This article in Travel Weekly is an excellent harbinger for the economy. Cruise Lines have a long window of booking time, and this shows that demand for the cruise vacation is brisk, even if it means added flight costs. This is great news for vacationers at large because they have more to choose from. The bad news is that airline costs have seemed to bounce back faster than the economy, and will likely temper demand for the foreseeable future.
I just spent a week’s vacation on the Royal Caribbean’s Navigator of the Seas, and the most remarkable thing to me was that even in spite of a weak Euro, the flights from NYC to Rome for my group of four cost about the same as the basic cruise 7-day cruise package which included a balcony room.
We visited Rome, Sicily, Turkey, Athens, and Crete and the experience was nothing less than excellent. The food and entertainment were fantastic, and I was most impressed at how seamlessly 3,000+ guests are fed, and moved on and offshore both for excursions and for arrival and departure. There was never a line, and we never felt herded.
The best part of this vacation though was what this Royal Caribbean cruise offered: A very safe environment to expose children (and adults I suppose) to very exotic places. Did the 7-hour tour of Mt. Aetna and Taormina quench my curiosity about Sicily? No, I plan to go back and for a longer time, but the nature of the excursion was such that I did very little planning, got a taste of Sicily, and felt completely and utterly safe. That is the definition of relaxing. No small feat when traveling with two young kids. No maps to figure out, hotel rooms to worry about, or itineraries in contact adjustment.
There is a great trade-off too. The younger kids in our group were able to gut out a tour through Ancient Esophys (which I found absolutely fascinating) in sweltering heat knowing that Rock Climbing, pool time, and mini-golf were only hoursaway. Kids have limited stamina for sightseeing, and parents have limited stamina for griping.
A Mediterranean cruise is not cheap by any means, but I felt that as a discerning guest, I got to enjoy every minute of it, making it a very, very good value.