20/12/2012...12:05 pm

Why are cruise-bashers such snobs?

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Cruising has taken another hammering this week following the screaming headlines about norovirus onboard P&O‘s Oriana.

Jumping on the bandwagon, a writer for the cruise-hating Guardian then wrote an ill-informed and frankly snobbish (ironic for the Guardian) piece on the newspaper’s website, which stated: “Booking a cruise is essentially buying a ticket for a plague ship lottery.”

And then there are five more reasons to give cruising a ‘wide berth’. These include points to the effect that you won’t see anything of the places you visit; you’ll travel in a hermetically sealed ‘pen’; you’ll ‘lose your status as an individual’; pollute the seas; and best of all, that ultimate hell, you’ll be ‘trapped with people who like cruises’.

This piece, I might add, is written by someone who’s never been on a cruise.

We thought long and hard about whether it would even be worthwhile dignifying this ill-informed and deliberately offensive piece with a response, but we thought it important to put the record straight.

So at the risk of getting into an online battle, here goes:

The insinuation of this piece is that people who enjoy cruising are incapable of original thought – but this bleating whine is itself about as clichéd and stereotypical as it’s possible to get, dredging up age-old anti-cruise arguments with little foundation and nothing new to say.

Of course cruising isn’t for everybody. Nor is golf, or caravanning, or pot-holing. But why are cruise-bashers such raging snobs? The writer claims that on a cruise, you’ll ‘see the world in bitesize snippets so small that they’re effectively pointless’. Well, yes, certain types of cruise and ship do attract people who only want to see the highlights of the places they visit. What’s wrong with that? Who has the right to judge somebody else’s experience? Are people who go to resort hotels in the Caribbean or the Spanish costas any more inquisitive? – they eat international cuisine from buffets, watch naff local entertainment and slob around on the beach all day. Shocking.

The piece goes on to say that ‘cruising is for the lazy and the culturally disinterested’, stating with confidence that ‘most passengers conform to the grey-haired, buffet-savaging stereotype’.

So we’ll discount all the families who cruise, the often highly educated passengers attracted to lines like Swan Hellenic or Voyages of Discovery, the adventurous types who enjoy expeditions up the Amazon and to Antarctica or to the Galapagos, or to see the Northern Lights; the music-lovers, the foodies, the wine enthusiasts who take cruises, not to mention the less-mobile for whom a cruise is often the most manageable way to see the world.

Cruising is far from perfect as an industry and debate about how it, and other forms of travel, can improve, should always take place.

But if you’re going to knock it, at least try it first so you can come up with a more intelligent argument than this ill-informed nonsense.

–By Sue Bryant

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23 Comments

  • I love cruising, I love eating overlooking the ocean, I love being able to do many different things in a day. I love the fact that I can just walk back to my room after an evening of having fun. I love the fact, I don’t have to search for food. My Husband and I love them and we also love land vacations. But they are two separate entities. Depending on where we are and what we feel like doing. There are pros and cons to everything. People judge without thought or based on 1 bad experience.

  • Well said Sue. I suppose these kind of headlines do sell papers!

    Also many other lines could be included like Voyages to Antiquity and Orion to name a few.

  • no cruising is not for everyone, but you have to go on one to see if it is for you or not !!! I have been on several cruises & have another one booked for this summer with my entire family(20 of us)& the one thing I do know for sure is that i have never run across a unhappy, snotty ,uptight person on a ship !!!! as far as just seeing little bits & pieces of each place,do like the rest of us,if we go somewhere that really interests us, then our next vaca is to that place, not a cruise !!! I guess what i’m saying is –be versatile –do both & certainly dont knock it before you try it !!!!

  • I fall into the category of well educated, have seen the world (and not just in snippets) and enjoy cruising for what it allows me to do; relax and spend a week or so refreshing myself. It’s my “mental health” break from the doldrums of normal daily life. If the writer of this article has truly never been on a cruise, he/she does not have the right to bash (or praise, for that matter) the art of cruising just as I do not have the right to criticize someone who likes mountain climbing. If I ever do it, then I’ll feel like I can state a case. I do have some friends who will not cruise, but it’s because they grew up in Hawaii and they do not care to go on vacations that involve the sea. That I can understand. Never cruised? Step aside. 21 is coming up in February.

  • We’ve cruised for years and also stayed in all inclusive. We find cruising, amongst other things gives us the chance to see if we would like to actually spend time in a certain port of call. This Christmas we are going back to Buenos Aires for a week before our cruise, because we had BA as a port of call on another cruise and felt we’d like to spend more time there. Someone who tries to write an intelligent article on something they have never experienced is just wasting their time as a writer. Know of what you speak!

  • Yeah….what he said!

  • I agree completely.
    I might add that vacation needs vary with lifestile.
    We are both higly educated, interested in culture, nature, ballroom dancing and food. We used to travel all over the world, mostly with a backpack, getting to know the countries we visited fairly well. We had time and energy to do so.
    Now, we own a hotel. We are still fit, but for 49 weeks a year we work an average 100 hours a week: so when holiday time comes we want to be pampered a bit, still visit some new places but maybe without unpacking and packing all the time. Our needs have changed.
    We do realise that (e.g.) our 1 day taster of Istanbul does not do that city justice. Instead we see cruising, apart from being vacationing in itself, also as a smorgasbord of new places never visited before, that might in future merit a ‘land trip’.

  • I have a juris doctor and worked for several years as a lawyer. My wife is a PhD candidate who administers a graduate program at a major university. We finished our second cruise aboard Freedom of the Seas several days ago, can’t wait to cruise again and are actively planning a cruise vacation with children and grandchildren. I’m not sure whose demographic we fit in, but we met a number of wonderful people from all over the world on our cruise. I suppose I’m not shocked that cruising is an easy target – where else can 3400 people coexist in peace, harmony and understanding? A waiter from India, dinner conversations with two men from Vietnam and a Puerto Rican excursion captain the next day? Yeah, pretty radical stuff. We won’t cruise every year, but it fits very nicely into our rotation because – wait for it – we love it. Does it need to be any more complicated than that?

  • I too read the article you mention and found it rather insulting. As you say we have the right to take the kind of holiday WE wish too, not one that suits someone else.

    The piece goes on to say that ‘cruising is for the lazy and the culturally disinterested’, stating with confidence that ‘most passengers conform to the grey-haired, buffet-savaging stereotype’

    In response to the above comment – I am a 28-year old single woman about to embark on a 35-night cruise with my friend of the same age. Admittedly we are not most passengers but I can add that most passengers do not conform to the grey-haired stereotype.

    Thoroughly enjoyed your response, Sue!

  • Like most of the comments I’ve read, obviously someone had never cruised before. They failed to mention some of the more important and REAL reasons folk love cruising. I love cruising because I can go to a couple, three, or four destinations and only have to unpack 1 time. I love the idea of a floating hotel and it is almost basically an all inclusive stay. But what about the deep blue? When I’m out on my balcony enjoying the fresh air and sound of the sea, I am always drawn to the deep blue sea. The color is so vibrate and beautiful. I could stare at it for hours, but I don’t because I don’t want to miss all the fun that is going on all around the ship. And how about the destinations? Each one is unique in itself. The palm trees, the foliage, the people, and so much more. I love exploring something new. And what better way to experience samples of an island than by cruising to a few of them all in 1 trip…..You can always take a flight and spend 5 to 7 days in a spot that you may have sampled on a cruise and check that place out in more detail. I don’t care what they say about cruising! When I am on a cruise all of my normal worries and stresses just float away. I am a travel agent and sell my clients on the experience and the memories that they will make while on their cruise. There are the people that they will meet and not necessarially have to ever see again in life. And another thing. Cruising is affordable! If you plan ahead, you can have your cruise all paid for through a monthly payment plan and be done with it when it is time to embark on your journey. I could go on and on, but I’ve said way too much as it is. Call me if you want to experience cruising! 1888.844.6112

  • We are a couple in our 50s who went on our first ever cruise this year. Yes we did see locations in bite sized snippets but that gave us the chance to decide that we would like to return to specific destinations for a longer break. The staff on the cruise and the cleanliness of accommodation and dining areas were as good if not better than some of the hotels that we have stayed in. We probably will take another cruise but it won’t be our only way to travel.
    We have been to destinations such as Lake Garda and have enjoued trips to the Dolomites, Venice and other resorts on the Lake as we do not enjoy lying beside a beach or pool in a resort hotels. Each to their own taste – but at least don’t knock it until you try it and the world would be a boring place if we all liked the same things!

  • As the writer of the piece mentioned, I’ll put my hand into the snake pit and respond. I realise this is probably futile, so I’ll not get into a prolonged argument. But I will offer the following in defence – make of it what you will.

    1. “The insinuation of this piece is that people who enjoy cruising are incapable of original thought.”
    No it isn’t. You’ve invented that, I’m afraid.

    2. “Well, yes, certain types of cruise and ship do attract people who only want to see the highlights of the places they visit. What’s wrong with that?”
    Nothing wrong in wanting that. But for someone such as myself who doesn’t want that, it’s a reason not to go on a cruise. My brief was five reasons not to go on a cruise. That’s a perfectly valid one.
    I’ve no issue with people wanting that – I’ve an issue with the ease they can have it given the environmental impact and the effect it has on destinations visited by the large cruise ships. Lax regulation and disgraceful levels of tax avoidance make being able to do this unfairly cheap in comparison to other less environmentally damaging and better-for-the-destination forms of tourism.
    I’ve no problem with people who want resort holidays either. Wouldn’t enjoy it myself. But the impact on other people of a large ship cruise – a mobile resort holiday – is far greater.

    3. “So we’ll discount all the families who cruise, the often highly educated passengers attracted to lines like Swan Hellenic or Voyages of Discovery, the adventurous types who enjoy expeditions up the Amazon and to Antarctica or to the Galapagos, or to see the Northern Lights; the music-lovers, the foodies, the wine enthusiasts who take cruises, not to mention the less-mobile for whom a cruise is often the most manageable way to see the world.”
    No we won’t. That’s why the “with honourable exceptions” line was in there. But these are niches within the industry. Surely even you’ll admit the majority of cruise bookings are of the big ship, new port every day, floating resort type. And it’s that style of cruising that I’m (quite legitimately) attacking.

    Was the original piece a balanced assessment of the merits of cruising? No – of course not. And neither was it meant to be. It was meant to be a list of five reasons to avoid cruises. An opinion piece from someone who gets the shivers at the thought of going on a big ship cruise. I hope we’re all able to distinguish between fact and opinion without every sentence having to have an “in my opinion” disclaimer.

    If you want balance, put it up against the acres of gushingly uncritical newsprint devoted to how wonderful a cruise was in travel sections largely funded by cruise advertisers.

    Of course someone who enjoys cruising will not like a piece listing reasons not to go cruising. But that doesn’t mean the piece is wrong or ill-informed. As for snobbish – people have different tastes. As you say, there’s nothing inherently wrong with being lazy and culturally disinterested (hell, in many circumstances I can be too). But people with a different mindset are unlikely to enjoy being surrounded by people who are lazy and culturally disinterested.

    (I should perhaps point out too that the subheadings were not mine, and are perhaps bigger generalisations than I’d like them to be).

  • I’ve only been on two cruises, one of which (to Malaysia and Thailand with Star Clippers) was one of the best travel experiences I’ve ever had.

    The other was a wine cruise with Jilly Goolden, so I learned a lot about wine, visited Cognac, Porto and other wine places, remember a really delightful seafood lunch with my wife in Porto, visited the Guggenheim in Balbao, and had other terrific travel experiences.

  • Daniel Skriker

    Excellent article by Cruise Critic

    But for the Guardian if you can’t say something nice don’t say anything at all.

  • Literally made my day reading this! Well said!

  • My husband and I cruise too. We enjoy getting away from everything and being spoilt. We enjoy meeting new people at dinner or breakfast or over a drink – the age range in staggering and so refreshing. We cruised Hawaii a few years ago and to be truthful it was rush, rush, rush BUT it did as we wanted. We are now planning a vacation on one of the Islands only, so we can explore more.

    I also take an elderly Aunt (86) on a weeks cruise ever year. Again, we go for all of the above but also the entertainment and as we usually go in the wintertime – some sunshine!

  • I see Mr Whitley has pitched up to reinforce the original snobbish attitude portrayed in his Grauniad article. Simply repeating your views won’t make them true, Mr Whitley, nor will it convert any of the hundreds of thousands of people who choose to cruise every year. You are more than welcome to have your own views on the subject, but your article reads more like a clarion call to the navel-gazing and deludedly self-appointed intellectual and cultural ‘elite’ among your readership who are all more than happy to jump on the bandwagon and decry the ‘masses’ who choose to cruise for a myriad of different reasons, without ever having experienced a cruise holiday themselves. What a nasty, narrow-minded and superior attitude to take. And if ‘lazy and culturally disinterested’ is your thing, then I would contend that churning out this paint-by-numbers cruise-bashing guff is about as lazy in terms of serious journalism as it’s possible to get. You should be ashamed.

  • Trevor Peace

    An important fact missed by this journalist is regarding the Norwalk virus. Cruise ships are obliged to notify CDC of outbreaks. Hotels have no such requirement. So the assumption that cruise ships present a greater hazard to ones health is entirely incorrect.
    It is dangerous to pubish articles without really fully researching your subject.

  • Diane McGreechan

    We only started cruising as I am a “non flyer” so we had always done driving holidays in Europe. Cruising enabled me to go to Canada and the US which I never expected to be able to visit. We have now visited loads of places which we could not have easily or economically seen (Canaries, Greece and various Greek Islands, Turkey, Cyprus, Malta, Russia, Finland, Sweden) as well as many destinations we could not possibly have done on a single holiday by driving. We had “done” France, Germany, Italy, Norway, Northern Spain, Croatia and Slovenia but these trips have been terribly expensive compared to the real value you get from cruising these days. Also, my driver husband really appreciates not having to sit behind a wheel for hours and hours a day and it’s nice not having to worry about finding somewhere to sleep and eat each day. For non flyers like me, cruising is absolutely brilliant

  • Cruising has taken my husband and I in our retirement to places we would never otherwise have dreamt of visiting. We’ve seen the pyramids and the treasures of the Cairo museum, Corinth, Ephesus, Carthage, Istanbul, Yalta, Odessa, Sevastopol, New Orleans, Mayan ruins in Mexico – I could go on, and all these are places we would never have visited for a holiday, so would otherwise never have seen. We’ve done in-depth tours of each of these places and learnt a great deal, as much as we could comfortably absorb and appreciate. We have sailed from British shores with as much luggage as we wanted and have only had to pack and unpack once per trip in order to go to a wide variety of far flung places. How can we possibly be described as ‘culturally disinterested’? If we were so presumably we’d just be lying on a beach somewhere, not sailing the seas to magical places.

  • Debbie Peaty

    I can’t agree strongly enough will all these other comments. Life is for living in whatever way makes you happy. My husband and I are keen cruisers. We are also keen walkers, theatre goers (serious stuff as well as light entertainment), interested in history, art and the world around us. Cruising to us means being able to enjoy all these aspects of travel, with good food and interesting company (we’ve met some wonderful people from all walks of life whom we would never have met otherwise) without having the hassle of wasting precious time packing and unpacking, catching numerous trains, planes and buses or even worse driving for days on end. I suggest that David Whitley gets out from behind his prejudice and lives a little.

  • I didn’t read the artical in the Guardian about the so called “plague ship lottery” regarding the outbreak of Noro virus on Oriana but I would just like to say Cruise ships don’t give you Noro virus like an added extra on their curriculum its people who bring it on board. I love cruising I got married on P & O’s Oceana and it was the best experience of my life nothing was too much trouble. We have now booked our 6th cruise and can’t wait.

  • Face it, this guy writes for money and has to be controversial.
    As long as his article keeps Grauniad readers away from cruises I am on, who am I to complain when I travel the world?


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