It all starts when the ticket sales kick in. Then it’s the fun of the waiting, the crazy-lucky moments when you get to fly with your favourite celebrity, and the expense of the trip itself. In short, it’s all about the thrill of the hunt.
When I booked my first Caribbean cruise, it seemed to be going smoothly. Things took a dramatic turn when my four-day excursion to Venezuela happened to be cancelled at the last minute. I didn’t have that terrible feeling of panic because I was looking forward to my four days off work. I was looking forward to travelling by ship.
It’s best not to carry such paraphernalia across international borders, but one guest aboard the ship had these wikid custom rolling trays, which made it through all security checks because no actual “stuff” was being carried onboard.
The cruise ship industry doesn’t hold its passengers’ loyalty, and neither do its staff. The lure of a free vacation in a tropical paradise is one that is too big for any airline to resist. I saw it happening again on my cruise this time around. I booked an excursion to the beautiful country of Cuba, including an over-priced tour. I paid for my cruise excursion ticket and a hotel in Havana. I’d heard from other travellers and by reading online reviews that the cruise lines charge for a vast number of “free” activities that are actually covered in the cruise ship cruise package. It turned out that I booked everything except the free excursion.
After all the pleas and warnings I’d been reading for months, I decided to wait until it was clear that I’d be leaving Cuba on an international flight before I complained. But I soon learned that in such a place as Cuba, waiting isn’t easy. After a four-hour wait, I sat in a queue in front of a government immigration counter at the port. I kept worrying that the immigration official might not let me out without a stamp in my passport. I hoped that he would find the shortest way out of his busy day by asking the person next to me for my passport. I hoped that the other passengers would agree with me when I told the officer that it was all a mistake. And when the officer told me that I had no intention of going anywhere, but only planned to hang out at the airport all day, I was shocked.
A few months later, I saw a flight from Cuba to Miami. The cost for a second-class ticket had been brought down. There was an extra flight for that as well. I knew then that the cruise industry has found a way to make money off of everyone involved, even when the people don’t even realise that they are being taken advantage of.
I took the second-class flight with a colleague, who also booked his cruise excursions a couple of weeks before. He’s a vacation specialist who looks after travel plans for wealthy individuals. After a pleasant, almost magical flight, we arrived in Miami and headed for the port, with luggage and a backpack containing an extra passport and a couple of bags full of clothes and personal items. The cruise line advised us to go through customs first. When I asked what that was all about, I was told that it was to stop any potential criminals trying to sell their bags to the cruise company.