Author Archives: Bill Whipple

Cruise Ship Comparison: Passenger Space Ratio

Editor’s Note: This will be part of a series that presents a few fun facts, figures and comparisons about cruise ships, and how to use them to help with making cruising decisions with your ToaD Travel Consultant.

When I board a ship for a cruise, I’m always interested in how roomy the ship is and how it will “feel” once I’m on board. I’m going to be there for a while and since I’m from the Midwest, I need a certain amount of personal space to feel comfortable.

Before I retired I used to do a lots of math. Now I’ve had some time to look at some interesting and simple calculations that help me to see how much elbow room I’m going to have on a cruise. It is a simple ratio that relates the total volume of the ship to the number of passengers. In simple terms, how much space can I expect?

This magic number is called the Passenger Space Ratio and it is easy to calculate to get a feel for how crowded you might feel on a certain class of ship. It is the simple ratio between the size of the ship (Gross Tonnage) and the number of passengers onboard. It is easy to compare with other ships since these two numbers are generally available across all cruise lines. At least now we can compare apples to apples.

About the numbers involved… Gross Tonnage (gt) is a bit of a math nightmare, and doesn’t really have anything to do with the weight of a ship. Instead, it is a measure of all of the enclosed spaces within the ship. There is a lot of history (and math) behind it, but all we really need to know is that it is a “fair” number that makes a good attempt to represent all ships properly for all sizes and usages. Since we only care about cruise ships, all of that math is done.

Since we usually don’t know how many guests will be on any given cruise ahead of time, we need to have a ‘standard’ number of passengers for each ship. It’s nice that almost all ships have a capacity number that is generally the number of staterooms with two occupants in each. This is sometimes called the ship’s capacity or double occupancy. The ship may hold many more people if every single bed, bunk and berth is occupied, but double occupancy is a reasonable number to use for comparisons, and is often used by cruise lines to determine a “full ship.”

Finally, we can calculate the Passenger Space Ratio. It is simply the amount of space on the ship divided by the number of passengers. There, done. If we only had a table with some of these values filled in, it would be interesting to see how different cruise line ships have designed, built and outfitted their ships and how each design, level of luxury and service offered changes this ratio.

The following table shows the gross tonnage, number of passengers (double occupancy) and the calculated passenger space ratio for several ship classes across several cruise lines.

PsgrSpaceRatioTable

Many ships fall within a reasonably close range, and some ship design features will affect this number. For instance, Royal Caribbean’s Oasis of the Seas has a Boardwalk and Central Park areas that are within the confines of the ship, but since they are open to the sky the space is not include in the Gross Tonnage figure. On the other hand, the atmosphere of having a few birds along for the ride and having an open park-like setting to eat lunch is amazing.

If you are looking up the Gross Tonnage for yourself, be sure that it is the Gross Tonnage, and not one of the other similar numbers that only help with the confusion (Gross Register Tonnage, Net Register Tonnage, Displacement, Compensated Gross Tonnage, etc.). Gross Tonnage is the number to use for all ships built after July 18, 1982, but sometime sources may round up, or the number could change over time if the ship has a major upgrade during dry dock that affects the number of passengers or the volume of enclosed space within the ship.
I wouldn’t make a decision to not go on a ship because the Passenger Space Ratio seems too low, or is a few hundredths lower than another ship, but it is useful.

Remember that there are several other numbers and statistics that we can look at that give us more information on everything from how a ship will ride in rough weather, how many crew are there to serve you, and a host of other things that can be compared across cruise line, ship classes. Taken together these can help to give an improved perspective on what you can expect on your cruise.

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Disney Cruise Line vs Azamara Club Cruises

As many of our friends and fans know, I just returned from my first Azamara Club Cruise on the Azamara Journey.  I traveled over Easter, so more children were onboard than normal.  According to the stats we were given, there were six onboard under 17.  Yes, I did say that was more than normal.  Part of the reason it is surprising is that Azamara does not have dedicated children’s programming like all of the contemporary cruise lines.  That was ok with us as we are two adults with no children.

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We have cruised 27 times on Disney since 2002.  People are amazed when I tell them that.  We have been very happy with Disney Cruise Line and to be honest, the experience on board has rarely been less than excellent for us.  We have realized that we pay a premium to cruise on Disney and it hasn’t been a problem for us when we consider all we are getting.  This started changing about 2 1/2 years ago when the Disney Magic came out of her reimagination.

As I was preparing to host a group onboard for the five night sailing, I received a call from Disney Cruise Lines, indicating that the cruise was going to be cancelled as the ship was not ready yet.  This was three days prior to sailing.  I scrambled to reschedule or postpone all of my clients to another cruise date and then I started worrying about myself.  Our flight was in the morning and we had been scheduled to cruise back to back, plus meeting friends at Disney World pre-cruise.  We couldn’t just cancel, we had a lot of arrangements to be made.

Of course, since our notice was three nights prior to the sailing, we figured that the rest of the work should only take three more days, right?  I think I would have been more accepting if it had only taken three days, but instead, when we got onboard eight days after we received the notice, there was still work being done.  Some cabins weren’t completed.  Reserved cabins weren’t cleaned, toilets weren’t attached, etc.  This made me realize that Disney should have been able to give more than three days notice.  As far as I can tell, this is when my opinion started to change.

After this time, Disney started putting limits on onboard bookings, changed the alcohol policy, significantly increased pricing, yet didn’t vary many of the sailings at all.  After 27 sailings, we really didn’t see a need to cruise except if it was a very special itinerary or a new ship.  When summer 2016 sail dates were released, we made our decision that unless it was work related, we would not be cruising Disney again after our scheduled cruise to Iceland and Norway in summer 2015.  It was a very sad moment in our household.  It was a tough decision, but we had decided that unless people started to send a message about the itineraries and the pricing, nothing would ever change.  As long as people were paying, Disney had no incentive to change.  I was no longer going to be a part of the problem.

Don’t get me wrong.  If you have young children and haven’t been on every Disney Cruise Line itinerary, you have every reason to cruise.  The children’s programming is fantastic.  I don’t know of any cruise line that comes close to what Disney does for the kids.  I’m not saying the other lines have bad children’s programming, I’m saying that Disney far exceeds the others.  Disney is a great line to go on a multi-generational trip.  There is something for every age to do.

Disney prides itself on is exceeding the competition in terms of what they offer onboard.  I think the children’s programming is a great example.  But when it comes to the rest, I think you can reasonably argue that Disney has started to fall behind the competition.

With summer 2017 sailings released last week, it was great to see some new itineraries out there for more than just the Disney Magic.  Four and five night “double dips” to the Bahamas, new ports in Alaska, a nine night sailing in Alaska, plus two Southern Caribbean sailings on the Fantasy.  However, when I looked at the pricing on those sailings, it was the same old, same old.  New itineraries mean higher prices, justified because they are during summer break and because you can’t compare to previous sailings as there weren’t others.

Let’s turn back to our Azamara Club Cruise.  This cruise far exceeded our expectations.  From the food, to the service and everything in between, Azamara was, well, just amazing.  While onboard we booked a future cruise in November 2018.  This was a 10 night Eastern Caribbean, visiting many islands that we have not visited before.  The price was not cheap, but the experience made us realize it was worth it to us.

Balcony Cabin

After Disney announced 10 and 11 night sailings on the Fantasy, we felt it was important to compare the two lines and sailings.  Here is a comparison of the ships and what is offered.

DisneyvAzamara3

Yes, gratuities and standard alcoholic beverages are included in the cruise fare.  The inclusions listed above are for all cabins, not just concierge and suites.  They have other extras as well.  I should also mention that with a new booking on a future Azamara cruise, onboard credits are available for most of the categories.

Of course, you have to compare the pricing as well as the ports of call as it wouldn’t mean much without that.  Below I compared the 10 night Disney Fantasy sailing with the 10 night Azamara Journey sailing that I am booked on.  The price difference is staggering!  Yes, the Journey is not going as far south as the Fantasy, but I will get nearly 20 more hours in port and visit three ports of call I have never been to, and return to three ports that I loved in the past.  Plus I won’t have to pay for gratuities or beverages.  If I opt for the concierge room, I’ll pay just a little more than a balcony on Disney and I’ll also get my specialty dining included.  Plus I’ll get between a $300 – $1500 onboard credit from Azamara.

Next I compared the 11 night Disney Fantasy sailing with the 11 night Azamara Quest sailing in January 2017.  Editor’s Note:  Price comparison removed by request.

10 vs 11

One other thing that I forgot to mention about Azamara pricing.  Several sailings a year will have single rates at 125% instead of the industry norm of 200%.  This is great for the solo travelers.  Additionally, if you are a cruiser who has been on Royal Caribbean or Celebrity Cruises, you have an advantage.  When you are part of either the Crown and Anchor or Captain’s Club, you can request a one-time match into the other club.  You will come in to the other club at a corresponding level, then start earning loyalty with the second line.  Azamara shares the club levels with Celebrity.  What this means is if you have cruised with Celebrity, when you cruise on Azamara, you come in at their respective level.  What is different is that you continue to earn points with both!  We started our Azamara Journey cruise 6 points away from the next level with Celebrity and Azamara.  After completing the cruise, we have now reached the next level with both of them.  The repeater benefits are much better as well with both of these lines.

This has made me feel even better about the amount I’m spending for my Journey sailing.  The only question left is “Who wants to join us?”  If there is enough interest, we will make this a ToaD group sailing!  Drop my wife a note at tracy@travelonadream.com.