The cruise industry is a fascinating beast. As I wrote last year, many cruisers are interested only in taking the best cruise – but they don’t want to pay a lot of money. Or, they’ll simply give their travel agent a dollar amount and a date, and go from there. So the bestcruise can have a tendency to morph into something…unexpected.
It’s a trend I see with new cruise ships, too. Everyone wants to sail on a new ship, and why not? They’re the latest-and-greatest evolution of cruising! How could they possibly be a disappointment? The simple truth is that sailing onboard a brand-new ship does not guarantee the best cruise experience.
I’d like to make the case for cruising on an older ship:
They’re generally more affordable.
New ships always have some of the highest pricing out there. It’s basic supply-and-demand: lots of people want to sail onboard something new, and cruise lines can (and do) charge a premium for that privilege.
Older ships, on the other hand, can be far more economical. In most cases, a ship that is 10 years old will have nearly all the features and bells-and-whistles as the brand-new one. Cruise lines have been proactive about refreshing and refurbishing their fleets on a frequent basis, so chances are the ship you’re embarking on will feel just like new – for half the price.
They’ll be available where youwant to cruise to.
New ships, obviously, are only deployed in a few areas of the world. You can bet the latest-and-greatest of any cruise line will be sailing to two areas: the Mediterranean, and the Caribbean.
Older ships, however, are everywhere – and in some cases, they’re finding a new lease on life outside of their regular stomping grounds. Take Norwegian Cruise Line’s 1999-built Norwegian Sky.Going from the mainline fleet to Norwegian’s operations in Hawaii a few years ago, she now sails roundtrip out of Miami, Florida on a series of short 3-and-4-night runs to the Bahamas.
What’s truly fascinating about the Norwegian Sky is how popular she is. She doesn’t quite fit in with the current mainline fleet due to some unique design issues inherited when her half-finished hull was purchased from Costa, but she makes a darn good ship on short runs in the Caribbean. She’s also unique, still retaining her Hawaiian décor that was added during a substantial refit in 2004. She’s also newer than most ships on these short jaunts; other lines have vessels that pre-date her by nearly a decade doing the same cruises.
An older ship is a bit like a well-worn shoe: you know how it fits, how it works, and most importantly, what it will feel like.
New ships are, obviously, the latest-and-greatest, and they’re interesting to sail aboard for that reason alone. But older ships already have an ebb-and-flow to their operations. The crew knows how to work within the ship’s confines, and guests have already found most of the issues with the vessel long before you’ve ever stepped onboard.
New ships, on the other hand, can sometimes have problematic service as the crew tries to work within the ship’s new setup. Remember: a new ship isn’t just new to you; it’s new to everyone.
They can also be a bit of a disappointment; as wonderful as Princess Cruises’ Royal Princesswas (nearly everyone raves about her) when she first set sail last year, there was no shortage of passenger complaints over three things: the missing midship stairwell, the lack of a true promenade deck, and the traditional aft-facing swimming pool that had been a staple of every Princess cruise ship for decades making its sudden disappearance. If you were a longtime Princess cruiser going onboard and looking forward to those things, you may have come away