‘Big is bad’

Mega-cruise ships aren’t better for seniors.

Story: Joe Angione

America’s cruise lines believe “big is better”: longer ships, wider ships, more decks, more high-energy activities, more on-ship shopping opportunities, more expensive, extra-cost restaurants, more ways to get you to spend money over and above the initial price of your cruise.

For many seniors who cruise on today’s mega-ships, “big is bad.” I just came off a seven-day cruise on Royal Caribbean’s 220,000-ton, four-football-fields-long, 16-deck-tall Allure of the Seas. It made me tired and disappointed. To reach dining rooms, theaters, swimming pools, sports activities and nearly anywhere you’re going from your stateroom, the walk often was 100 yards there and then 100 yards somewhere else.

In contrast, the Titanic, the most famous and largest ocean liner of its day, was a mere 40,000 tons. Everything passengers wanted on board was only a short stroll away.

The beautiful “centrum” on the main deck of one of today’s average-size cruise ships—with an atrium that soars upward eight or 10 decks and features a posh open area for dancing, listening to music, having a drink and conversing with other guests—is absent from today’s mega-ships. In its place is a concourse offering expensive stores and pricy restaurants. The elegance is gone; the joy of leisurely socializing is lost.

On those full days at sea, there’s nowhere on these huge ships, except your own stateroom, that isn’t crowded. Pools and outdoor lounge areas are tightly packed with young, “20-somethings” boisterously enjoying themselves without a care for older guests hoping for a quiet day taking in the sun. About 6,500 passengers were crammed on board the Allure of the Seas, which, though massive, offered no more space-per-passenger than found on an ordinary-size ship.

Cruise lines tell you that when their giant ships are in port, people may choose to stay on board and enjoy all of the ship’s now uncrowded facilities. This isn’t true because many of the ship’s dining locations, bars, and sports and entertainment facilities are either open for reduced hours in port or closed altogether.

Mega-ships are designed for youthful cruisers, the hard-partying crowd that doesn’t have time for spending more than seven days at sea. If you’re looking for a quieter cruising experience, fun-filled but less frenzied, select a cruise that’s longer than seven days on an ordinary-size (100,000 tons or less) ship. You’ll be so glad you did.  

 

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