I love cruising. Seriously. It is a luxury that I insist on affording. But – I want my money’s worth. I have amassed enough “loyalty points” to encourage upgrades in cabin selection, priority embarkation/disembarkation, and a few onboard credits. And I get it – from their perspective – the Cruise Lines are a BUSINESS – trying to maximize profits. And – therein lies the rub.
Where is the balance between passenger satisfaction and maximized profits? That "golden mean?"
One is met on board with a “complimentary” drink – only to have to present your cruise card for your first charge of the trip. Then there are the “hawkers” aggressively pushing “the cocktail of the day/hour” on the pool decks, or gouge you for an expensive “artisanal” when you just ask for a glass of water. Not to mention dubious art auctions, wine tastings, dance lessons, and “beauty demonstrations.” I remember when bottled of water and ship towels were passed out gratis as passengers departed the ship in Caribbean ports – now? No towels - and bottled water is $2.00 (for a small bottle). The first few trips I was mildly entertained when accosted by ship photographers in port for “souvenir photos” until I found out photo packages cost hundreds of dollars. Or steered towards in-port jewelers who kick back 15% to their cruise ship pimps. Even the internet (buy a$100 worth of minutes – fail to log out properly – and lose all your minutes). And then there's the "mandatory" automatic "gratuity taxes" and the not so subliminal expectations of ADDITIONAL tipping.
Squeezing out every nickel from cruise passengers – many of which have just booked their cruise of a lifetime - may be a net loss for cruise lines. They need to strike a happy medium between making an honest profit and forcing passengers to cower away from every proffered ship “experience” for fear of being taken to the cleaners.
My advice? Don’t be a tightwad – it’s a vacation. Enjoy yourselves and don’t sweat the petty cash. On the other hand – be aware when the Hotel Manager stuffs his/her hand in your pocket and goes for your gold like a proctologist.