Savvy Traveler: Cruise industry amenities war heats up

Starting in 1492, the hottest route in the cruise market was across the Atlantic and the Caribbean basin. That’s pretty much the same today.

Accommodations back then were somewhat sparse. Bunks were wooden racks or hammocks strung between two posts. Meals — when they were served — gave passengers two choices: “yes or no.”

One of the most-looked-forward-to activities was spending brief periods of the day above deck attempting to breathe in some fresh air and ward off sunlight deprivation. The activities director more often than not was a burly man with a long, leather whip who encouraged crew and passengers to swab the deck, climb the masts to adjust sails and a wonderful array of menial chores.

Trans-ocean cruises generally lasted for several months, giving those on board an opportunity to enjoy all of the available options.

Ships have come a long way in more than five centuries. Builders no longer rely on stout timbers for the hull and cruise directors have traded in their whips for a smile.

In fact, the last five decades have seen such tremendous growth in cruise ships and amenities that a comparison of then to now is comparable to comparing the wooden ships of yesteryear to the behemoths sailing the seven seas today.

Less than 40 years ago, NCL’s Starward was one of the hottest ships afloat. Today, it could be used as a tender for the huge floating hotels that tower over the water. But more than size and materials go into the cruise experience today.

Until the past few years, New York City had a virtual monopoly on cruise ships coming into the area. That changed with the development of Cape Liberty in Bayonne, N.J. Celebrity Cruises saw the potential and has home-ported its luxury liners in New Jersey.

The location is only minutes from Newark Airport and a comfortable ride from LaGuardia and JFK.

But Celebrity knows that convenience alone will not satisfy passengers; they need to be fed and entertained.

Celebrity has teamed up with “54 Below” to bring Broadway-caliber entertainment shipboard, enhancing the time between Port Liberty and Bermuda.

54 Below is located beneath the legendary disco, Studio 54, and is called “a throwback” to the era when Studio 54 was the hottest ticket in the area.

Celebrity’s Director of Entertainment, Eric Bohus, called the partnership: “A unique theatrical experience” that will bring Broadway talent in cabaret-style performances that complement the ship’s other new offerings including (What happens in Las Vegas, stays in Las Vegas) Sin City Comedy.

Simply offering new venues is hardly sufficient if they aren’t filled with quality. The 54 Below experience will include Tony Award winners Faith Prince, Alice Ripley and Donna McKechnie.

Others have starred in “Rent,” “Les Miserables,” “Jersey Boys,” “Godspell”and a host of top shows.

Celebrity Cruises has been a pioneer in entertainment and shipboard amenities. Its 11 liners, visiting ports throughout the world, puts equal emphasis on the cuisine offered to passengers so that the entire cruise experience is on a level plane.

For information go to

Leave a Reply

You must be logged in to post a comment.