With increasing frequency I meet cruise travelers who enjoy the onboard experience such that they chose not to take shore excursions. Others use the shore excursions to create different cruise experiences from the same itinerary. Still other guests enjoy cruises as an alternative to air travel across oceans and continents, irrespective of the port stops along the way. For various reasons, a growing number of repeat cruise travelers opt to treat the port excursions as optional and not integral to their enjoyment of a cruise experience.
For two decades I have chosen cruise itineraries for the ports that would be visited. The excitement of a new port every day or two seemed a wonderful way to travel. While that excitement still exists, I admit that having several days at sea is appreciated for the opportunity to enjoy the amenities of a floating destination hotel. I am seldom disappointed when an intended port must be passed by due to weather and an inability to safely reach the harbor. Days at sea translate to social opportunities, more time at the spa, or a quiet day reading or writing. There is also the bonus opportunity for my trivia team to win the day.
Occasionally I meet cruise guests who take little interest in shore excursions. As a cruise destination speaker I now meet such folks with increasing frequency, although their reasons for remaining onboard may differ. Some guests feel they have seen the sights, but still enjoy the cruise experience. They tell me that they chose the ship for the onboard amenities without regard to the ports. Others are selective of their excursion experiences opting for a few additional sea days to play bridge, or relax. For these guests, being on vacation means having the choice to be active, or not, as they chose. I receive comments after destination presentations from guests who tell me that they enjoyed the story and feel connected to the port, without also feeling obligated to personally engage with a place where they may feel challenged by the terrain or the weather.
I am also meeting with increased frequency cruise guests who have taken the same ship, on the same itinerary, three or more times. These guests enjoy being familiar with the ship’s amenities. They look forward to their annual trip to warm climates and know just what to pack. Far from being creatures of pure habit, these guests report that by taking different shore excursions each time, they have a unique cruise experience from a repeated itinerary. With each cruise they are able to run the gamut of excursion experiences, repeat excursions that are particularly fun, and not feel that any opportunity was missed. Why make choices when you can do it all, they tell me.
For travelers with an aversion to flying, or who are uncomfortable in the ever-shrinking airplane seats, cruise travel presents an opportunity to see the world in comfort. These travelers enjoy crossings, paired with time in the end port, and a return crossing. For these travelers, port stops along the way are bonus options.
From my purely anecdotal survey of volunteered comments, without any scientific effort to be complete, it appears that the investment of the cruise lines in a glorious array of amenities has given travelers enough of a reason to cruise, with or without shore excursions. Port excursions enhance a cruise experience, but like wine with dinner, the wine enhances, but does not define the meal. Or in the words of a young honeymoon couple, who told me they appreciated learning about the history and culture of the place, so they did not feel guilty about using time in port to go scuba diving.