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Cruising on the Same Old Ship

by Douglas Terhune

Why is it that when people travel to a destination that they generally nave no problem staying at the same hotel, time after time? Yet, when given the opportunity to sail on the same cruise ship, passengers more often than not steer away from the idea.

I am troubled by this. Is it that there is such a plethora of ships to choose from? I think that is part of the reason, but aren't there plenty of hotels to stay in when visiting Lake Tahoe? Why do I always stay at the Hyatt in Incline Village then? There must be over a hundred choices of accommodations peppered throughout the 72-mile Circumference Lake.

Now I can understand not marrying the same person twice or not eating Limburger cheese sandwiches twice, but if you like a ship, why not sail her twice?

Technically, I must be pseudo-parochial here too, because when I refer to the same ship, I am also implying the same class of ship. Take the Sovereign class ships of Royal Caribbean or the Fantasy class ships of Carnival. Each line found a winning product and duplicated it numerous times. But so did the Marriott Courtyard too! In fact, I am on a plane now headed to Houston and will be staying in one tonight. Every Courtyard hotel I have stayed at was virtually identical - there is something to be said about meeting one's expectations on the road.

Ah ha! Maybe that's what this is about. Could it be that cruisers like the unknown? Are they more apt to gamble on the ship than they would a hotel room? This could be - but I am not yet sure.

Let's set the record straight - I am just another cruiseaholic who works a real job to support my cruising habits. In a few days I will board the Grand Princess for her inaugural Caribbean cruise. This will be number 21 - yes, I have a problem. And unlike Travel Agents who sometimes pay a reduced rate to cruise, these all come out of my pocket, my ever more shallow pocket.

Of the 20 cruises, three of them have been on identical ships - Carnival's Holiday, Sensation and the defunct Admiral Lines Emerald of the Seas. I have cruised four times on the Fantasy class ships and the lines I have cruised on are Costa, NCL, RCI, Admiral and Carnival (and soon to add Princess).

So why did I repeat? Well, I am not sure that one answer jumps out at me, but a few reasons are:

  • Cost
  • Itinerary
  • Liked the ship
  • Timing

Of these, I do not think that one had more of an important role than the others for all three repeats.

So why repeat? Good question, let's take this journey together and see if we can come up with some justification. My first thoughts about repeating tend to center around that fact that each boatload of people represents a new cruising experience - regardless if this is your first or 10th cruise on the same ship. (It should be noted that I am a people person, you know, one that says hi to strangers walking along the Promenade, in the Gala Buffet line or as you cross the Gang Plank of Love)

For me, a cruise is the people I meet. I might get in trouble saying this, but the islands are really quite cookie-cutter and the cabins are pretty humdrum. The food is always very good and plentiful, the service is far better than land based restaurants, the saltwater pools on deck are always small, the Casinos gladly accept donations and someone always wins at Bingo.

Ship Tip: Ships are ships, people make a cruise

Nowadays, ships are becoming more and more like resorts and a destination in and amongst itself. Chances are too that if you have a good time on a ship, you would not be opposed to cruising on the same ship - this is what the cruise lines are hoping for. In fact, the ships are becoming so big that you need two cruises just to see all of the ship.

Last year I sailed on the beautiful Carnival Destiny and that is exactly what I felt when I left her. I know that I did not have enough time to explore every nook and cranny that I had hoped to - and hopefully will have the opportunity to sail on her again.

Ship Tip: Many of today's ships are floating resorts, and 3-7 days just isn't enough time to explore an entire ship.

Guess we really do need to explore the comfort factor a bit more. Most of the ships I have sailed on were just fine; in fact, I have never sailed on a ship that I did not enjoy. Each ship has something that it can call its own. But when I go to a travel agent to plunk down my hard-earned paycheck on a cruise, yes, I do want to go on a ship that I know will satisfy me.

Ship tip: Traveling on the same ship can be "safe"

Of course, I also like to venture out and explore, that is why I did not sail on the same ship 20 times. In fact, it is the research of a ship that I really enjoy. Getting the brochures, reading SeaLetter reviews by former cruisers, and talking with travel agents is what I really enjoy doing. There are over 30 ships that service the United States annually and my goal is to sail on as many lines and classes of ships as possible.

Ship Tip: So many ships, so little time!!

Something else to consider about ships is that they usually change itineraries annually. The lines do this for numerous reasons, but I am glad they do it and it keeps people coming back and repeating.

Ship Tip: Cruise Lines continually change the itineraries of ships - so if you plan to repeat, chances are it will be doing a different route.

So if you like the safeness of repeating a ship and it fits your budget, schedule and tastes, then by all means - Go For It! Yes there are plenty of alternatives, but some ships deserve second voyages and a chance to relive certain memories. But don't forget that there are so many great and wonderful new ships out there as well, and if you get too comfy on one ship or with one line, you may never have a good objective view of cruising.

Ship Tip: Variety does give one a better perspective, but can be risky.

Either way, just as long as you take a cruise, that should remain your sole purpose in life (hmmm, is that too strong of a closing?).


Doug TerhuneDoug Terhune is quite the experienced "solo cruiser" and is a regular columnist and reviewer for the SeaLetter. He recently began his monthly "Ship Tips" columns.

Doug's special interest is interviewing various officers on his cruises, including interviews with the Tropicale's head chef, the Inspiration's Chief Engineer, and the Sensation's Captain. To find all of Doug's SeaLetter columns and cruise reviews, use the SeaLetter Search Engine entering "Douglas Terhune" as your search phrase.

Doug can be reached at: Doug@sealetter.com.

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