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ChangingMinds Blog! > Blog Archive > 02-Aug-08


Friday 08-Aug-08

Cruise dues

I've recently come back from a cruise up the Norwegian coast and into the Arctic (here's the blog) where, apart from enjoying the holiday, I also had an interesting time studying the methods used on board to separate you from more of your money.

Theoretically, it's all-in and you do not need to pay for anything. However, there was a lot of opportunities to spend. First, you do not use real money, but electronically attach your cabin key to your credit card, making spending easy. Then there are endless shore excursions at rather high prices. We went on one to a remote glacier, but otherwise managed our own tours, for example walking to town rather than paying $12 for a five-minute bus ride.

At breakfast, a waiter would turn up at your table, freshly-squeezed orange on tray, and ask if you would like it. Having said yes, you have then mentally closed and when they ask for your cabin card it can seem difficult to back out. The same happened later in the day with wine and other alcohol. Bringing your own booze on board was strictly banned, including threat of kicking you off the ship.

There were, of course, a range of shops on board, several selling luxury goods, though prices weren't too bad there. They also held 'sale days' and auctions to tempt you in. There was also a sizeable casino which seemed to be busy at all times of the day and night. There little sadder a sight than a lone person mechanically feeding a slot machine.

Finally there was the 'tipping' policy, which included a suggested daily rate for a  range of people from your cabin attendant to the maitre d'. A note buried in all the other information said that, if you didn't object, they'd just charge your credit card to save you the effort.

Must of this was described as 'seagoing tradition', another neat coercion device, with the implication that if you 'break from tradition' you are somehow breaking some sacred sailor's law and are a dangerously bad person. Ships have historically been little worlds of their own where the captain has power of life and death. Blind obedience may be necessary in a storm, but obediently handing over your money is a different matter.

All-in-all, pretty tricky waters to navigate and I'm sure many guests spent more than they expected to spend. I just danced around the waiters and tipped what I thought was reasonable, giving more to those who helped me more, which is what it's supposed to be about.

Having said all this, we had a wonderful time. The crew were endlessly helpful, the entertainment very good and the food wonderful. And that was before we'd gone ashore. Cruising is actually a cheaper option for touring Norway, where on-land prices can be prohibitively high, but some methods of parting you with your money are, I think, somewhat unfair.

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