How Cruising Changed for the Better Over the Decades

“I really miss the QE2.” If you sail often, you will encounter passengers with a rose tinted view of how they remember cruising in the good old days. It’s actually improved significantly. Here’s how.

  1. It’s not just transportation. Once upon a time, it was how you crossed the Atlantic. How business people traveled from Britain to Australia or India. Today, the ship is the destination. You can have a great time and never leave the ship.
  2. River cruising was perfected. People get seasick. A good solution is to operate cruises on waters that aren’t oceans. Years ago, having a barge holiday was a popular way to tour France. It remains popular. These vessels held 6-12 passengers. You basically booked and filled it yourself. It was expensive. Today you can sail great rivers, visit inland European sites and have larger ship amenities while not venturing into the open sea.
  3. Ships come in all sizes. Some people like the intimacy of a canal barge. Others want a city at sea. You might think mega ships are too impersonal, wanting the yacht type ship experience. Today, there’s something for everyone.
  4. A cruise line for every personality. You want to dress for dinner. Someone else might want to not wear a tie for their entire vacation. Couples might want a romantic voyage. Families might want plenty of children’s activities. You might want your meals served on a bun. Someone else might think lunch served in under 90 minutes is merely refueling. There’s a cruise line with “your name on it.” Ask your travel agent.
  5. Stabilizing technology has improved. We tell friends “Crossing the Atlantic has come a long way since Columbus and the Nina, Pinta and Santa Maria.” Propulsion systems have replaced propellers. Stabilizer technology is much better. No one is a match for mother Nature, but captains try to steer away from storms.
  6. Cabin sizes are standardized. Those fond memories of the Queen Elizabeth 2 overlook the fact many cabins were tiny. Our first was 108 square feet including bathroom and closet. Today, most basic cabins are comparable to luxury cabins from 40 years ago.
  7. Ship to shore communication. No one remembers radio telephones because they were so expensive to use, no one ever did. Calling was often done in port, through designated phone booths that cost a fortune. The American Express (Paris) office in the movie Charade (1963) is a good reminder what those phone booths looked like. Today you have Internet access. Sometimes even cellphone service.
  8. More entertainment options. Internet access means access to Social Media. Movies. Ships have multiple TV channels. Lots of lounges means plenty of late night music.
  9. Alternative dining. It’s no longer a two seating dinner service or the casual buffet. Many ships operate specialty restaurants. It’s literally like going out for a night on the town. The advantage is you aren’t driving home.
  10. Price competition. Years ago, the industry looked at the number of people who have ever taken a cruise (low) and concluded everyone else would want to take a cruise if there were enough ships and cabin space. Lots of building followed. The cruise industry business model has a unique quirk: “Once the ship leaves the dock, an empty cabin provides zero income.” They are motivated to fill every cabin. This means price competition, especially on last minute sailings.

Back in 1971, Carly Simon sang “Anticipation.” It included the line “And stay right here ‘cause these are the good old days.” In the world of cruising, the “good old days” are now.

Cover photo: Queen Victoria fireworks, credit Bryce Sanders

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