No. of Recommendations: 1
Larger ocean going cruise ships try to “BE” the resort. The fact that they stop in various ports is a necessary evil from the standpoint of management, as, except for excursions sold by the ship, the stops do not generate revenue. On the other hand, keeping the passengers spending money aboard is a major win for the cruise management. The business model of the mega-ship has been finely tuned to attract families with kids and young adults, with a focus on extracting as much revenue as possible during their time aboard.

Around 1/3 of passengers on the RCCL Oasis class don't go ashore during the cruise. Grandkids loved the Oasis of the Seas. The other problem is that they can only dock or tender to large ports. The megaships basically don't do the West Coast. Food 24 hours a day and no house work has its attraction when traveling with families. Late evening the grandkids would go down to the promenade deck for pizza.

Some of the stops are at private islands which means that you are still under the cruise line control when ashore.

Embarkation and debarkation wasn't as difficult as I expected. Did it once because a family member wanted to do a cruise on the largest cruise ship (which at the time we booked it was). We aren't planning on a mega-ship cruise again. The sheer quantity of luggage they handle means that luggage delivery doesn't complete until late on the first night.

We don't drink soft drinks or alcohol which means the overpriced drink packages are not a concern. While we were standing in line for a show, I was talking to the woman in line behind us. She commented that to feel she had received value for the drink package she had been drinking heavily during the week and was feeling like she looked like an alcoholic. The next day when the cruise ended she would be going back to rarely drinking.

There are more first time cruisers on the medium to mega-cruises. One morning I kept hearing how rough it was the night before. I was confused and thought I had slept through something significant. It was at most "moderate" seas.

Smaller cruise ships do not have the economies of scale that larger ones do, so they tend to be more expensive on a per-passenger/per-day basis. This means they do not attract as many families with children. They raise revenue by charging for excursions, liquor/wine and boutique products at extremely high margins – or alternatively by including some in the price as very expensive “all-inclusive” structures. Here, the “hotel” is not as elaborate, so the “compensation” tends to be in better, more elaborate, food as well as the ability of smaller ships to dock at more convenient and exotic locations than larger ones.

Having only been on two small cruise ship cruises, both with National Geographic and both were during the school year, I don't have a good basis for comparison of small ship/river cruises.

Only a very few cabins could accommodate a third passenger. There were 2 children on board during one of the cruises. The size of the cabins were small but comfortable and efficiently organized. I also learned that the evenings they stated not to leave anything on flat surfaces, it is time to up the seasick meds. The first night I was fine and was overconfident the second night.

Their targeted passengers are older and higher income than the mega ships. Definitely not the party cruisers that Carnival targets. With around 100 passengers, embarkation and debarkation was easy. Embarkation at Panama was unusual. "Security" was sitting in the shade. A dog sniffed our luggage and that was it. Some limited waiting for excursions when they involved Zodiacs. The very set schedule for meals would be a problem if the grandkids had been included.

Not mentioned but Wi-fi can be expensive. Recently given family issues we have had to buy wi-fi packages. I can't remember if the wi-fi on the Nat Geo was included. It wasn't on the Oasis. The family issue has ended. Our next trip is Hawaii which means that when docked we can use our cell phones and will be out of contact when at sea. Some break from the extended family will be nice.

On the Columbia river, another ship was following essentially the same itinerary. I can't say if the shore excursions were the same. The itineraries were staggered just enough that we weren't in exactly the same place at the same time.

A goal is Antarctica. Local hotels won't be an option.
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