Five Surprises Found on Cruises 4

| Tuesday, 25 Sept. 2012

A gourmet cuisine dessert expertly prepared tableside on an Azamara cruise ship

While approximately one third of Americans have now tried at least one cruise, that still means the vast majority of Americans have no idea about the real cruise experience. What if I told you there are many things that you probably never expected to find on a cruise - things that are so good you are likely to tell your friends and family, "If I had known how great it is, I would have started cruising a long, long time ago?"

That is the truth; that statistically most people who take their first cruise end up saying the experience offered far more than they ever expected. But this brings forth the somewhat illogical question from those who have not yet tried a cruise, "What surprises should I expect?" I'm going to tell you.

1. Excellent Food and Restaurant Service. If you go to one of the finer hometown restaurants you will probably find tables set with white linen, multiple utensils and a number of special glasses for wine varietals. The waiters, dressed in tuxedos, hold your chair and place the napkin in your lap.

But while these standards are regular procedure for cruise ship dining that level of dining service excellence has actually become exceedingly rare in land-based restaurants.

And that is not all - even if you know of such a restaurant in your home town, can you try anything and everything on the menu you want at no extra cost? It really sounds too good to be true, but it is true on cruise ships. All of the meals are served in the finest of settings and the menu items include a variety of starter salads, appetizers, soups, entrees and usually fabulous desserts where you can order as much as you want - all included in the basic cruise fare; breakfast, lunch and dinner.

Are you aware of any additonal cruise surprises? Tell us here: Cruise Forum

2. Free Room Service. Who doesn't enjoy room service? Is there anything more relaxing than having a hot meal delivered to your hotel room? But once again, on a cruise ship room service is even better.

Imagine if this room service was free. Cruise ship room service is included in the cruise fare 24 hours a day (with a few exceptions; some cruise lines have added charges for special orders). Before you retire the prior evening you can put a card out containing your breakfast order, and the next morning it will arrive at the pre-arranged time. You can have omelettes, muffins, cereal, yogurt and a full pot of hot coffee - and there is no charge for this service. It's almost too good to be true.

On many cruise ships you can order the very same food as is being served in the opulent dining room and enjoy it in your stateroom in your 'jammies while watching a movie on television. If you have a suite it will most likely be served by a butler in a tuxedo who will even set a table with white linen; condiments, a bread basket and even fresh flowers - right in your stateroom just for you.

3. Room Stewards. In a hotel you have maid service but you rarely ever see her. She will come and clean up your room and bathroom when you are out during the day, and that is all.

But on a cruise ship your room steward (or stewardess) will come to introduce himself the moment you arrive. He will ask about your preferences for fresh fruit and flowers in the room, and give you a pager number to use if you ever need anything during the cruise.

A cruise steward does not work just during the day, but also comes back nightly while you are at dinner and does a turn-down service including a chocolate on your pillow. He leaves the next day's daily program and makes sure you have enough of everything to get you through the night.

4. Concierge and Butler Service. A step beyond a room steward, higher stateroom categories on most cruise ships come with concierge services. The concierge will stay at his desk within the concierge lounge, a special room with fresh water, fruit, coffee, snacks, magazines, newspapers, books and DVDs available to you day and night.

Some of the additional services that a butler and concierge provide include picking up your laundry for cleaning and pressing and shining your shoes. They will ask about your shore excursion preferences and pick up and deliver the tour tickets to you. If you want a reservation in a special restaurant they will get them and write down the time and place for you. If you want a special service in the next port of call you also ask the concierge; if you want to rent a car or go SCUBA diving for example.

5. Time. The final surprise you will find on a cruise is personal time. Cruising in Europe or any far away destination is so effortless you will be amazed. You do not have worry about packing and unpacking, nor do you have to find tour guides or restaurants in ports of call. Tours and dining are all handled aboard the ship and all you have to do is decide what you want and then show up at the given time and place.

Of course, there may be additional charges for special services on a ship, even provided by a concierge, but the cost is given to you before you make a commitment and you always have the option of doing things for yourself. But in most cases I am sure you will find the ship's services are competitively priced and the convenience is worth any added cost.

By not having to worry about daily details like taxis, trains, restaurants and hotels you have much more free time and money to spend with your spouse and children. You don't have continually watch your vacation budget because most of your cruise vacation is prepaid in the cruise fare.

The Bottom Line

In the end, the bottom line is probably the biggest surprise about a cruise. A cruise is like an "all-inclusive vacation" with the added benefit of travel. Compare a mostly inclusive cruise to an average vacation where you handle every detail separately and you will see that opulence and pampering, plus the comfort and convenience of travel to exotic places, comes at a very reasonable price. Especially when you consider the variety of destinations offered on most cruise itineraries.

In fact - many people enjoy cruising so much they wouldn't mind if the cruise ship never landed in any port of call. But cruises do offer travel to exotic ports of call - and so it is two vacations in one - a relaxing getaway and a journey of discovery. Does that sound good? Then chances are you will soon be among the people who say "if we had known how great it is, we would have started cruising a long time ago."

Are you aware of any additonal cruise surprises? Tell us here: Cruise Forum

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