Posted by: Jerry Garrett | April 18, 2012

Day 3: Adventure of the Seas Trans Atlantic Cruise

Cruising: No middle seats, no luggage fees, no "food for purchase", no long lines to use one coach class restroom. (Jerry Garrett Photos)

[Editor’s Note: I’m traveling, at my own expense, on a 13-night re-positioning cruise, from the Caribbean to the Mediterranean on Royal Caribbean’s Adventure of the Seas. These are my unfiltered, unedited and uninfluenced observations of the experience.]

PHILIPSBURG, ST. MAARTEN, Netherlands Antilles

If the airlines ran the cruise ship lines, I’m pretty sure the entire Earth would have been de-populated by now, by some kind of norovirus epidemic. If the cruise ship companies ran the airlines, everyone would be overjoyed to fly.

If you’re a pig, cruise ship operators will have a crew of people pick up after you, disinfect every place you touched, and make sure the next person never knew you were there. If an airline operator has, for instance, a small maintenance issue such as an engine falling off a 737, they say, “Not our fault. We out-sourced that.”

The experience on a cruise ship is so much different than that on an airliner these days, a visitor from another planet might never guess cruise ships and airlines each considered themselves part of the travel industry.

Of course, if a visitor from another planet tried to take an aircraft here, he might never had made it. He/she/it might still be stranded, waiting to change planes at O’Hare. Or filing a tracer for his luggage. Or, should the TSA intervene, being deported back to Romulus-9.

Not that cruising doesn’t have its foibles. But the experience of cruising is crafted to create joy – and return customers. The airlines seem to know that if you have to fly to, say, Atlanta, you’re pretty much screwed.

I didn’t always feel that way, but this Trans Atlantic cruise on Royal Caribbean’s Adventure of the Seas reminds me of how it used to be. In the beginning, I lived to fly. I racked up a million miles on United, then a million more on Delta. (A moment of silence here for gobbled-up predecessors such as Northwest, Western, National and Continental.) But then, I could hardly stomach it any more.

On my first cruise, I truly weighed the consequences of jumping off and swimming to shore, as we passed under the Sunshine Skyway, leaving Tampa. That cruise was approximately one-hour-old, at the time.

That ship was old, dirty, cramped and in poor repair. The furnishings were ratty, the food nearly inedible, and you had to compete for a chair to sit down on. In short, it was like flying one of today’s airliners!

I’m not saying cruise ships and airliners are comparable. I’m not saying I love everything the cruise industry does. But given a choice, between making the passenger enjoy the travel experience, want to come back, and spread the word about how much they enjoyed themselves…the cruise ship industry tends to choose that route. The airline industry is all too ready to sacrifice enjoyment, customer satisfaction and repeat customers for an extra buck.

Modern cruise ships are massive, lavishly designed, and as luxurious as any land-based resort. (And cruise ships are so clean! Walking around once in my stockinged feet on a Trans Atlantic flight, a stewardess advised me to put my shoes back on. “The inside of an airliner,” she warned, “is the second dirtiest place on Earth.” I was left to ponder what was first.)

On this cruise, I don’t have to schlep my luggage. No one cares how many pieces of luggage I have. My luggage just appears magically in my room when I board, and is off-loaded when the cruise is done. I don’t compete for aisle seats; there are at least five times as many places to sit as there are passengers – and this ship is full. If I’m hungry, there is always freshly prepared food to eat, in whatever amount I want, 24 hours a day. There’s even 24-hour room service. There aren’t 173 of us standing in line to use the one coach-class bathroom.

The airline executives who are reading this are probably thinking, “These cruise ship operators are sure leaving a bunch of money on the table.”

No, there are just building a business, not tearing it down.

Enough of my travel rant for today. Tomorrow, I will discuss our stop, 250 miles into our Trans Atlantic cruise, in the Netherlands Antilles. What a paradise!

Jerry Garrett

April 17, 2012


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