Oasis of the Seas - the new paradigm of cruising
Is Cruise Reporting too Fluffy?
Arthur Frommer must be the most honest cruise reviewer in the business. Now 80 years old, I think it is safe to say Arthur has been cruising longer than any of the cruise reviewers most of us are familiar with, including me. I may not agree with everything Arthur says, his cruising preferences are different from my own in some significant ways, but certainly I understand his standards and have familiarity with their origins.
Arthur's personal cruise preferences are geared toward the generation of cruisers I met on the first cruise ship I worked on, Royal Viking Line, back in 1983. I celebrated my 30th birthday on that ship, but most of the guests were in their 70s and even older. It was a ship for retired people with plenty of money and great stories to tell.
Royal Viking had very small ships where you never forgot you were at sea. We went on long itineraries to exotic destinations. Every public room had massive windows to the outside, with the curtains always open, and easy access to a promenade deck that wrapped fully around the ship. You could reach that promenade from the singular main public room where most people gathered during the days at sea.
On a ship that was one tenth the size of Oasis of the Seas, the largest cruise ship in the world today, there was not much to do onboard except to listen to excellent lecturers who spoke about the ports of call, or sit on deck and watch the sea go by. People would doze in their deck chairs with a book folded across the chest.
The cuisine onboard, always in the main dining room or buffets, there were no alternative dining restaurants back then, was always top gourmet quality, from the strawberry cream soups to the venison topped with truffles and freshly flambé crepes Suzette for dessert.
That was the definition of cruising for Arthur Frommer and his generation. It was largely based on the traditions started on the great ocean liners of Cunard. Formal night meant men wore a tuxedo and women wore gowns. Many of the men bought special tuxes just for these cruises, sporting maroon or pastel blue slack and jackets or paisley cummerbunds with matching bow ties.
So, what does Arthur Frommer think about cruising in this day and age? Well, he doesn't necessarily dismiss any ship just because it is big, but he abhors cruise ships where the focus is on anything other than the experience of being at sea. Arthur's pet peeve about modern cruising is when cruise ships become amusement parks that could just as easily be on land since the "being at sea" part of the cruise has been rendered almost completely meaningless.
This is the Arthur Frommer Blog on Oasis of the Seas, the Royal Caribbean mega-ship that preceded another controversial megaship that was introduced just a few weeks ago - Norwegian Epic.
When Royal Caribbean Cruises announced it would build a 220,000-ton ship carrrying 6,000 passengers, we skeptics wondered where they would send the ungainly monster. Which islands, which ports, would be capable of accommodating the docking of such a humongous vessel?
Why not simply leave the oddity tied up to its dock in Ft. Lauderdale? Who would know the difference? Once passengers board this immense recreational theme park in the shape of a ship, they will undoubtedly be so attracted to electronic games, casino tables, Vegas-type entertainments, bowling alleys, boxing rings, shops, bars and internet cafes that they'll never know whether they are at sea -- or even moving.
Just for the record, Oasis does not have a bowling alley, but Norwegian Epic has six bowling lanes.
But my point is not to pick on Oasis or Norwegian Epic; it is to applaud Arthur Frommer for his honesty. He says what he thinks about a ship to the point where he is not worried about embarrassing that cruise line - which most likely DOES advertise on his web site. Arthur is a class act.
Fortunately for all cruise lines, Arthur does not write the cruise reviews for Frommers.com. The job belongs to Matt Hannafin, who is also a very capable and also honest cruise reviewer who I am sure Arthur is proud to have representing his name. Matt's opinions are often close to my own, which is not surprising when you consider he has about my age and has been covering cruise ships for almost an identical number of years.
Strangely enough, Matt is not one of the better known cruise reviewers, and neither is Arthur Frommer, nor am I. Neither is another ship reviewer who is far more technical and a better ship historian than me, Peter Knego of MaritimeMatters.com. But Matt and Peter and other cruise writers I know definitely deserve to be on that list.
Now, I know that life is rarely based on anything rational like actual merit. That is not my point. My concern is with cruise publications that may have lost sight of the fact that their audience is more important than their advertisers. I fear some sites have forgotten their readers deserve the most discerning and honest reviews possible. Arthur certainly has never lost sight of that, and he has been in the travel writing business longer than anyone I know.
Care to discuss this topic in our forums? Is cruise reporting too fluffy?
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