It all looks good at first blush as the U.S.-based cruise industry pitches ever forward despite the occasional rough patch of sea. Think about it: 27.2 million passengers set sail last year. It might surprise you to know that the fastest-growing segment of cruisers are those in the age group 30 to 39.
Given the current orderbook, cruising will be growing far into the future, with only the paucity of safe, sophisticated port experiences seen as a major obstacle to that growth.
Last year, I expressed my view that the river cruise industry has not been forthright with consumers in revealing the percentage of itineraries affected by high or low water levels.
Ocean cruising does not have that problem. But there are real, exaggerated and imaginary beliefs that are keeping some of our clients from sampling a traditional cruise experience on one of the major lines. These are some of the objections, and we need to be locked and loaded with facts to dispute them:
• Many folks brag that they would never watch one of the "Housewives of ..." fake reality shows. These same folks see cruising as a bunch of partygoers who enjoy being ferried about on a floating amusement park. Love Ferris wheels? You may love cruising. But many folks don't like cotton candy and the thrill of the midway. This is perception issue No. 1.
• Many anti-cruisers end up reading an article originally published in Harper's by David Foster Wallace titled "A Supposedly Fun Thing I'll Never Do Again." In his piece, now considered gospel by many anti-cruisers, Wallace describes cruising as a "special mix of servility and condescension that's marketed under configurations of the verb 'to pamper.'" He is adamant in pointing out that cruise ships tell you what will entertain you, what to eat and what will relax you. This is all done in the name of "luxury." But floating amusement parks rarely produce serenity. What they do produce, the anti-cruiser believes, is the level of luxury one might find in a large shopping mall.
• There are anti-cruisers who find their views supported by sites that catalog every misfortune at sea. One of the most popular is Cruisejunkie.com, which is written by a Canadian sociology professor named Ross Klein. The professor has been waging a kind of personal war against major cruise corporations, and his site keeps track of people overboard, sexual attacks at sea and crew crimes. One tidy little chapter on his site gives a full accounting of "Ships That Have Sunk, 1979-2012." There is another titled "Persons Overboard 1995-2019," for those who collect fun facts.
• The Klein view is supported by several cruise sites written by lawyers who are not shy about offering their services for those passengers and crew who feel victimized by the powerful brands.
This is just the surface of the anti-cruise movement. The internet is filled with stories about cruise ships that dump fuel and "human waste" into the world's oceans. The ships are accused of being floating pollution factories that do little to allocate portions of their substantial profits to benefit local residents in ports where they disgorge day-trippers who have spent their money onboard for shore excursions.
The serious cruise seller needs to be prepared to dispute these claims.