Every time a big, new cruise ship is launched the buzz around our world of cruise vacations is all about exciting features, some never heard of before. In the past, cruise travel has introduced many of us to activities, sports, entertainment, cuisine and more that we might not otherwise have experienced. We may have come away from a cruise with a new appreciation for something we never knew existed before we sailed. But why are new, different and exciting features necessary? Are we bored with yesterday’s amazing experience? Are we constantly looking for something new? The answer to these and other related questions may surprise you.

In the past, we have seen top-deck features like rock-climbing walls, to giant TV screens, zip lines, water parks, surfing, basketball and golf simulators, to name a few. Dining has gone from a standard three meals a day + 24-hour room service to virtually unlimited all day dining options, now trending in a way that meets or exceeds what we might find on land. Entertainment has gone from a 70’s Vegas-style review to include branded experiences ranging from the Blue Man Group to celebrity-led enrichment presentations, well-known musical groups in concert and Broadway musicals.

The point of it all? To keep us on the ship.

By design, cruise lines need us on the ship a certain amount of time for a variety of reasons. Of those reasons, an important one to cruise lines is Onboard Revenue and they go after it with gusto. When we spend on the ship, be it via shopping options, specialty dining or other not-included-in-the-price features, cruise lines gain much-needed revenue. Those low cruise fares we enjoy on big ships barely cover operating expenses. Onboard revenue, then, is a big key to a profitable sailing. Still, onboard revenue is not the whole ballgame.

“Clearly we hope they shop in the shops and eat in the specialty restaurants,” said Lisa Lutoff-Perlo, Royal Caribbean’s executive vice president of operations in a Miami Heraldarticle, but we also want them to enjoy the ports, the shore excursions.”  

If you have ever been on a cruise, seen the ship’s daily newsletter and thought ‘There is really not enough time to do all of these things,’ you’re not alone and that feeling is by design. At the end of the sailing, that’s one reason we might want to come back and sail again.

Think “amazing onboard features” and odds are a Royal Caribbean Oasis-class ship might come to mind. So big the ships are divided into neighborhoods, a week on board is often not enough time for passengers to experience all that is offered or even see all of the ship.

“When you build ships like this, the sea days are as special as the port days. . . . One of the major reasons is all the fabulous features the two ships offer. We’re trying to balance the time our guests get to see the ports and these features,” added Lutoff-Perlo.

Surely, there is no lack of things to do on Oasis-class ships, but Royal Caribbean does not have an exclusive lock on intense onboard programming. All major cruise lines have their version of what it takes to satisfy cruise travelers and make them hungry for more.

I’ll sail a Carnival ship for the gourmet burgers that came from a partnership between the cruise line and Food Network Star Guy Fieri. Princess Cruises has me for life with their 24-hour International Cafe. Back to Royal Caribbean, the Park Cafe’s roast beef sandwich, started on Oasis-class then rolled out to most other ships in the fleet keeps me coming back. Sister-line Celebrity Cruises Modern Luxury resonates particularly well with me.

That’s just a few lines and one writer talking about them. Each of us who sail, appreciate the outstanding value of a cruise vacation and look forward to ‘the next cruise’ have our reasons to sail. Odds are that our reasons will keep us on the ship. Those reasons might contribute to onboard revenue.

When I talk to other cruise travelers on big ships, the reason they sail is rarely ‘because I just love Cozumel’ or ‘I can’t wait to get off and go on a shore excursion’. But stay on the ship or go ashore, one thing is for sure: We are not in the office, at work, at home or anywhere close to our normal routine. It’s that breakaway from the norm that brings us back refreshed, renewed and often a bit changed as people. If cruise lines need onboard revenue as an ingredient to bake that cake, so be it…and give me a great big slice please!

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