Florida Boating

Saturday, August 18, 2012


By Barb Hansen
April, 2012

Some of you probably remember the Think Small advertising campaign. This was the headline of a successful TV advertising program introducing the little Volkswagen Beetle to America. That was in 1959, more than half a century ago.

Since then it seems the world has gone from thinking small to thinking big -- too big if you ask me -- about everything from supersized fast food platters with 3,500 calories to 15-deck cruise ships for 3,500 guests.

I applaud the cruise ship industry for introducing cruising to so many but I have to say that as cruise ships get larger they have more to do with big plates of food and onboard entertainment than enjoying the wild blue wonder and visiting ports of call.

The new Freedom of the Seas is the largest luxury cruise ship in the world. It's 1,120 feet long, 184 feet wide, 208 feet tall. They should call it Freedom from the Seas because of all of the gee-whiz stuff onboard, like a little river, a waterfall and sculptures shooting jets of water. It even has geysers shooting from "the ground."

 It has a mall for shopping, eating, entertainment – They call it the "Royal Promenade" – and at night they put on "street" parades with music and laser lights.

Geysers shooting from the ground? Street parades? It seems like they're trying hard to make you think you're not on a boat but terra firma, and terra firma offering the same thing you have at home. Then why take a cruise? Save money. You can visit your local mall for shopping, eating and entertainment.

As you also may know, cruise ship accidents have been in the news lately. Costa Concordia ran aground and capsized off the coast of Italy. Costa Allegra had an engine fire and drifted in the Indian Ocean. Costa Europa rammed a pier in Egypt. Periodically, nasty stomach viruses spread among dozens of passengers and the vessel has to return to port prematurely. All this has prompted some to rethink their next cruise.

Well, how about something with two cabins instead of 2,000, something for four friends instead of 4,000 strangers? Instead of 24 buffet lines how about a vessel with a stove and fridge and you get to be the chef?

May I suggest that you not cruise a rocky coast but rather a glassy-smooth waterway framed by barrier islands and mangrove wilderness? Alas, at night they don't put on street parades, but you and your friends can sit on the bridge and watch the sun go down. There is no after-dark laser show but you might see a comet streak across the sky.

This vessel doesn't have an activities director. Well, it does, actually. You are the activities director. Just tell the captain you want to collect shells on the Sanibel Island beach, eat a cheeseburger in paradise on Cabbage Key and cap off the day with a Crème Brulee at the Collier Inn restaurant on Useppa Island.

Yes, I'm suggesting your next cruise be aboard a small charter yacht, not a cruise ship. I'm suggesting your next cruise be on a vessel that departs when you want to depart, goes where you want to go, and stops and starts at your command.

If you're considering another cruise, I have a timely suggestion.

Think Small.


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