Age Restrictions, Cruise Prices and Embarkation

| December 26, 2005

Art Sbarsky, CruiseMates Consumer Affairs Editor, answers letters and comments on key issues posted by readers. If you have a question about cruising, send it to .


Subject:  AGE RESTRICTIONS

Reader ML writes:  We have been told that the White Heat (Carnival) disco closes for kids under 18 at 11 p.m., which is rather early. Do you know if this rule is enforced, or is this something the Carnival agents are programmed to say? This rule about the disco is not published anywhere in the brochure; they only mention the casino rule. Since these kids are two months away from being 18, and look at least 18, how is this rule enforced?

Art says:   

You are correct in that the age restriction for the disco is not in their brochure; it certainly should be, since it's there for the casino and the spa.

Now, I'm probably going to sound like an old fogie with the rest of my comments, and I also run the risk of not giving the politically correct answer.  But, hey, this is how I feel.

If a cruise line has an age requirement for any room on board, whether it be the disco at certain hours or the casino, I wish both the guests on board and the crew would follow the rules.  It may be annoying if someone is "just slightly" under the age and is not allowed in.  But that's what rules are for.  There have been a number of cases where underage kids drink, get drunk, and cause problems. That's what kids do.  I've also seen kids way underage allowed to buy bingo cards and then win.  (Who gripes at this point?  The losers, of course.)  But guess who gets blamed in a lot of cases: the cruise line and its staff, for not following their own rules.  Fair?  Hardly.  If kids are kept out of situations where this can occur, the problem goes away.  If the line has a rule, it should be followed.  By everyone involved.


Subject: CRUISE PRICES

AW writes:  A friend of mine recently took a seven-day jazz cruise out of Texas and paid more than $2,000. However, during the cruise as he met and spoke with some of the passengers, he found out that some of them had paid as little as $500 for the seven-day cruise. Is there any way to find out why he paid significantly more than other passengers aboard? His ticket was not a last-minute booking, and had been booked in advance.

Art says:

I would be seriously ticked off it I paid $2,000 for something and someone else paid $500, or 25% of that.  But first, I would set out to verify that it was an apples-to-apples comparison.   Throughout my time on the cruise line side of things, I often heard about this kind of thing happening -- but upon checking, it turned out to be an apples-to-oranges comparison, such as someone in an ocean-view cabin with balcony comparing prices with someone in an inside stateroom. It's not dissimilar from what happens on a plane trip, where first class is more than business, which is more than coach.  Now, it is also true that if two rooms are identical and are booked at considerably different times, there almost always will be a difference in price.  That's what the yield management system does: it provides lower price incentives for booking early and then the prices go up as the ship fills. 

But I've never seen a legitimate 4-to-1 difference.  If that is the case, I'd gripe like crazy with the cruise line or travel agent until I got a legitimate answer.

Subject:    EARLY EMBARKATION

Some readers recently brought up the subject of crowded embarkation areas and asked what, if anything, could be done about it.

Art says:  

Bring a book, bring a snack, bring a lot of patience.  Embarkation areas are more and more crowded as bigger and bigger ships continue to be the mode of the day.  If you arrive as a participant in the cruise line's transfer and/or air program, you get there when the line gets you there.  For example, if you arrive in San Juan at 10  a.m. as part of Princess' transfer program, the first buses may not leave until noon, so you spend a couple of hours at the airport.  Or you may get to the pier and have to wait.  Just be patient, go with the flow and find a way to use the time instead of just sitting there.  Using San Juan as an example, you could even rent a car for a few hours, go off and sightsee, have a snack, and then get back in plenty of time.

I do it differently.  I try to time my pier arrival for about an hour before departure.  There's hardly anyone waiting to check in at that point.  On my last trip, I had 12 check-in counters in front of me and not one person checking in.  The pier agents were waving me over, they were so bored at that point.  Even the security screening area was devoid of anyone else going through.

Or, you could book a grade of service that offers special check-in areas.  Most lines have this for past guests and/or suites. Celebrity Cruises has this for guests who book Concierge Class. Since that level also get priority luggage service, it's a very nice option.

OK, I'm off the soapbox for this month.   f you have any comments on these or other issues, please let me know.  Send a note to my e-mail address listed above.


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