Thursday, February 18, 2010

Smart Money's 10 Things A Cruise Line Won't Tell You...And Some Things About Seabourn - Where The Smart Money Goes!

Today I came across an article posted on the Smart Money website titled, "10 Things Your Cruise Line Won't Tell You."  Being perceived by some as a "tell it as it really is" sort of travel agent (and a curmudgeon about all things cruises by some others) the article's title interested me enough to spend a couple of minutes reading it. There is some good information in there...as long as you actually read the content rather than the eye-brow raising list.

I am not going to critique the entire article, but I think it raises some topics that gives a good springboard as to why Seabourn is such a strong cruise line...and worth considering especially if you are looking for "value for money".  Notice I said, "value for money" and not "luxury".  That is because the focus of the article is basically how you are not going to receive all that you think you are paying for.  Not so on Seabourn!

With that, here we go:

1. “Our engines break down all the time.” - If you read the article it is disclosed that, according to CruiseJunkie.com "roughly 5% of ships that had to cancel some or all port calls did so because of engine or mechanical problems. Those problems have become less frequent, however weather-related cancellations have become more common."  Wait a minute, that would mean 95% of cruise ships did not cancel any ports for mechanical reasons and, further, since such an event might happen on only one or two of a ships 30+ cruises in a year (or only 3% of a ship's cruises), that means that essentially 99% of cruises do not miss ports because of mechanical problems. OK, that is not only great performance by Seabourn, but it is worth pointing out!

4. “Sure, we can take care of your plane reservations, but you’d do a whole lot better on your own.” - To be honest I am not a big fan of cruise line air...even with the alleged "free" air that isn't free on any cruise line.  You know the drill, the cruise line gives you lousy flight times and connections, charter flights, etc.  rather than a good flight time with a direct routing.  On Seabourn the flights are consistently the some of the best flights around and on high quality air carriers.  If you want to change your flight it is not a big deal and many times the alternatives are provided at no additional cost...even if you want to arrive a day or so earlier or depart later.  Typical comments I receive are like this actual comment from someone who was trying to organize pre and post cruise options seven months before her cruise, "Wow, I am really surprised and impressed, I really didn't think we would find anything out until 90 days out. The schedule is fine...Ok, now I am really impressed, I didn't realize they were "real" tickets. How cool is that. So, I went and changed my seats."  How much value is there to you with that kind of service?

5. “Think everything’s included? Think again.” - The article points out that most food, entertainment and coffee is included, but alcohol, merchandise, spa services and pictures are extra.  It suggests that you can save some of the additional cost by buying soda packages for about $30 for a week.  It also notes that "another significant expense for passengers is tipping the staff. Many cruise lines have begun charging a fixed gratuity for restaurant and custodial service, set at an average of $10 per guest, per day."    On Seabourn not "most", but "all" food, entertainment and coffee is included as are your alcoholic and non-alcoholic beverages, gratuities and, to be sure, even 10 minute Massage Moments on deck.

6. “Our ‘gourmet’ food is anything but.” - While the article points out "Typically, the kitchen staff knows about how many entrées will be needed, so they prepare that much in advance and finish it when the diners arrive." and the asserting it is 3+ star at best, it then comments "Some large ships often provide alternative, specialty restaurants that do cook to order, but this special treatment comes at a price—one that isn’t included in the cost of the cruise.  As Douglas Ward, author of the “Berlitz Complete Guide to Cruising & Cruise Ships 2010,” explains, “It’s economics. If you don’t charge enough money for cruises, you have to lower the quality of the food and other aspects. It's a question of balance - or go out of business.” Ward says the smaller, reservations-only restaurants that cost extra on the major lines use premium ingredients, but they can charge up to an extra $30 per person per meal (plus wine). The bottom line: If eating well is important to you, be prepared to pay extra."  Unfortunately, even Seabourn's competitor, Silversea Cruises, is now charging even more to dine at two of its alternative dining restaurants. 

However, on Seabourn the cuisine is prepared "a la minute"...that is it is prepared as it is ordered...the quality of the ingredients is simply the best at sea, and there are absolutely no additional charges to dine at any of the alternative dining venues. Caviar and Champagne before dinner...or as an afternoon ritual?  No Charge.

9. “Our ads might say Champagne and caviar, but expect beer and pretzels.”  - This one can be repeated.  On Seabourn...and only Seabourn...Champagne and Caviar are included, as much as you reasonably want and whenever you want, at no additional charge.  The champagne flows from the moment you reach the top of the gangway!  And, by the way, if you are lucky enough to be on most Caribbean cruises you can enjoy Seabourn's signature Caviar in the Surf.

10. “Our ship is fancy, but don’t expect service to match.” - Not true on Seabourn.  Intuitive service is Seabourn's trademark.  You know the service is good when you are chatting to friends during breakfast that you will meet them at the forward whirlpool at 3:30 p.m. and at exactly 3:30 p.m. a bar waiter arrives with a bottle of champagne and four glasses.  True story.  (Also, see points 5,6 and 9 above!)


So now, let me ask you is the "Smart Money" spend reading an article about how a cruise isn't going to meet your expectations or considering the value of a Seabourn cruise? 

Want to know more?  Call me at (877) 2GO-LUXURY (or +1 732 383 7398) or email me at eric@goldringtravel.com.