well be. In the end, the actual price you pay for a cruise can be three times the price advertised — and that’s without drinks or excursions.
The cruise lines do make all the pricing known before you book, but having clearer pricing would give you a better sense of the actual cost right from the start.
Stop Playing Games With Gratuities
Gratuities are one of the big headaches in cruising and for good reason. We’re used to tipping at a restaurant — you have your meal and then leave a tip based on the service.
Cruise lines have set amounts that are usually added to your bill at the end of the cruise. Yes, you can adjust them but in practice it’s a pain to do. Meanwhile, it’s unclear exactly who they go to and often they can seem way too high for services you might not have used.
Don’t get the wrong impression — gratuities make up a large chunk of the money earned by the hard-working cruise line staff. They work hard for that money. However, it would improve the cruise if these extra charges were simply baked into the cruise fare instead.
Offer Free Wi-Fi
It’s definitely a challenge to offer Internet service in the middle of an ocean. Still, these days Wi-Fi is considered a must-have amenity like running water or electricity.
Being able to keep in touch back home shouldn’t cost an arm and a leg. All cruise ships have the service, but they want to charge high fees for access (usually $15-20 per day). We’re not saying that everyone needs the ability to stream Netflix each night, but having wireless service to check email and send messages to anyone back home (or others on the ship) shouldn’t cost extra.
Allow Longer Time in Ports
On a 7-day cruise, there are usually three port days. Typically this means docking in port from about 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. If you ported three times during a trip for eight hours each time, that’s a total of 24 hours in port over a 168-hour (7 days) trip. That’s only 14% of the vacation time spent in port.
Instead, it would be great to stay longer hours so that you could enjoy the nightlife or simply have a longer window to be able to explore. Some cruises are already doing this, such as Royal Caribbean offering overnight stays in Havana, Cuba.
Let People Bring on Beer & Soda
Ever tried to read the rules regarding what beverages you can bring on? It’s like trying to figure out your taxes. Some lines let you bring on a small pack of soda. Most let you bring on a bottle of wine or champagne. Others don’t allow any beverages, and still others won’t let you bring on on anything in bottles. All cruise lines we know of prohibit you bringing on beer or hard liquor.
We don’t think the cruise lines should allow you to bring on an unlimited supply of booze, beer, and soda. That’s asking for trouble. But giving guests the ability to bring on a small bottle of their favorite alcohol or a six-pack of their favorite beer/soda would go a long way to making their vacation more enjoyable.
Have an All-Inclusive Option
One of the big draws to cruising is that it’s (almost) all-inclusive. Pay one fare and then you get food, entertainment, and lodging all covered. But cruise lines have been going away from that model to earn more money.
Of course you have to pay for alcohol and other drinks on the ship, but there are now some entertainment options that cost extra aboard some ships and premium restaurants are also growing in popularity.
Having a truly “all-inclusive” option for guests that would cover anything you do on the ship would go a long way in avoiding the feeling of being nickeled-and-dimed for those customers who choose to pay a higher fare.
Enforce Rules Against Chair Savers
Head down to the pool in the early morning and you won’t find many people hanging out, but you will likely find a lot of towels on chairs. It’s become common for people to put a towel on a chair to save it for later. This means the prime spots for sun are taken even though no one is sitting there.
Cruise lines usually have a notice that anything left unattended for more than 30 minutes will be removed, but it seems rarely enforced. The result? People who want to actually sit in a chair are left with less-than-ideal spots. Cruise lines could have stricter rules about saving seats and make it easier to get a prime location to sunbathe by the pool.
Offer More Plugs In Cabins
How many electronics do you pack on your cruise? From cell phones to tablets to laptops to small fans, and more, there are a lot of things to plug in. Unfortunately, plug space is at a premium. Most cabins have only a single receptacle. That means people have to bring their own adapters to increase the number of items they can plug in.
If cruise ships added just one extra receptacle in the cabin, it would go a long way to relieving the battle for outlet space and make sure all of your electronics have a full charge.
Put a Clock in the Room
We get why cruise ships don’t have a clock in each room. As ships sail around the world, keeping correct time on thousands of individual clocks would be a major chore. Still, it means to keep track of the time you need to wear a watch (which few people do anymore) or have to keep your cell phone handy (which many try to avoid on a cruise). It would be much nicer to have a clock in the room with the ship’s time always displayed.
Have Vents in the Bathroom
It should be required for anyone thinking of getting married to take a 7-day cruise together. You don’t know what you’re in for until you share a small cabin that has a bathroom with no powered air vent.
Many people opt to bring aboard air fresheners. That helps for smells, but doesn’t do much for noises. Having a vent inside of each bathroom would go a long way in making the stay in the cabin a pleasant one, especially for interior cabins with no outside air.
Have more ideas on how cruise lines can make simple changes that improve your trip? Let us know in the comments below.