Maybe it’s time to lower your expectations at high sea

By | December 11th, 2012

The complaints started pouring in even before the storm had subsided.

Passengers were outraged — outraged! — that their ships had operated even with a hurricane approaching in late October.

One guest, who had just disembarked from a Disney cruise, was livid. “The pools on the upper decks were closed the entire time and the fine dining down below was canceled because of the excessive motion from the extremely rough seas,” she reported.

The sailing should have been canceled, according to her and one other passenger on the same cruise. Instead, Disney offered its seasick customers a 25 percent discount off a future voyage.

Absurdly high expectations — that pretty much summarizes the ridiculousness of cruising in the 21st century. Theirs and ours.

I’m taking one last swing at each segment of the travel industry on this column’s farewell tour, and today it’s cruising’s turn.

On the face of it, the passenger demands to cancel a cruise with an incoming hurricane, and the complaints about a measly 25 percent discount seem perfectly reasonable. But they are not.

A cruise is, by definition, a journey on the ocean. The ocean can be unpredictable, even dangerous. So these people who are complaining — they booked their vacation during the Atlantic hurricane season. What were they expecting, a river cruise?

Disney would never take a $500 million ship for a joyride in a Category 1 hurricane, not just because it cares about the safety of its passengers (which I’m sure it does), but also because it doesn’t want to lose a ship that cost more than half a billion dollars.

Related story:   Swine flu sinks family's cruise -- are they outta luck?

At the same time, there are powerful forces pushing any cruise line to sail on schedule, if it can safely do so. Chief among them: all the passengers that will whine if they don’t run the cruise, “ruining” their vacation of a lifetime.

You just can’t win.

But there’s plenty of stupidity to go around. Cruise lines have an unsustainable business model, which is based on registering their ships in countries with zero standards, paying their third-world crew substandard wages, evading American taxes, charging artificially low cruise fares and then making up the difference with “gotcha” fees and extras.

I know that was a lot to absorb. But believe me, I’ve been following this business for long enough that you just have to take my word for it. The cruise industry is the proverbial ship of fools, whether you’re buying or selling. (Travel agents, can I hear an “amen”?)

I’m not going to waste your time reviewing the evidence that cruising is an unsustainable, if not irresponsible, vacation activity, propped up by bad tax laws, overpaid lobbyists and our insatiable appetite to get something for nothing.

Instead, let’s focus on the solution.

We need to lower our expectations. What do I mean by that? If you own shares in a cruise line, those 40 percent gross profit margins are a dangerous fantasy. Cruise lines will do whatever they can to squeeze every last dollar out of their employees and passengers while bending every government rule and regulation standing in their way. That must end.

And passengers? Didn’t your momma ever tell you that if something sounds too good to be true, it probably isn’t?

Related story:   Should privacy laws prevent us from advocating this case?

What do you call cruising the Caribbean at $49 a day, all meals included? There’s no win-win when prices are so low — someone pays for the nonsense. And if you don’t believe me, then strike up a conversation with one of the deckhands or cabin attendants on your next cruise and ask them about their standard of living.

When it comes to cruising, it’s not a question of what is ridiculous. It’s more a question of what’s not?

Whose expectations are higher?

View Results

Loading ... Loading ...

  • TonyA_says

    So when is the bailout of the cruise lines coming? Is this another too big to fail industry? :-)
    Missing in the article is how huge boats harm the environment. This is really obvious in Venice where they contribute to more flooding. Where does all the trash and human waste go? In the bottom of the sea?

  • How true. I should have included the environmental angle.

  • Kevin Mathews


    Most of the people who pay $49/Night don’t have very high expectations. That akin to staying at a Motel 8 and expecting everything to be absolutely pristine in the room.

    It’s the people that shell out $200+ a night that have the higher expectations. If you spent $350 for a weeklong cruise vs $1500, who do you think it going to have the higher expectations that the accomidations that were paid for are available? Now that said, anyone who books a cruise in the Carribean in Atlantic Hurricane Season is gambling with their vacation. Although the Cruise line may still run, and they may do everything they can to avoid the storm itself, that doesn’t mean that the water will be calm and peaceful.

    I’m not sure why people, who spend that much for a vacation, in the prime time for hurricanes, don’t buy Cancel For Any Reason trip insurance. So while yes, you would still lose the vacation time away from work, you wouldn’t have been stuck out on the ocean with a hurricane barrelling down on you…

    And you really should explain what you mean by “unsustainable”. Their business model is basically the same one as most of the other companies in the travel industry. Offer a Cheap rate to get you hooked, then hit you with Fees and other expenses once they’ve got the captive audience. We see this in Hotels, Airplanes, etc… Obviously the business model works because most companies in the travel industry seem to be doing it…

  • Molly

    My husband and I have been on one cruise. And it wasn’t an “US” cruise line, it was MSC. But I doubt there is that much difference overall. The end result is that we will never go on another one! The sheer gluttony of most of the people was disgusting! The level of entitlement was disgusting. And the level of complaints over amazingly trivial garbage was disgusting. The ships employees were, for the most part, wonderful. I would not rank a single one less than average, at worst. But the passengers…. a whole other story. Never again.
    And yes, cruise prices are ridiculously low compared to land-bound trips. People on cruises feel they are paying top dollar if they pay $1500 for a full week including lodging, all meals (often all you can eat), transportation between stops and entertainment? Really?! Really?! But let’s all whine that it wasn’t all warm and fuzzy and perfect enough.
    I will save longer and take fewer vacations. I will never climb into a sardine can again. And I mean the sheer number of people (thousands) on the average ship these days, not the vessels themselves.

  • Meghan Guilford

    Agree that anyone who vacations in the Carribean/East Coast during Atlantic Hurricane Season is taking a big risk. I purposely didn’t get married in September because I didn’t want to risk losing my Honeymoon to a Hurricane. That said, the season started earlier then we normally see storms and Tropical Storm Debbie almost ruined my wedding in Florida. But, we also had wedding insurance to cover it “just in case”.

  • Kevin–even at $200 a night…in many parts of the US that is a Hilton or a Hyatt rate. Now toss in meals and entertainment, and I still think $200 is a great bargain. Granted the room size is not comparable, but other amenities are.

  • Considering their size, the cruise lines are a lot greener than you might thing. Certainly a lot more green than your average hotel.

  • Eric H

    I agree that the sense of entitlement is disgusting at times, but it’s not like that on all cruises.

    Me and the wife were on an Alaskan cruise this summer, on a Royal Caribbean ship. We spent about $9,000 for the cruise itself and the level of service and the experience was fantastic. The cruise was mostly middle-aged and up crowd.

    My point is, I was willing to pay for a good experience, I had high expectations for that experience, and we got it.

    Now, if I were paying for one of those $500 3 day cruises, I would lower my expectations tremendously.

  • BillCCC

    Sorry Chris, I like cruising. I do not consider myself a fool or stupid.

    Cruise lines are a business, if their business model is not sustainable they will either fail or change their model.

    As far as I can tell there were no crew members in leg irons or handcuffs. I can say that I never heard a crew member complain about their job and on each cruise every crew member that I have had dealings was invariably pleasant.

    I could not answer the survey question since I am not quite what you meant. Expectations of what exactly?

    I will bet that almost everyone that comments today about how poorly the crew members are treated will be doing so using technology that was built by workers working in conditions not much better (if not worse) that cruise line employees.

  • cjr001

    We’ve only ever cruised with Disney, but we’ve enjoyed each one. Yes, I have higher expectations of Disney, because the name carries a premium on the price. When we’ve had problems, they’ve dealt with them. On two of our cruises, we’ve had the same server for dinner; knowing the ship she was on, we were able to request her again. Oh, and she was from that “third world country” known as England.

    My wife reads Disney forums, so she told me about the lead on this one – the rough seas from a hurricane in Oct – when it occurred. The rough seas were only on the last night of the cruise, and from the sound of things, there was little that could be done. The size of a hurricane doesn’t really relate to its strength, but in general hurricanes seem to be larger than in decades past, and so it makes it that much more difficult to avoid their affects. This particular hurricane did a great deal of damage to Disney’s private island, Castaway Cay.

    Yes, often expectations are too high and people need to – and often do not – adjust. A key one is if you don’t to be affected by a hurricane on a cruise, do not cruise during hurricane season.

  • backprop

    And not just meals and entertainment, but transportation to boot!

  • SoBeSparky

    Yesterday we heard about an air traveler who bought tickets on the lowest of the low-cost carriers, tried to sneak a bag on board to avoid a fee, then complained about rude treatment. (That same carrier at one time was considering a fee for using aircraft rest rooms.)

    Today, cruise passengers expect the seas always to be calm, or a giant gyroscope somewhere somehow will keep everyone happy for smooth sailing.

    Or a honeymoon or vacation of a lifetime is booked at an on-line apartment rental service where you have no management record, no brand-name-hotel reputation and no control over building and neighboring apartment security, and then the customer claims they were gypped.

    Reality check! Are we reading this column because of a very small and clique-ish group called the whiners? Can an expert like Christopher save these people from themselves and their abject lack of common sense?

    There are those who are deceived by others. Then there are those who deceive themselves.

  • naoma

    I have been on a lot of cruises and enjoyed them. I do find it somewhat disturbing at the quantity of food people eat. Some of these people hang over both sides of the chair at the table but still shovel in the food. I eat little (twice a day) and try not to sit around the over-eaters. But, all in all, cruising can be fun. As a matter of fact I leave on one this weekend down the Mexican coast to Puerto Vallarta.

  • Timothy Woody

    I cruised the Caribbean in 1982 in an outside cabin with a porthole for my 10th anniversary. The fare was around $1000. The cabin was relatively small and the “window” – well it was a 12″ porthole. Thirty years later I can do the same for less money with a large window for less money. What does this mean? Well, the cruise industry is – has to be – running on a seriously different business model. And yes, it probably is not sustainable. Most long time passengers will tell you that the food quality has deteriorated as well as the service. We are more frequently pushed into mediocre buffets and the day of the midnight buffet has vanished. We also have more fees and charges on board. To get the quality of meal available 15 years ago we have to pay a premium price for an alternative restaurant. The cruise industry is going the way of the airlines, only their employees don’t have the labor protections that the airline employees do, so they are moving that way more slowly. Do I enjoy a good bargain on a cruise – yes! Do I miss the “old days” of cruising? Absolutely! Which do I prefer? The old days, definitely. Better service, better food, more predictable expenses, and, oh, yeah, tips meant something!

  • emanon256


  • emanon256

    but in general hurricanes seem to be larger than in decades past

    Just like Americans!

  • TonyA_says

    Why, do hotels burn high sulphur fuel to move around the seas?
    What basis do you have to say a cruise line is greener than a hotel?

  • Joe_D_Messina

    Cruise lines have an unsustainable business model, which is based on registering their ships in countries with zero standards, paying their third-world crew substandard wages, evading American taxes, charging artificially low cruise fares and then making up the difference with “gotcha” fees and extras.


    {Fill in company name here} has an unsustainable business model, which is based on building their products overseas, paying third world wages to factory workers, evading American taxes….

    Not defending the cruise lines, but their business model isn’t really any different than any other large company in this age. And while I’m not a cruiser so I don’t really follow their industry, it seems like there’s more stability with the major cruise lines than with, say, airlines, who are perpetually in bankruptcy.

  • TonyA_says

    Here’s some:

    In a single day, the federal Environmental Protection Agency estimates passengers aboard a typical cruise ship will generate:
    21,000 gallons of sewage
    One ton of garbage
    170,000 gallons of wastewater from sinks, showers and laundry
    More than 25 pounds of batteries, fluorescent lights, medical wastes and expired chemicals
    Up to 6,400 gallons of oily bilge water from engines
    Four plastic bottles per passenger – about 8,500 bottles per day for the Carnival Spirit
    Cruise ships incinerate between 75% and 85% of garbage according to the EPA in its 2008 study, contributing to smog in coastal communities and on the ocean. They also release incinerator ash and sewage sludge — blobs of concentrated toxins from the bottom of waste treatment facilities — into the ocean. They contribute nutrients, metals, ammonia, pharmaceutical waste, chemical cleaners and detergent to deep marine environments from sewage treatment systems that either don’t work as planned or aren’t able to remove such substances, according to tests in Washington and Alaska, interviews with state officials, the EPA study, and information provided by the Olympic Coast National Marine Sanctuary. It’s legal to discharge untreated sewage in most areas of the United States farther than three miles from shore.Cruise ships burn fuel, much of it a cheap grade, which will continue until new international fuel standards take effect in 2012. A 2005 study done by WashPIRG, a public interest advocacy group based in Washington, estimates a 3,000-passenger ship generates the air pollution equivalent of more than 12,000 cars in a single day.”A lot of them burn what’s called bunker-C and it’s so dirty and it’s so black and it’s so awful, they have to heat it until they can get it to the point where they can move it around the pipes. It’s like tar,” said Elizabeth Gilpin, an air resources associate for the Puget Sound Clean Air Agency.Read more:

  • TonyA_says

    That made in china model is not sustainable, too. Now moving to cheaper countries :-)

  • bodega3

    How does this compare to the airline industry and the enviromental mess they contribute to?

  • Marilyn P Daggett

    I just came back from a 7-day sailing on the Eurodam. While I thought I had escaped the hurricane season, I had not escaped the terrible wind gusts that made it impossible to lay anchor at two tendered ports on two different days. The captain explained about the cancellation of the ports of call and treated us to champagne with dinner both times as an apology. Our port charges, taxes and excursion reservation charges were all refunded to us. I was disappointed that I missed the beach and an island that I had never been to, but very glad that the captain had the good sense to keep us safe. I just considered it an adventure, as I do with all of my cruising experiences. You will not hear any whining from me.

  • Extramail

    Couldn’t agree more!

  • Michelle B.

    Every Marriott I’ve stayed in takes my hung up towels and puts them in the laundry ignoring the sign in the room. Cruise ships are doing a lot for recycling:

  • bodega3

    One of the issues I have in being in travel sales is the harm to the enviroment we contribute to. Sad what tourism has done to the destruction of an area, changing forever the reason people wanted to see it.

  • Extramail

    Where are the environmentalists when we really need them?

  • DavidYoung2

    With you Bill! Really enjoy cruising but the key to being happy with your cruise is setting ‘realistic expectations.’ Whether or not your happy with the cruise is the differential between what you expect and what you receive. Set your expectations correctly, and you’re all good.

    Here’s our simple rules: (1) Don’t over eat. It makes you feel like crap, makes you lethargic and grumpy. Just because it’s there doesn’t mean you should eat it. (2) Have Plan B and Plan C. Things get cancelled, changed, etc. Have a back-up plan or two for each activity. (3) recognize that the staff works on tips and tip generously. Our rule is, “we never buy anything on the ship” and give the several hundred dollars we would have spent on cheap junk on tips to the staff. If you can afford to cruise, you can afford to look after your staff. Finally, (4) relax. Don’t act like you’ll never cruise again — act like you’ll be back in six months. Sit by the pool, read a book, watch the ocean. Trying to cram in too much so you don’t ‘miss’ anything makes you stress out and, ironically, ‘miss’ the whole point — a relaxing vacation.

  • ldvinva

    We’ve taken quite a few cruises, on cruise lines that cross the, shall we say, socio-economic spectrum. We have enjoyed all of them, but our expectations matched what we paid for each particular trip. Yes, the food and service may not be what they once were, but the basic fares have not really gone up. The “extras” are how the cruise lines hold those fares down, but you do not have to buy the premium dining, fancy drinks, play the casino, whatever. You have a choice. You do not, however, have a choice about paying rising food costs, utility costs, etc. The cruise lines keep building more and more mega-ships (of which I am not a fan, BTW) so they must think their methods are working!

  • TonyA_says

    Same as your cars in California :-)

  • bodega3

    The worst air/sky I have ever seen was over NYC!

  • bodega3

    The sailing should have been canceled, according to her and one other passenger on the same cruise. Instead, Disney offered its seasick customers a 25 percent discount off a future voyage
    Why did the OP pick hurricane season to take a cruise? My guess is due to the price. This is like getting a low price at Tahoe in January and getting upset that you can’t get there due to a blizzard and if you do, the pool is closed.
    What the DIY’er OP didn’t her homework on, is that the cruise lines don’t run for home if a storm is at sea. She screwed up and wrote to Chris hoping for what? Where is her concern for her safety? Not mentioned! Did she hope Chris would get her a free cruise?

  • Dutchess

    Thank you! It’s the passengers on cruises that keep me from ever taking one. I’ve known many many people who have cruised and read enough stories about them to know cruising is NOT for me.

  • Dutchess

    I think your experience on cruising depends highly on what cruise lines you choose. Your experience on Carnival is going to be very different than even a Celebrity or luxury cruise ship experience. It comes down to you get what you pay for. If you pay for the Ryan Air of cruise lines you’re going to get RyanAir experiences.

  • emanon256

    A fully loaded old school 747 gets 66 MPG per passenger. The new 787 Dreamliner gets 78 MPG per passenger with their recommended seating config. United squeezed in an extra column of seats on that one. 9 across instead of 8 across. And domestically, a 737-900 series fully loaded gets 79MPG per passenger.

    When planes are full, they are pretty fuel efficient.

  • Miami510

    Just look at the ships… floating tenement apartment houses. It never ceases to amaze me that people who live in sizable houses, with lawns, will opt to crowd into a stateroom that most of the time is smaller than a motel room.
    We’ve all read stories about assaults, rapes, and robberies where the
    legal protections are limited because laws of the seas and ship registries are
    foreign. There are also the stories about poor emergency medical care aboard.


    Besides all that, whenever I ask someone who recently went
    on a cruise, they begin to tell me about the large breakfasts, the sumptuous lunches, the dinners, and the Viennese coffee & deserts that are served at 11:00

  • TonyA_says

    It’s not only about towels or washing them less frequently. You might want to read this and the 2012 report card

  • TonyA_says

    The airlines still get a bunch of criticism from the global warming folks and the local communities for sound and air pollution. However, I assume they just do not dump your human waste in the Oceans like cruiseships do.

  • TonyA_says

    The report card here is pretty shocking
    Carnival got an overall score of D+
    Disney is pretty good now.

  • IGoEverywhere

    With 38 “common cruise line” cruises under my belt, and no more ever (!) in the future, you are correct. I have talked to 100’s of crew members and indentured servitude was a better time in life. I have several associates that have worked for 3 weeks or less and could not take it. There are a few great lines left to try, but I need a huge inheritance to afford Crystal and Seven Seas. In the 35 years of cruising, the food has gone from incredible to average, the service has gone from incredible to ok, and the passengers have gone from “this is a beautiful fancy vacation” to “let’s all dress like Honey Boo Boo.. The cruise industry exists for suckers, food grazers, and bar hoppers.

    But, they do know their demographics and are happy to accommodate the above mentioned passenger.

    If I were offered the top suite on Carnival, RCCL, NCL, etc, I would spend $3000.00 for a week in the Caribbean on a beach with true service.

  • emanon256

    They tank it and pump it later. Despite all the rumors about blue ice balls falling from he sky, it doesn’t actually happen.

  • TonyA_says

    Also, I have yet to meet an airline worker who survives mainly on tips.
    I have come across many Asian workers in cruise ships and they told me they were paid no more than 500 bucks a month, so the tips better be good or they cannot send money home. They are also made to pay recruiting and some training fees in their local countries. I believe they work about 11 hours a day and seven days a week. This is tantamount to slave labor if you ask me. I guess that is why these companies are not registered here in the USA because they will be illegal.
    Funny how the top executives of these cruise lines are super elite in America.
    One even owns a professional sports team.

  • emanon256

    Good point.

    Wow, I didn’t know they had to pay for their own training. I have a friend who worked for a cruise line many years ago. He was unemployed and couldn’t pay rent, so he thought it was a good deal. He worked in a ship board store and got commissions plus room and board. He worked 6 months on 1 month off I think. He never made much money but somehow lasted 2 years.

    Wow, I am going to add Cruise Line Execs to my list of people to hate.

  • TonyA_says

    Me too. I can take a folding chair and sun on the beach if I want to burn my skin. I can go to Ihop if I want stuff my gut with cheap pancakes. Nearby is an all you can eat Chinese Buffet or Pizza parlor. There’s also Baskin Robbins, DQ and Friendly’s for frozen deserts. After one day of this crap I might end up in a hospital. How can they for 5 to 7 days?

  • TonyA_says

    Now remember the cruiselines themselves do not charge for employment applications and training. It is the foreign recruiters that do, allthough supposedly against the rules.
    The point I want to make is why does there have to be so much difference between the earnings of the person who provides room service and the CEO? When was the last time the CEO served you?

  • TonyA_says

    Wow this is just so amazing. During my time, we were lucky if we got to Las Vegas.

  • y_p_w

    Quite a few hotels in the Tahoe area have same day cancellation policies if there’s a road closure, even with regular 48 or 72 hour cancellation policies. However, it would have to be an documented road closure and not simply chain conditions where the guest didn’t bring chains or otherwise meet the requirements for an exception for chains.

  • y_p_w

    Expectations are weird. You’d think those spending the most would be the most demanding, but I actually find that those think they have a bargain can be even more demanding. Many times the guest who booked a really nice place through Priceline spent more on that room than they every did for any other lodging and want something special for that money. That moderate or budget priced cruise may be the most that someone in a lower income range can afford, and that may come with expectations that the experience will be perfect. I’ve seen people making a scene and complaining about how much they spent even though we spent about the same. It may not have been chump change to us, but it wasn’t a total budget killer. It may have been to the dad who started chewing out an employee because he didn’t get what he wanted.

  • emanon256

    You are preaching to the choir.

  • TonyA_says

    :-) btw I believe the training is called something like STCW. Something to do with safety.

  • RetiredNavyphotog

    Gee, I couldn’t imagine why anyone would want to go on a cruise.
    It smells like dead fish out in the ocean.
    But then, I was in the Navy…

  • AUSSIEtraveller

    it seems no one will buy anything these days, unless it’s 85% off or more, but the question people should ask is 85% off what ?
    Artificially high rack rates that no one ever pays.
    Who’s to blame ?
    The consumer in part, but suppliers (hotels, cruise lines, airlines) should not be able to sell below cost.
    If is effectively costs $100 a seat to fly from A to B, then airlines should be able to sell below this figure.
    How do you work out the cost ? This is the hard part & the last thing we want is another public servant employed (none of us can afford them anymore).
    A ULCC maybe able to produce the same sector for $40, especially if it’s an international sector & they can employ low cost Asian crews, with no domestic minimum wages to content with.
    But when you see airlines having promotion 1 cent to $1 sales, that’s just stupid.
    The other problem is govt/airport/port taxes & charges.
    It seems now, in most parts of the world, airlines, hotels, cruise lines have become unpaid tax collectors.
    If someone other than a supplier, wants to collect a tax/fee/surcharge then they should collect it.
    In Australia, the fed govt used to collect departure tax at international airports.
    Now, airlines have to collect it & call it part of the fare, which it’s not.
    Luckily, some airports now collect these or similar fees, so the airlines can advetise a lower fare & people don’t consider this a cost of the fare.

  • JenniferFinger

    It’s getting to the point that “hurricane season” has expanded to be any time in the year.

  • Nigel Appleby

    In Vancouver BC the cruise ships get a discount on port fees if they use low sulphur fuel and another if they plug into the port’s electrical supply. So with encouragement, something is being done.

  • bodega3

    I am well aware of the polices :-)

  • bodega3

    No it hasn’t.

  • bodega3

    Many countries now allow the carriers to collect the departure tax, which is not part of the base fare but iIt will be part of the total cost of the ticket. All collected taxes and fees are line items in the linear of any ticket.

  • bodega3

    Ha! You won’t find that on the major cruise lines!

  • bodega3

    I just did it for 10 days and had a fun time! While I like various ways of traveling, cruising can be very relaxing. Sitting out on the balcony watching the sunset with a glass of wine in hand is pretty enjoyable!

  • TonyA_says

    According to this article cruise ships are using Canada as a toilet bowl. I don’t know if the rules have changed.
    Hopefully things change for the better. It is not right to dump sewage in Canadian waters.

  • TonyA_says

    That might be the best moment – when you can avoid the crowd and be by yourselves, sea winds on your face while viewing the sunset. Of course I can always get that on a Pacific Island beach.

  • TonyA_says

    Visited Subic Bay last year and I found a beautiful hidden resort right on the water
    Hard to believe this was once a huge Navy base.

  • bodega3

    That is the fun part of travel. There is something for everyone and it isn’t one size fits all! I am not big on crowds myself, but some lines do a better job than others.

  • TonyA_says

    Not too long ago my-rule-of-the-thumb is if one can spend $300 a day per person, they will get a good vacation. Is that in the ballpark for a good cruise?

  • y_p_w

    A Honda Pilot gets an estimated 25 MPG highway and seats 8 more comfortably than your average airline seat. Assuming some mileage drop due to the weight of the passengers and cargo, I’m thinking it’s still better than any modern jet.

  • bodega3

    I don’t put a dollar figure on my travel days, but I know many do. For cruising you have to consider the type of cabin and location, plus the number of people in the cabin and the cruise line. You also have to consider the season for the destinations. If you choose wisely, you could achieve the same as what you figure a land trip is worth to you.

  • TonyA_says

    How long does the closure have to be? When I lived in Sacramento I can’t recall I-80 or 50 closed but for a few hours. Of course there are so many fools who don’t bring chains despite all the TV weather report warnings.

  • TonyA_says

    I have a lot of “cheap” customers. That is usual and customary for my market. I have yet to meet one who expects less just because they paid less. It is always the non-buyer that makes that comment. Nothing to do with entitlement since the customer paid with hard earned money. Many have no clue what others are paying for the higher classes so they cannot relate rights with price. I do not think people will lower expectations when it comes to travel. For many, travel is a dream come true. If they have to lower their expectations, then they won’t bother to travel. Travel is a way of escaping reality. How else would you get people to pay money for staying in a cabin that is smaller than their (home’s) bathroom?

  • y_p_w

    I would think it’s rare. I have driven in R2 conditions but never faced a road closure. Usually when they get to R3 conditions they’ll shut it down. I’m guessing that happens when there are total white out conditions. The first time I tried driving in the snow it was horrible.

    Personally I would think that if the road is closed at all they’ll probably allow someone to cancel same day. Not many people will just hang around at the chain checkpoint waiting for the road to open, unless they’re trying to get home.

  • y_p_w

    I certainly expect to be treated fairly regardless of what I paid. However, I’ve stayed at budget accommodations and budget destinations and have seen how absolutely rude people can be towards employees who are simply doing their jobs.

    There’s certainly a difference between having high expectations and being decent about it, versus having high expectations and treating others like they’re subhuman when something undesirable happens.

    Frankly – I understand what I’m getting when I go cheap. When I book opaque on Priceline I expect that they might give me a less desirable room and am pleasantly surprised if I’m not. With the money I save, I usually leave a tip for housekeeping. When I spend less I know it’s coming with a tradeoff. I’ve stayed anything from a basic wilderness-style cabin to Motel 6 and up to a resort hotel. When I knowingly spend less, I’ve learned to accept that often I get less.

    As for gluttony – I’ve seen that too. I’ve been to way too many buffets. I enjoy them but within reason. My motto is “All you can eat isn’t necessarily all you should eat.”

  • TonyA_says

    Memories of the Donner party come to mind :-)
    My observation is that so many folks from the Bay Area suddenly get the urge to ski as soon as they hear snow is falling, so I would not be surprised if hotels overbook for the ocassion. If so, then a few cancellations wont hurt.

    Question, do they require chains for 4WD or AWD vehicles?

  • TonyA_says

    Believe me, you are not the average person :-)

  • Carver Clark Farrow

    Why do you care about what others are eating?

  • Mada

    What a bunch of crap! Cruises are a vacation choice just like any land-based vacation choice. You don’t care for cruising–so be it. Millions of us disagree and really enjoy our cruise experiences. I don’t expect to sail for nothing…I expect to get what I paid for and agreed to per the cruise contract I sign. (just like with land vacations) Does everything work out perfectly 100% on every cruise? probably not but a vacation is what you make it. So tired of people who don’t like something trying to impart their negative views on everyone else!! To each his own…you don’t like cruising, do something else but don’t spread your slanted views!


    I have been on 43 cruises and have one for Next month. I don’t think I have been on a bad cruise even though some may have been testy. Jumped ship on one cruise and flew back out of Mexico. INS had a fit and lost me.
    The most entertaining thing on a cruise are indeed the people you meet and there are all kinds as a previous poster said. Go on a cheap cruise you run into cheap people. Once you realize that the food most of the time is just up to par with a regular restaurant and don’t expect more you can be happy. There are some with find dining that measure up to fine dining ashore.
    Having a fine dinner by the pool under the stars on a beautiful calm Carribbean night aboart the Silver Cloud is something to remember.

  • Mel65

    We took an Alaskan cruise on Princess this summer (a gift for our 25th Anniversary) and had the vacation of a lifetime. Yes, it got cold and rainy in most of the ports, but we got to play with sled dogs (!) and see glaciers from a seaplane and going off the main paths we found some small local dining places to eat new things. We spent evenings watching entertaining music/variety/magic shows and sitting on our balcony wrapped in blankets, sipping wine enjoying the ocean view. The staff were so effiicent and accomodating that at times they seemed to know what I wanted before I did! It was an amazing experience and as we left, my husband said, “So, how much do we have to save to do this again??” BUT, we wanted to have a good time and we were determined to enjoy every minute because we were so grateful to be given such a generous gift. I just feel sorry for people who begin a cruise (or any vacation, really) with an attitude like they’re just LOOKING for reasons to be disgruntled.

  • Eileen

    I like cruising. I like traveling. For me, cruising is the easiest way to get to many different cities on one trip. It sure beats a plane or a bus! I do not whine. I do look for a good price for a balcony cabin. I expect clean facilities and a flushing toilet. There is never a reason to go hungry on a cruise ship and what’s wrong with a buffet? No one forces you to partake in the extra fee activities, drinks or dining. Your choice, right or wrong, but then don’t complain about the gotcha fees. I am sorry to say I was not aware of the environmental issues as I thought there were very strict maritime laws re this. I, personally, am not a fan of the mega ships, I prefer the mid size. I do not watch what other people eat. i do not listen to other people’s conversations. if you prefer a coach seat on a plane where you can have someone’s head in your lap, feel free to enjoy. i prefer cruising. It is a wonderful way to travel.

  • emanon256

    Except the Honda Pilot won’t get you from LA to NY in 5 hours.

  • Love cruising. Hate obnoxious passengers. It is getting as bad as flying. Some of the cretins on board are truly axx hxxxx. The grief dished out to some of the crew is awful. Most try their best, but nothing is perfect. Just stay home jerks!

  • y_p_w

    “Chain Requirements

    R1: Chains are required – snow tread tires allowed.

    R2: Chains are required on all vehicles except
    four wheel drive vehicles with snow tires on all four wheels.

    R3: Chains are required – all vehicles – no exceptions.

    R1 and R2 are the most common conditions. The
    highway is usually closed before an R3 condition is imposed.”


    The California Vehicle Code, Section 558 defines a snow-tread tire as follows:

    “A ‘snow-tread tire’ is a tire which has a relatively deep and
    aggressive tread pattern compared with conventional passenger tread pattern”. Snow-tread tires can be identified by examining the sidewall of the tire where the letters MS, M/S, M+S or the words MUD AND SNOW have been stamped into the sidewalls.”

    That’s not the entire story. What that means is minimally “all season” tires. There’s an additional definition that requires at least 6/32″ tread depth measured at the major grooves. I’ve driven my Subaru through chain checkpoints for R2 conditions. They usually note that it’s a Subaru with AWD and then check the left front tire for tread depth. I haven’t gotten to the point where they’ve used a depth gauge, but I understand it could get to that point if it’s questionable.

    For the most part they will close down a road before they force AWD or 4WD vehicles to chain up. I don’t really want to put on chains and didn’t, but I would say that it can be an adventure. Most all season tires are barely adequate in snow and ice. AWD doesn’t particularly help with steering or braking. It can reduce the chances of getting stuck. Only real winter tires and/or chains help enough to substantially matter with steering and braking.

  • Lindabator

    Absolutely – and on better lines, to boot. Its a matter of matching expectations to experience – and that’s what I try to do for all my clients (especially cruisers!)

  • bodega3

    There is more to their environmental impact than MPG. The gas that might be dropped for an emergency landing, the soot that covers the area around the airport from the planes, the air pollution, the noise pollution, sewage disposal, trash, parts dropping off and sadly crashes.

  • TonyA_says

    We love our Subaru Outback. I was at the dealer’s getting an oil change yesterday while reading this article. I have yet to encounter a snow situation here in New England that the Subaru cannot handle. Never bothered with chains. Don’t even have one. There is a new model, XV Crosstrek, coming out 2013
    Thinking hard now.

  • Charles

    We have done about ten Caribbean vacations in the last ten years, nearly all during Hurricane season. We almost got hit in 2005, actually travelling between two. But, otherwise, we’ve not had a problem. There is a risk during hurricane season, but it’s not a big risk. We’ve generally gone in early to mid summer just because that is when we can. But, I’ve read that your odds of being effected by a hurricane during a week trip in the peak season is only about 2%. The chance of being actually hit with a serious storm is even less.

    Do you consider it a big risk to live in Miami or New Orleans? They have from 5 to 10 times more risk than you’ll have on your vacation.

  • y_p_w

    There was someone in a 4×4 Jeep who just died a couple of weeks ago on some dirt road in Alpine County. Thought it would be a good idea to try it out on a dirt road (past gates that were closed) covered with snow and couldn’t get out. There was one survivor. I think the guy who died suffered from the cold.

    As for chains – they are required in California for every vehicle when there are chain conditions. They don’t have to go on, but they supposed to be in the vehicle. I’ve never actually been checked for them. I think the idea is that conditions could get so nasty that only chains will get one out.

    I’m thinking of getting a set of Z-chains. I had a set of ladder cables, but I had one heck of a time trying to install them in the garage. The instructions said to secure them at the bottom of the tire. I’ve heard recommendations that they work better if one drives over them since there’s more room to work. The Z-chains seem to be really easy to install and don’t require any adjustment or retightening once they’re on.

    I’m guessing Chris is reading this and wondering, what are these things called “tire chains”?

  • TonyA_says

    We are just preparing him for the next rental car scam. Missing or damaged tire chains :-)

  • y_p_w

    Most tire cables don’t last that long. Maybe a few thousand miles if you’re lucky. They should only be used for short distances and removed immediately once the roads are clear.

    Besides that, many rental agencies don’t allow tire chains. A lot of people don’t know how to install them and end up damaging the vehicles.

  • JenniferFinger

    Yes, it has. I just lived through Hurricane Sandy, which was somewhat outside of “hurricane season.”

  • bodega3

    Jennifer, hurricane season is June 1 to Nov 30 so Sandy was within that.

We want your feedback. Your opinion is important to us. Here's how you can share your thoughts:
  • Send us a letter to the editor. We'll publish your most thoughtful missives in our daily newsletter or in an upcoming post.
  • Leave a message on one of our social networks. We have an active Facebook page, a LinkedIn presence and a Twitter account. Every story on this site is posted on those channels. The conversation ranges from completely unmoderated (Twitter) to moderated (Facebook and LinkedIn).
  • Post a question to our help forums or ask our advocates for a hand through our assistance intake form. Please note that our help forum is not a place for debate. It's there primarily to assist readers with a consumer problem.
  • If you have a news tip or want to report an error or omission, you can email the site publisher directly. You may also contact the post's author directly. Contact information is in the author tagline.