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How has cruising changed for you over the past 25 years?

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The problem we experienced with the midnight buffet was rude passengers.  The crew spent a lot of time making it beautiful and a feast for the eyes as well as the palate, and then groups of the uncouth pressed their way to the front and simply loaded their plates as high as possible without taking time to appreciate all that was put into it.

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Posted (edited)

While there certainly are more choices now, the basic core cruise experience has been diluted.  Yes the ships are bigger - but somehow I preferred sharing a smaller ship with about 600 to 1000 others more than a much larger ship with perhaps 5000 others.   The fixed dinner - with good quality food and service included - strikes me as preferable to the shoddy MDR service, and surcharges for a decent meal.


The ports had their own character - and were not over-run by thousands who now come close to outnumbering the local populations - and make it very difficult to see/experience what used to be the reason for going  there.


Call me a dinosaur, but cruising today has largely lost what made it worth doing — except, perhaps, as a way of getting from place to place without needing to fly.

Edited by navybankerteacher
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Time to reminisce...


It has been 38 years since my first cruise...and I smile because of all the fond memories.

Disclosure: I was one of those who thought I'd never set foot on a cruise ship.  I thought I was too young, too active, and mostly too poor to cruise.  I was wrong.


I remember shooting clay pigeons and hitting golf balls on top of the ship into open waters.

I remember my jaw dropping when I first saw the table setting in the Main Dining Room...I didn't know which fork. spoon, or knife to use first...I was lost.  I remember a Sommelier asking me if I wanted wine...all I knew was table wine and asked for Sangria...I still cringe to this day thinking about that.


Aaaah, and the "Formal" nights...from simple jacket, then to a cheap suit, then a better suit, then years of wearing the same tux until a grandkid said "Grandpa, why are you always wearing the same thing on every picture".  No more tux for me.  At my age, I realized no one really cared what I was wearing...except of course my wife.


The most important "change" for us was our introduction to Cruise Critic.  I still remember our British friend, Gordon B. (May he rest in peace), who asked us: "Have you ever heard of Cruise Critic?"  We said: "No, what is it?"  We just want to take the time and say "Thank you" to all the experienced cruisers that genuinely help people and provide valuable information.  Because of Cruise Critic and its members, we have lessen our mistakes, made planning even better and easier, have gotten current information, and have made long lasting friendships.  Thank you Cruise Critic!.

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Posted (edited)

The focus has changed somewhat.  Early on cruising was a great way of taking a family vacation and providing something for everyone.  I also liked the fact that my kids were able to enjoy the freedom of the cruise ship and gain some independence while meeting people from all over the world.


Now with fewer constraints, our cruises have become even longer (I was never a fan of the 7 day cruise) and are less constrained by travel times.  We have also tended to meet more people on board as our time isn't as focused in creating exclusively family moments.   


In general I am good with things been less formal now.  It makes it easier to pack and extend travels.  I am not sure I really miss anything previously available.  I still believe the onboard experience heretofore has been really good. 


We'll see what happens post COVID, but I think we'll be OK.


BTW - I still like the traditional dining time as a means to meet people and get together consistently.  One change is that I have learned I can create my own table and not solely depend on where I am originally assigned.

Edited by SelectSys
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My very first cruise was way back in 1985----I had just gotten divorced and  I went on a 

"Singles Cruise" on "The Big Red Boat". I remember sharing a cabin with another gal (yes, a stranger).

I don't remember much of anything else about that one. 


Fast forward to 1993.....8 years have gone by and I didn't go another cruise until it was my 

parents 50th Anniversary.  They took us a short cruise on Carnival out of Pt. Canaveral.  There

were 9 of us on  THE CARNIVALE.  It was a really bittersweet time. Their BIG anniversary and 

my Mom passed away 4 months later.  We all had a great cruise together though.🙂


Fast forward again 10 years.....2003 and that is when it all really came to fruition for me😃

I went on my first cruise with Celebrity on "CENTURY" and never looked back.  Since that time

I have averaged 3 cruises a year (just a guess).....some years more, this past year 1.....

(I was able to get a cruise in right before the virus).    What has changed for me? Too long

of a story to tell on here.....to make it short......I had some lifechanging things happen in 2016

and was able to jump from mass market to luxury.....once I started sailing on these smaller

vessels? I have no desire to sail on the "BIG SHIPS" again.  So that was really my personal



I also retired in Dec 2019 and if we were in regular times, I would be sailing ALOT more than

3 times a year..........maybe when things get back to whatever a new normal is I will be able

to do that too.🙂 That was my 2nd BIG CHANGE.......no longer working LOL

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My wife (now deceased) and I went on our first cruise with Norwegian Caribbean Line (now Norwegian Cruise Line) in 1987 on the Norwegian Skyward.  We weren't married at the time and she lived in the San Diego metropolitan area and I lived in the Washington, D.C. metropolitan area but we were madly in love with each other.  She had been an avid traveler all her life while my only trip outside the U.S. had been to Montreal, Canada.  One day she called me and asked me if I wanted to go on a 7 day Caribbean cruise for $800.00 per person.  I said "sure" and off we went on what we eventually and fondly called the rust bucket.  Our cabin was all steel, no soft fabrics on it at all.  We had to step over a steel threshold to get into the cabin and another steel threshold to get into the bathroom.  For a window, we had two steel and glass portholes which were rusted shut.  The cabin was also outfitted for four with twin beds on the steel floor and two fold down beds on the long walls of the cabin.  Fortunately, we were only two but twin beds were not very romantic.  Nevertheless we both thoroughly enjoyed the experience and went on another 28 cruises on eight different cruise companies of all shapes and sizes (upping the luxury component over time) and numerous land trips before her untimely demise in 2013.  And after her death I've extended my cruising to twelve more cruises and continue to cruise.  But I'll never forget that first cruise 

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Started out cruising for 3 days to see if we would like it.  All we could afford was inside.  Fell in love.  Stayed with inside for many years, slowly graduating to oceanview (through Panama Canal) and then to balcony.  Finally got a suite and boy were we spoiled.  Wish we could always do that, but unfortunately can't.  Still probably wouldn't go lower than balcony anymore.  What we didn't like was required times  and tables for eating.  We also didn't like having to get dressed up for certain nights.  That had us switch to NCL so we could do as we please.  I understand many ships are like that now.  When younger we liked the midnight buffets, now wouldn't wake up to see them anyhow, but they were very impressive.  I also miss the cute towel animals and chocolate on the pillows.  Very happy that the ships are continually updated and can easily get online, have more choices on the tv when needed, etc.  Loved the freedom to book excursions through private companies, so a little concerned about the future cruising if we have to book with ship.  Often do, but like the options. Enjoy the shows on all the ships, Disney has some of the best.  All ships seem to get very good talent and I like having lots of choices to see different things.  Biggest improvement ever has been the mandatory lifeboat drills that used to have us standing outside in our lifejackets in the heat.  Much better now.  We take lots of longer cruises now and when we have lots of sea days we love to go to the spa and relax.  Really wish we could book the spa passes in advance online so we were assured of getting that.

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My first cruise was as a solo traveler on the Legend of the Seas during it's inaugural year and I had a blast on an Alaska cruise. I met my future wife on that cruise and we've been cruising ever since. Being my first cruise I was in aw of the ship which I believe was the largest in the fleet at that time. The flare and the elegance was beyond what i expected. I was seated at a table for 8 and the other 7 where all women from 2 different parties. Three sisters and two older women and I hung out after dinner and had a blast.

Since then we've travelled on several cruise lines always coming back to RCCL needless to say the ships have gotten bigger and grander, however I think I miss some of formality in the MDR I understand it's a pain to pack a suit for 2 nights (there are options) but it's something I miss. 

The entertainment has continued to get better and list of activities have grown, I love the water slides but I adore The Ultimate Abyss. The best seat in the house for me was top deck rear of ship behind flow rider on HOTS, i love the view easy access to the bar and watching people fail on flow rider even though some of the true surfers are entertaining also. Can't wait to sail Odessey of the Sea 

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As this seems to now be first cruise stories, I shall post about ours.


In late 2002, I said to DW that our 25th anniversary was coming up the next summer, why don't we try a cruise. That sounded good to her. I suggested Bermuda as we could drive to NY City and not have to fly. She said no. (We have since cruised to Bermuda.) She suggested Alaska, and now it was my turn to say no. (We have since cruised to Alaska.)


At that point I sent away for a brochure from a company I saw an ad for in our local paper. A cruise that intrigued me was from Barcelona to Barcelona. (So much for not flying🤣.) Now since DW was and still is an art teacher, I knew this cruise with stops for places like Rome and Florence would definitely be a yes let's do it from her. And that is how our cruising adventures started.

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Our answers

1) Less formal dining experience in general.   We still "dress" for dinner and think that the management staff appreciates the dressing.  However, we understand that others appreciate the more relaxed dress code.  We like anytime dining where we can pick our tablemates or go just as a couple and flex dining time around other events.  


2) Food seem to have been trimmed to hold down costs.  Full lobsters changed to lobster tails and now lobster in food (e.g. pasta). Good steaks are now in the extra cost steak houses or an up-charge in the main dining room.  No more midnight buffet displays (that we are sure was a waste of food).  However, we do enjoy the ethnic dining experiences often offered at lunch or dinner that we have seen more of on our later cruises.


3) Gone are the theme nights.  We remember bringing multiple suitcases with cowboy, 50s, roaring 20s, AND formal wear.  Most people would participate.  Now we might have 45 minutes of a theme even for Mardi Gras or Halloween with a few people (us) in addition to cruise director staff participating.  And it's hard to find out what the themes might be ahead of the cruise so that you can pack the correct clothing.  Kudos to Cunard for continuing theme nights on their transatlantic crossings.


4) We now have internet from the ship.  Previously, we had no reasonably priced communications back to home.


5) We like dancing.  It seems to us that many ships have dropped dance floors, with deck / pool side dancing being offered.  (Our guess - dance floors don't have the revenue per square foot that other venues have unless the patrons have drinks in their hands.)  We have been on ships with their dance band playing at the intersection of two hallways -- "dance there".  We miss the late 1990s Oklahoma Room dance floor on the former RCL Song of America.  We have adjusted our cruise suppliers -- we love Cunard's sequence dancing events on their QM2 large dance floor.  Princess and HAL generally have dance areas.  


6) Others have talked about the non-stop hustle for bingo, shopping, etc.  We found that public address system hustle seems to have peaked several years ago and is on the decline.  We have found that there is less pushing of booze at both bars and the production shows on the last several cruises.  We remember that hawking of wine packages were very much "in your face" when boarding.  While still offered on embarkation, it is less "in your face".  We buy a drink package if offered as part of a "best sale ever" promotion.  While we don't drink enough alcohol to make it a great value, we do drink enough specialty drinks and drinks to make it a good value.


7) Cleaning and cabin service.  We believe that the cabin stewards have more rooms to clean now than in the past.  However, we never needed to have our beds made every time we left the room.  We are okay with the twice per day cabin service as sufficient.  We have noticed that the crews are very dedicated to cleaning to prevent the spread of norovirus when there have been the beginning of outbreaks on the ship.  The fight against spreading diseases over making the cabin beds is the correct allocation of human resource.


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I had a tally up on this and my first cruise was fifty seven years ago.  My parents did not have a car, so catching the "Boat Train" from London to Southampton Docks was in itself very exciting.  It took you all the way to Southampton Docks.  The concept of having purpose built cruise terminals was not fully implemented and people had to enter the "Passenger Shed" and stand in a group according to your class and an area which related to the first letter of your surname.  You then waited until approached by staff who called you forward to board.  


Cabins were not all the same like today as shore built units were not how it was done and the cabins tended to be all shapes and sizes with each bed having a specific number reference as people could book half a cabin, same sex and share it!  They generally had a sink in the cabin at our level of luxury with a toilet and bathrooms down the corridor to share with a number of cabins. Generally most ships had different classes and a number of crew members had to keep the lower classes from entering into the higher class areas.  An exception I noticed, aged seven, that attractive ladies seemed to be let through in the evenings.   On our first ship they had lifts which were operated by an attendant who knew what decks had which amenities on them.  First class passengers dressed for dinner every night (I think this is from where the myth originates) but second class only dressed up on set nights.  


Dinner was first or second sitting in the main dining room and on French Line the waiters seemed to think I should be drinking wine as a seven year old.  In those days it seemed more normal to share things and think of ourselves as a community.  Cruise lines recently have tried to get away from nautical terms and the sea in my experience.  The pursers desk is now reception, people stay in rooms not cabins and the person in charge is the Hotel Manager.   I think it a mistake to try and ignore the fact that you are on a ship cruising the Oceans.


Regards John

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On 3/24/2021 at 11:50 AM, LauraS said:

So do you think cruising has changed for the better over the past 25 years?  Is there one (or two) things you'd like to see return from bygone days?  What would you like to see disappear!  How have these changes affected you? 


Be as specific as you'd like.....


25 years ago we were cruising from India to Greece (via Oman, Yemen, Egypt, Turkey, Cyprus) on Radisson Song of Flower(150 passengers,150 crew)--all inclusive, no tipping and very happy crew.  As cruising has become ever more popular (2020 notwithstanding) the small lines have either gone by the wayside or been absorbed/bought out by mega companies interested in money, not quality.  It has been evident in how crew are treated, the nickel-diming for everything from get/pay for your coffee at the specialty coffee shop (room service coffee was dreadful on that cruise) to buy this, buy that--and internet charges are usually exorbitant --internet didn't even exist 25 years ago.....we've travelled to 80+ countries, many by ship, and long for the days when you could actually visit a place and not run into your entire ship.  We remember when respect for other cultures was important, and American arrogance wasn't in the forefront (country club casual means sloppy to some, and wearing baseball caps inside and tennis shoes for everything is just plain rude!).  We live in Mexico these days (but we're Colorado residents) and respect in Mexico is very important--and you can always tell the Mexicans as they dress so much more nicely than the Americans/Canadians do--I miss that pride in appearance!  I don't miss the midnight buffets and the obesity it encourages; and I think the specialty restaurants are purely a ploy to make more money for the lines.  I know that Cunard (now owned by Carnival) has seen a decline in its staff happiness and overall ambience--too bad.  And I actually first cruised 50 years ago as a student on World Campus Afloat on HA's Ryndam at the time--not a cruise in the sense of a vacation cruise today but a shipboard experience nonetheless.

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Cruising has indeed changed, at least on Norwegian, for the worst. Our first cruise was on the Dreamward  in 1989 or so. You weren't nickled and dimed at all back then. Nor were there constant blaring pitches concerning bingo and all the other profit making schemes devised by the lines. We've been on seventeen or eighteen cruises since then, on on RCI and one on the old Pacific Princess (THE BEST TRIP Yet!) Our last cruise was on the Norwegian Breakaway, it will be our last on Norwegian ever. The deceit and double dealing by Norwegian on that trip was shameful...


THe larger ships suck for the most part, sometimes I felt like I was in Wal-Mart. No room at the pool or the hot tubs, specialty restaurants booked solid before she even left the pier. Lines everywhere. I'm hoping the lines have changed their policies, but I sincerely doubt it

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7 hours ago, Shooter48 said:

Cruising has indeed changed, at least on Norwegian, for the worst. Our first cruise was on the Dreamward  in 1989 or so. You weren't nickled and dimed at all back then. Nor were there constant blaring pitches concerning bingo and all the other profit making schemes devised by the lines. We've been on seventeen or eighteen cruises since then, on on RCI and one on the old Pacific Princess (THE BEST TRIP Yet!) Our last cruise was on the Norwegian Breakaway, it will be our last on Norwegian ever. The deceit and double dealing by Norwegian on that trip was shameful...


THe larger ships suck for the most part, sometimes I felt like I was in Wal-Mart. No room at the pool or the hot tubs, specialty restaurants booked solid before she even left the pier. Lines everywhere. I'm hoping the lines have changed their policies, but I sincerely doubt it

Good morning, that sounds truly awful.☹️ It is one of the reasons I LOVE sailing on much smaller vessels.

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I started cruising in '91 (I think - guess I should check my signature 🤣).  We were on Princess and I felt like the youngest one on board.  I did love the champagne tower, the midnight buffet, and dressing up.  Even the set dining times was fun.  These days, I do really enjoy Anytime Dining as I know I won't have to rush back from an excursion to get ready for an early seating dinner or just not be hungry by the time late seating rolls around.  I've been lucky in that I've been able to have the same wait staff even with Anytime Dining.


I do like having the option of adding a beverage package as it has turned out to be cheaper than paying for each drink.  I like a chai latte in the morning, a bottle of water for an excursion and several alcoholic drinks throughout the day.  It also makes it feel more all-inclusive.


I also like being able to pre-pay my gratuities and simply add extra to them - which I always seem to do. I love being able to book independent excursions and have them all paid for by the time I step on the ship.  Again - it's that all-inclusive feel for me.


I love getting dressed to the nines for formal nights.  I know it has kind of fallen by the wayside, but it's fun for me since it's a rarity.


I do not like all the announcements for auctions, bingo and whatnot.  I have learned to just tune it out though - somewhat. 


I still love to cruise, but won't be able to for a while until I finish paying for my son's college education - only 2 more years though.  Hopefully by the time I get ready to cruise again, covid will be a thing of the past and vaccinations won't be required.

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I think it's changed for the better. On my first cruise about 20 years ago, it was more formal and not to many food choices. Now you can enjoy your cruise with all the different culinary options and you can visit any restaurant in Khahis and a nice polo shirt.  The suit and tie had to go.  I like to go on a cruise and feel like I'm on vacation. This is one of the reason we were attracted to NCL's freestyle.  When that came out, it was innovative. I do agree that many cruises now nickel and dime everything but it is not mandatory to purchase.  One can always say, "no thanks".

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First cruise on Song of America, RCCL almost 40 years ago.  Many changes over the years most for the better, that is why we are still cruising.  Agree Cruises are cheaper -  by comparison, recall our fist Mediterranean cruise on the Crown Odyssey in l989, was in a limited view cabin for 12 days, cost us $7500 for cruise alone, no air we booked that ourselves.  Today for that price we can get a mini suite with a good size balconies.  Balconies were a new trend with the first Royal Princess an all balcony ship, we did a Baltic cruise on it.  With overall costs cheaper, food has not gotten better, but if you are willing to pay more you can get a meal similar to what was offered  years ago in the Crown Grill on Princess.  Some of the newest trends, larger ships, very small balconies, no main decks are not adding to the value of cruising.  That plus all the cruise lines copying each other in their designs has not added to magic of cruising.  Use to be fun to try different lines, they had different personalities, now days one is like the other comparing Princess, HAL, Cunard, Celebrity.

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On 3/26/2021 at 9:41 AM, marco said:

You rented a deck chair, and that was your chair for the length of the cruise.

I’m genuinely curious...how is renting a deck chair not considered nickeling and diming?

NCL’s VIBE pass is at the top of people’s gripes lists and it’s kinda the same concept. 

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