As big as the cruise industry is, I am quite surprised with the lack of local advertising, aimed at folks who live within short driving distances of home ports. I’ve lived in South Florida for over 22 years, and I would see at least a dozen commercials a week, from Disney World, promoting deals for Florida residents. Look, I realize the industry’s bread and butter is the extended holiday/vacation, and the short cruise business may be doing well enough, but there are more dollars to be made there.

All across the U.S., particularly in or near port cities, casinos and entertainment venues are popping up. In many cases, they are popping up because people want things to do before and after their cruises. I know I would purposely arrive to ports like New Orleans a day or two early just to enjoy what the city has to offer! But what about the locals? For those who enjoy a night out, like a nice dinner for two, followed by a show and maybe drinks and/or dancing afterwards…this can get pricey!

Some weekend cruises rival the cost of one night out in Miami!

Some weekend cruises rival the cost of one night out in Miami!

Well, if you live near a cruise home port, and can make weekend getaway decisions within a window of one to two weeks (give or take), a weekend cruise can cost you significantly less than ONE night on the town for two people! That’s right, call the babysitter…call the grand parents…you are going to want to get away for the weekend because we are going to do  a comparison!

We recently dined at a well-known steakhouse in Miami, followed by a show with drinks. Here is the breakdown:

  • 1 Pea Soup: $9.50
  • 1 Stone Crab: $24.00
  • 1 Lamb Chops: $46.00
  • 1 Colorado Ribs: $53.00
  • 1 Creamed Spinach: $12.50
  • 2 Glasses House Red Wine: $24.00
  • 2 Import Beers: $19.00
  • 1 German Chocolate Cake: $9.00

Then at the show, a Broadway musical, two tickets were $120 and four drinks cost us $32. The figures above, not including tax and gratuities, total $349.

Just recently, on February 10, Norwegian Cruise Line had several fares, for a 4-nighter, starting at $119 per person.

Weekend cruises were advertised as low as $134 per person. Port charges and fees are a bit extra, but prices for three and four nights certainly rivaled our night out in this case. And for those of you who may be cruise newbies, what was included with the cruise advertised for $119pp? Well, five complimentary dining options, all entertainment in the Theatre and Show Lounge and live music and dancing venues throughout the ship, fitness center/sports court/pools/hot tubs, youth programs (if needed) and of course, excellent service! Oh, and yes…two tropical destinations along the way!

The view from aboard the Allure of the Seas as she departs from Port Everglades, in Ft. Lauderdale, FL.

The view from aboard the Allure of the Seas as she departs from Port Everglades, in Ft. Lauderdale, FL.

Shorter cruises offer many benefits, such as an alternative to land-based casinos (and you don’t have to drive home after drinking) and allowing new cruisers to try it out for a shorter period and a lower cost. It is also a great change from trying to find parking at local entertainment venues and beaches around the U.S. One of our Facebook fans had her own reason…she arrived for her 7-day cruise a few days early, and taking a three night cruise (before her longer cruise) was  much less expensive than staying in a hotel for two nights. Yes, hotel rates on cruise weekends, in port cities are not cheap, and, you better reserve early!

We can help with your cruise wants and needs. We can also answer your questions. Check out our new sister website, CruiseCX.com, and start researching your next cruise or travel escape. Happy Hump Day everybody!

The round objects near the smoke stack are part of a ship's satellite communications infrastructure.

The round objects near the smoke stack are part of a ship’s satellite communications infrastructure.

Our smart phones are great tools at home and on the go.  I don’t know about you all, but it cut down our household, desktop computer usage…which is a good thing!  When we purchase a phone, the sales rep will (hopefully) ask if you have any questions about set-up and usage.  When many of us answer this question, we typically want to know about day-to-day operations, and making sure our data and contacts transfer from the old device into the new one.  Rarely do we ask about the choices within the phone’s settings…and not knowing how to change some of these settings can get you into unwanted situations.

My sister-in-law cruised with us on our last trip,  on the NCL Breakaway last May.  When we last spoke, she had me view her last cellphone bill, and asked me to figure out why it was almost $130 higher than normal.  It turned out that she did not deactivate the phone’s 3g/4g/LTE /data services until several days into the cruise.  And, with today’s smart phones, which do so much more than making phone calls, it doesn’t matter that she did not use the phone, answer calls, and check incoming text messages and emails.

The key word in the previous paragraph is “incoming.” Many of us have our smart phones set up in a way that has it automatically retrieving our emails and text messages.  In many other cases, voice mails may download to the phone.  Stock tickers, sports scores, location services, weather apps and other updates which appear on our home pages…yup…they are also culprits!  All of these background activities are receiving data, and the data is coming from the ship’s satellite communication systems.

One fool proof way to keep your phone from using the ship’s satellite system (for cell data) is to keep the phone “off” for the duration of the cruise.  And be careful if you choose to use the phone in port (even off of the ship, yet close-by), as you may not be far enough away from the ship to tie into the port of call’s cell-tower infrastructure!

What if you do not want to turn the phone off on board?  Perhaps you will use it as your camera, or as a communication tool via an on-board network, such as with Norwegian Cruise Line’s “I-Concierge” app (available on iPhone and Android phones).  This is where it comes in handy to know how to go into your phone’s settings and disable the data services.  This way, you won’t receive any data through cell services, and you can still keep the WIFI function active.  Remember, placing the phone in “AIRPLANE MODE” will also keep you from receiving data services, but you WILL NOT be able to connect to the ship’s WIFI.

If you absolutely need to speak with people via telephone while cruising, you can try your FaceTime, Skype or other apps of the sort.  Beware, however, ship board internet rates are still hefty, and speed is not anywhere close to the “high-speed” you are familiar with at home.

Between Facebook, LinkedIn and face-to-face conversations (yes, you read correctly), nearly 80% said they only give cruise lines one (1) “chance” before saying “they would never come back” after negative experiences.  It was a very informal question posed; I didn’t get into the food, the service, the entertainment or even the friendliness of the staff.  I kept it basic, and the answer, by a wide margin, was one.

With one person in particular, I followed up by asking if she would return to her FAVORITE restaurant after a bad experience.  I did not ask the same follow-up question with regards to her favorite cruise line.  But, I venture to guess that her answer would have been the same as the restaurant…”Yes.”  Tomorrow, I am going to pose the restaurant and cruise line follow-up questions, because now I am curious.

I realize the investments are not the same, and that is a HUGE factor.  Take even a date night at your favorite upscale steak-house, where the average bill for two will be around $120-$150.  If you had a bad steak one night, realizing typically good restaurants may have a bad night once in a while, you may be pissed, but you are more likely to return. Why? The $120-$150 investment is not as steep as a cruise vacation for two; or a trip to a hugely popular resort in Central Florida!  I have many thoughts as to why the number was nearly 80%, even for a “glass-half-full” type of guy like myself:

  • A bad night out didn’t cost you vacation time, or even one-day lost at work…but a cruise on the other hand will cost more money in addition to the vacay and work time, as well as potential travel expenses getting to the ship
  • If it is your FIRST cruise with a particular line, you have no basis for comparison…only hearsay from others
  • The cruiser may already have loyalty “points” built up with another line, therefore will not chance it again on the negative experience
  • The cruiser may have gone with a new line (for him/herself) with preconceived notions, so a nice time was NOT going to be had regardless.

I’m sure there are many more reasons.  But now, what about negative experiences on what is currently your FAVORITE cruise line?  After spending  money on airfare, the cruise itself, shore excursions and other on-board expenses, using vacation time and having to get caught up at work…would you again sail with your favorite cruise line after a negative experience?  With regards to this question, I’m sure people think about some of the items mentioned above, such as perks and loyalty programs as well as past positive experiences (heck, they just had a bad week…).

I would LOVE to have more of your thoughts here on the blog and on our Facebook page; especially from those who said they would only give a cruise line one chance!  Does this include your FAVORITE cruise line?