So, I've been reading a lot of Cruise Critic lately, for insight into a lot of things. Some stuff stands out that's really different. Or feels really different, at least.
I think what kind of started it is my usual wacky sideways walk into something. There was a movie I watched a little while back. Totally tacked on plots to what was more or less an advertisement for a particular kind of place. 1947's Holiday Camp http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0040443/ Totally tacked on plot (make that "plots", plural, since there were about four of them) but basically talking about what had already more or less become a seedy parody of itself by the time The Who's Tommy came out. But from this contemporary cruising was born. So I've been learning more about it from "the other side", the run of the mill newbie cruisers, the people that make almost a career of going and writing up reviews and essays, and other groups like ours that do it together a lot. (They're usually a lot smaller than our group: 10-13 is a big social cruising group, while GothCruise is probably 40 core folks.) And seeing the other side shows me this:
Holy hell do people love going to the Caribbean. Yeah, the weather's nice almost all the time and there's a lot of nice beaches and stuff, but that's really where people spend most of their time cruising? It's a warm puddle, it's not very big, and a LOT of people really love the 4-5 night cruise that go out to the Bahamas, maybe all the way to Saint Martin, then back. Probably 30% of the cruises in the whole world are in that bathtub, and fully half of the people cruising for the first time are right there, even if they're from fucking Australia. Because they go see Mauswitz, the go out to Port Canaveral because otherwise their two-week holiday would put them in debt for years and a 5-night cruise is a bargain in a per-night comparison.
Speaking of bargains, there's a self-selecting class structure. For all the eglitarianism, there's the "inside cabin -- why pay a penny more than you have to?" group, and there's the "balcony or better" group. There's few fans of the rooms with just windows.
Why do people that "aren't big drinkers" even considering booze beverage packages? I am a "big drinker". I can soak up up four cocktails before dinner (admittedly over two hours) and I'm still looking at the wine list, and pondering if I want a brandy instead of dessert. So, yeah, the $50 per day is totally reasonable. But for those for whom six drinks in a day is a "don't want to do that again tomorrow" proposition?
Big boats are where it's at. 90-100k tons is what most people talk about as being their ideal with indoor parks and surfing simulators. Maybe I'm kind of leaning toward what I've been on but I'm much more used to 70,000 tons instead. And that's still a monstrous boat in my opinion. But it's still small enough to get through Panama. And the modern ships can't. And that's... somehow tragic to my mind. (I've been struggling through a very weighty book about the creation of the Canal and that's probably romanticizing things for me a little big. I've been reading this thing for a month now and the French haven't even really given up yet, though Lessup's company has finally failed. And I'm out of library renewals, so I'll probably have to give up and buy the damned book so I can finish it at my own pace.) Anyway. 105 feet of beam, less than 1000 feet of length, no more than about 30 below the waterline and no more than 200 feet above it. Limits so hard they have a name: Panamax. Big ships? 1,200 feet long, 200 feet wide. Can't fit. Gotta go around. Even after the expansion ("New Panamax" how original) is done in 2014-2015 or so, they still won't fit width-wise. As an interesting side note, people on the boards still can't figure out why Royal Caribbean's ship is smaller than the big boats.... But I bet you can, from context, and why the thing's scheduled for delivery at the end of 2014.
Cupcakes. Oh my fucking lard do people go apeshit for cupcakes. And decorating classes for cupcakes. And tours of places that make cupcakes. I don't get that at all. They're not even good cupcakes. Just yellow or chocolate cake with Way Too Much Frosting. Real cakes can have filling.
The people on Carnival-specific boards are there to bitch and chew bubblegum. Or are there to be fanbois who will excuse anything and admit no wrong could possibly have been committed by any but isolated lazy or criminal staff-members. But mostly bitch. Disney board cruise people are exactly like you'd expect. They all have kids, they all love the Disney Cruise Lines experience and it's totally worth the 30-50% premium for the 15% larger cabins and being able to bring their own beverages aboard. Royal Caribbean boards (where I've been spending the most time) are generally loony with a lot of in-jokes. Norwegian Cruise Lines boards are very serious, very loyal and all seem to have horror stories about British cruise passengers.
Oh yes, the stereotype of British cruise passengers is entirely that they all feel very uncomfortable being forced to share space with anyone that isn't British. Especially on cruises that begin or end in ports on the Isles. Americans and Australians on those ships are bad enough, but if you're from someplace where they don't speak English as a first language then it doesn't matter if you've had a hundred sailings in all parts of the world and own stock in the line, you cannot possibly know how to comport your self at sea. Or so I've been told, anyway.