Every now and then, one of the opinion polls in the Cruise Critic message boards captures the imagination of our members and fires off a spirited debate.
The one I’m referring to (it’s here: http://tinyurl.com/2felwxo) was inspired by the announcement a few months ago by Azamara Cruises that it was going to offer more port-intensive itineraries, with deeper ‘immersion’ in the local culture. We asked you what cruise lines should do to improve the whole destination experience – a question that’s particularly relevant as the Mediterranean, where culture is one of the main attractions, enters its peak season.
Personally, I would have ticked nearly all the boxes; surely anything that makes it easier to explore the local culture is a good thing? As it turned out, though, everybody has a different idea!
Top billing went to the suggestion that cruise lines provide suggestions for independent exploration, like self-guided walks; 58.48 percent of the respondents voted for this. Similarly, more authentic port lecturers, who actually lived in the ports of call, would be popular, as would an alert to any festivals going on when the ship was in port. More food and wine from the region in which the ship was travelling got the thumbs up from 57.75 percent, while 53.17 percent wanted free destination information. And by that, I imagine they don’t mean photocopied maps of the shopping area.
The ensuing discussion pointed out that we’d missed out more overnights in port, which I imagine would be a winner (and in the case of Azamara, is beginning to happen).
What made me smile was the universal slamming of the dreaded ‘shopping programme’, whereby a ‘lecturer’ advises the willing on board where to shop in port. Needless to say, the cruise line gets a kickback for any purchases made.
Member SeaStar2 wanted “Port talks that don’t stress shopping but rather the history and culture of the ports….better maps that show something besides the stores in an area.”
Member MrsMuir was less charitable: “The so-called port ambassadors should walk the plank, and port lecturers should take their place.”
Member Hlitner, meanwhile, has a conspiracy theory: “The dirty truth about cruise lines is their main interest in ports is selling their own overpriced excursions. Cruise line excursions are a nice profit center for cruise lines who increasingly rely on-board expenditures to fatten the bottom line. Many cruise lines no longer provide any good information for travelers who want to do things on their own.”
Strong stuff. And may I put in my own request for improving the local experience? Although 38.03 percent thought it was a good idea to bring local entertainers on board, does it always have to be the ubiquitous ‘folkloric’ show? I’m all for a spot of impromptu Greek dancing after dinner in a taverna (after enough retsina) or taking a flamenco class in Spain but how many of you really attend/enjoy/remember yet another display from a handkerchief-waving dance troupe with, heaven forbid, audience participation?
Shout me down if I’m wrong, though!