Cruise line brochures and websites are designed to seduce potential passengers with enticing buzzwords and copy. Sure, some of it waxes true. But you do have to read between the lines.
So here are 10 of the most popular expressions in cruise literature and what they really mean:
Nautical speak: Many small luxury ships like to boast, ”We call at exotic ports where mega-liners fear to tread."
Translation: It could be you've found an off-the-beaten-track small port like Le Marin in Martinique, pictured above. Or it could be that, yes, you may find some big ships where we dock, but hey, there are just not enough ports to go around so we sometimes do have to pull into a port along dozens of other ships.
Nautical speak: “All our staterooms are suites.”
Translation: Well, it depends on the definition. Sure, a suite normally means a bedroom and living room separated by a closing door, but hey, we have big cabins with a sitting room and even a curtain that divides it from the bedroom.
Nautical speak: “Gourmet food.”
Translation: If you’re talking gastronomy on dry land, you’ll have a hard time finding top-notch dining in the big ship dining rooms. But many ships’ specialty restaurants do serve exceptional fare. And the cuisine on Crystal, Seabourn, Silversea, Regent Seven Seas, Viking and Oceania can match many shoreside eateries and may even exceed some.
Nautical speak: “Fare includes all meals, entertainment and shipboard activities.”
Translation: Except when it doesn’t. For example, all-inclusive fares often don't cover meals in specialty restaurants which can cost $40 per person and up for the privilege. Or certain exercise classes, which are no longer free on some ships. Or soft drinks and water, which can set you back a pretty penny. (We once paid $7 plus tip for a bottle of Evian). Even ice cream on a few ships costs extra.
Nautical speak: “Gratuities are included in fare.”
Translation: Yes this one is true on Crystal, Regent Seven Seas, Silversea and Seabourn. And some mainstream operators also run specials that include tips. It's a good deal, given that gratuities can quickly add up.
Nautical speak: “Las Vegas or Broadway-style entertainment.”
Translation: The performers on your ship are trying their best. In fairness, some ships do put on lavish productions or entertaining stage shows, but for the most part keep your expectations realistic. Unless a big-name entertainer is on the bill, shows do not always live up to the brochure hype. Still, most are diverting enough to keep passengers engaged, and the level of the entertainment has been improving steadily over the years.
Nautical speak: “Our full-service spa and salon offers treatments of all kinds and caters to both men and women."
Translation: True, there are shipboard spas and they do offer an extensive menu of therapies and plenty of pampering. But what they don’t tell you is how much it costs. Plenty!
Nautical speak: “Fast and free Internet.”
Translation: Most of the time, if the cruise line doesn't charge for Internet usage on the ship, it's only for a certain amount of time. However, the ‘‘fast’’ part usually doesn't wax true. It’s not the cruise line’s fault, but most of the time Wi-Fi connections at sea are annoying slow.
Nautical speak: “All staterooms are equipped with television access to CNN 24 hours a day.’’
Translation: Well, when the signal connects, then you'll get CNN.
Nautical speak: “Our balcony spans 250 square feet.”
Translation: Well, let's not break out the measuring tape. You're not really that picky, are you?