What Happens To The Slightly Used Toiletries at Hotels?

Every day millions of bars of soap and half-used bottles of shampoo are discarded in hotel shower trays around the world; abandoned by guests who didn’t stay long enough to use them up.

Many of these toiletries are scooped up by chambermaids, thrown into bin bags and sent off to landfill sites, which is a disaster for the environment and a social travesty given that many people around the world are going without proper sanitation.

The figures are startling: according to the World Health Organisation, millions of lives could be saved if the planet’s poorest people had access to soap, a humble product that most of us take for granted.

If only there was a way of diverting all those leftover toiletries to the people who need them most. Cue Shawn Seipler, a Florida-based entrepreneur who quit his high-profile job at a major tech company to recycle hotel toiletries. This unlikely career change began one night when Seipler found himself on the road with work.

“I called the front desk of the hotel and asked them what happened to the soap when I was done with it,” he told Telegraph Travel. “Of course they said ‘well we throw it away’.”

So Seipler did some [back-of-the-envelope] calculations and concluded that millions of half-used bars of soap were being sent to landfill daily around the world. He was also aware that poor sanitation was killing millions of people in the developing world.

“I had a eureka moment,” he said. So, in 2009, Seipler started collecting leftover toiletries from Florida’s hotels, which he began recycling in a relative’s garage in Orlando. Clean the World was born.

“We would sit around on upside down pickle buckets with potato peelers and scrape the outside of bars of soap to surface clean them,” Seipler recalled. “We had meat grinders to grind down the soap, cookers to cook it into a paste and soap moulds, which we poured the paste into.”

In numbers | Waste toiletries

This laborious process is now fully automated (including the addition of an antibacterial agent, which kills any germs) and Clean the World has now distributed more than 40 million bars of soap to impoverished people in 115 countries.

The organisation has recycling centres in Orlando, Vegas, Montreal and Hong Kong and is currently looking to open a fifth in Europe (there are already collection centres in Birmingham and Hanover).

Clean the World has behemoths such as Hilton, Disney and IHG on its books. It charges them £1 per room per month and in return those companies get a chance to demonstrate some corporate social responsibility.

“We now have 303 hotels participating in the programme,” said Paul Snyder, vice president of corporate responsibility at IHG.

“Clean the World has recycled 603,810lbs of soap and amenity waste from our hotels which has helped create more than 1.9 million bars of soap.”

Most of the hotels taking part in the programme are based in North America, but Clean the World has started working with some European hotels. In fact London Heathrow Marriott recently enlisted the services of the organisation.

Other hotels have started introducing their own processes to minimise waste. TheHoxton, which has properties in Shoreditch, Holborn and Amsterdam, told Telegraph Travel that it has done away with individual toiletries.

“We’ve recently switched to using larger shampoo and conditioner dispensers in our rooms, which we refill to reduce waste,” said Alice Tate, Hoxton’s communications manager.

The Marriott has also introduced refillable dispensers at some properties, but guests shouldn’t necessarily be waiting for hotels to make the first move. In fact there’s something simple travellers can do with leftover toiletries that will leave them with clean consciences as well as bodies.

“Take them with you,” said Seipler. “Use them at home or donate them to a homeless shelter.”

 

Baby Boomers Spur Luxury Travel

Baby Boomers are set to account for a rising share of luxury travel as the generation continues to retire, according to new data shared at Virtuoso’s annual Symposium in Vancouver, British Columbia.

According to a presentation by keynote speaker Ken Dychtwald, Ph.D., CEO of Age Wave, households headed by those 65 years and older have more than 21 times the median wealth of households headed by people under 35.

From a travel perspective, the figures become even more resonant, Virtuoso said. Consumers 50 years of age and over account for 33 percent of the population, yet they are responsible for 51 percent of entertainment expenses, 53 percent of airfare expenditures, 59 percent of lodging expenditures, 70 percent of all disposable income, 74 percent of ship fares, 76 percent of total net worth, and 92 percent of all affluent households. What’s more, those aged 55 and older will soon face time affluence like the world has never experienced, with 2.5 trillion hours of leisure time over the next 20 years.

Dychtwald shared data from the joint Age Wave/Merrill Lynch study his group produced. With plenty of downtime ahead of them, Dychtwald stated that 47 percent of retirees are most excited about their newfound ability to travel. They are in search of peak experiences (48 percent) and adventure (45 percent), with 95 percent of retirees saying they prefer to have more enjoyable experiences than more things. His message to the Virtuoso travel agency executives in the audience: optimize invaluable expertise. Dychtwald said that travel agents are poised to become more important than ever, as they help clients imagine their dreams by reimaging tomorrow’s travel marketplace, and provide an unseen layer of safety and protection during the actual travel experience.

During another keynote presentation Virtuoso Chairman and CEO Matthew D. Upchurch built on Age Wave’s research and zeroed in on the scalability of loyalty at a time when interrupting the trust that comes from genuine human connections appears to be the primary driver of so many travel organizations, Virtuoso said. He shared that when the ownership of the coveted client is at stake, scaling loyalty and creating a system that expands while also growing allegiance must be the goal. Success comes from combining both the structural and emotional components of loyalty.

Upchurch talked of the opportunity facing the luxury travel industry, citing the emerging customer base and an IATA statistic showing anticipated air passengers nearly doubling to 7.2 billion by 2035, as well as the growth of the cruise industry and the innumerable niche products. And while there have never been more choices, consumers are looking for someone to simplify their lives as they become even more overwhelmed by information. They are turning to travel advisors to make their lives more secure and fun.

Said Upchurch, “Today we are in the era of exponential choices. We’re swimming in options and there are so many more products. The goal for all of us should be enduring loyalty, which is not to be confused with repeat business. It’s building lifetime connections and lifetime value.”

Continued Upchurch, “There is a legitimate commodity play based on price, convenience and accessibility, but this is not what we in the luxury and experiential business are working to create. Points and cards are everywhere. They’ve become a new currency, which, like real money, can increase and decrease in value. We want to scale enduring loyalty – experiences worth paying for.”

Upchurch went on to say that structural components like mobile apps that register guests provide new conveniences and reward behaviors, but to some degree have created a structural arms race within the industry. However, he pointed out, human beings don’t make decisions solely on facts, points or price. They make choices largely based on emotions, quoting Harvard Business Review’s The New Science of Customer Emotions: “On a lifetime value basis, emotionally connected customers are more than twice as valuable as highly satisfied ones.”

Human connection matters and it is this desire that has fueled the growth of travel advisors as a profession. Luxury and experiential customers come with high value and high expectations. Structurally, they want things to be fast, efficient, productive and in the way they like to communicate. They also want the personal touch, and to feel cared for.

Upchurch called on Virtuoso’s partners to elevate and integrate the next phase of the digital revolution, going from a direct-only bias to compensating on the whole. He surmised that scaling loyalty will take a combination of game-changing elements, including synchronizing structural systems like data conformity and providing assets that support travel agencies as they develop their own systems to support their advisors and the many ways they go to market.

Lastly, he concluded by restating that authentic human connections amongst its travel agencies and preferred partners make a notable difference in how his network’s customers experience travel. And the power to scale loyalty begins with the everyday touchpoints that occur before, during and after the trip. The emerging advisory sector will co-create the peak experiences of the future and uncover new opportunities. And the emerging customer, with unprecedented wealth, time and need for powerful experiences, will lead to the sustainability of the travel industry as an economic powerhouse and a force for good.

What’s New on Cruise Ships

Viking Ocean Cruises Orders Two New Ships

Viking Ocean Cruises is continuing its run of expansion with an order for two new cruise ships, set to be delivered in 2021 and 2022.

The order is part of a memorandum of agreement the cruise line just signed with Fincantieri. The memo also includes an option for two additional cruise ships.

The new ships will be the same size as the current three ships in the line’s ocean fleet: Viking Sea, Viking Star and Viking Sky, which just made its debut in February. The new ships will have a capacity of 930 passengers in 465 all-balcony cabins, and will be the same design as the line’s current ocean ships.

Designed by the same team responsible for Viking’s fleet of river-going Viking Longships, Viking’s ocean ships incorporate details that pay homage to its Nordic heritage. A glass-backed infinity pool cantilevered off the stern offers unobstructed views; indoor-outdoor spaces offer options for al fresco dining; huge windows and skylights let in light; and a wrap-around promenade deck is available for strolling. Dining options range from the World Café, which serves global cuisine with live cooking and open kitchens; to Mamsen’s Norwegian-style deli. The Chef’s Table celebrates cuisines from around the world with multi-course tasting menus and wine parings; and Manfredi’s Italian Restaurant serves Tuscan and Roman cuisine. With the Kitchen Table experience, guests have an opportunity to shop, cook and eat with the Executive Chef.

The announcement follows a run of recent expansion for the cruise line. In addition to the February launch of Viking Sky, Viking Ocean Cruises is set to launch its fourth ship, Viking Sun, this November. On the river side, Viking River Cruises just christened two new Longships, Viking Herja and Viking Hild, in Koblenz, Germany, last month. Also coming up for the river cruise line is new cruises on the Nile set for 2018 onboard the Viking Ra.

In terms of onboard experiences, the line just launched a new Viking Resident Historian program onboard the Viking Star, Viking Sea and Viking Sky, aimed at providing guests with an onboard educational experience tailored to their itinerary.

When Is the Best Time to Buy Airline Ticket

CheapAir.com has released the findings of its Annual Airfare Study, which crunched 921 million airfares from 2.9 million trips to find the best and worst times to buy an airline ticket. For the second consecutive year, the study found that 54 days out is, on average, when travelers can get the best deals on domestic flights. However, the best timing depends on when and where passengers fly.

CheapAir.com found that the lowest fare for a given flight changes an average of 71 times between the time it’s announced and the day the plane takes off. In other words, the price of a flight changes on average every 4.5 days, and each change averages $33 up or down.

“The most important rule is fairly obvious: don’t wait until the last minute, as that rarely works out,” said Jeff Klee, CEO of CheapAir.com. “But beyond that, you also want to be careful not to buy too early. I always suggest that travelers check fares early and often and get familiar with the market. Then, when you see a good deal pop up, grab it, because it likely won’t last very long.”

The Airfare Study identifies five booking windows in which travelers buy flights which CheapAir has labeled:

  • First Dibs” approximately 6 – 11 months in advance, when flights first open for sale and fares tend to be on the high side.
  • Peace of Mind” 3½ – 6 months in advance, when fares are at a modest premium but options abound.
  • Prime Booking Window” 3 weeks – 3½ months in advance, when airfares are the cheapest, on average. This is typically the best time to buy airline tickets.
  • Push Your Luck” 2 – 3 weeks in advance, fares can vary dramatically but are often rising significantly, particularly as flights fill to popular destinations.
  • Hail Mary” 0 – 2 weeks in advance, this is when airfares are highest, on average $150 more than booking in CheapAir.com’s “Prime Booking Window.”

Spend Your Tax Refund on Travel

(This article was recently published in the New York Times)

Don’t save your tax refund check — spend it on travel. That is the message some tour operators, cruise lines and hotels want to get across this year, and with Tax Day approaching on April 18, they’re offering tax-themed trips and stays. Most are priced below $3,000, the amount of the average tax refund in 2017, as of early March, according to the Internal Revenue Service.

The South African Tourism office in the United States has created a tax-related travel initiative of nine trips to entice aspiring travelers to visit the country. All cost about $3,000 or less and include accommodations and some meals and activities; most include airfare. Each trip is from a different tour operator — SmarTours, for example, has a six-night package that includes a stay in Cape Town and a safari in Kruger National Park. From $1,799 a person.

And Travel Discounters has a six-night itinerary that includes stays in Johannesburg and the Karongwe Game Reserve, where guests go on daily game drives. From $2,199 a person.

Bangu Masisi, the president of South African Tourism in North America, said the tax season was an ideal opportunity to show that a trip to South Africa is within reach. “Most people think that a vacation to South Africa is out of their budget, but these trips prove that it’s more affordable than they may imagine,” she said.

The travel company STA Travel has two “TaxPerience” trips; both are available throughout 2017 and include flights, internal transfers, accommodations, tours and some meals and activities.

The eight-day “Northern Hilltribes and Villages” package includes stays in Bangkok and Chiang Mai, but the heart of the trip is exploring more rural northern Thailand — there, travelers visit villages to learn about the local culture and cuisine and also go on guided wildlife-watching treks through the countryside. From $1,295 a person.

The second trip is a nine-day “Cambodia Experience,” in which travelers visit not only Angkor Wat and Siem Reap in Cambodia but also Ho Chi Minh City in Vietnam and Bangkok in Thailand. From $1,641 a person.

Cruise fans can consider the two “Tax Refund” journeys from Variety Cruises, both available throughout 2017: a 12-day cruise of the Greek Islands, including stops in Santorini and Mykonos (from $2,695 a person), or an eight-day cruise around Iceland, with stops in the cities of Siglufjordur and Reykjavik (from $2,950 a person).

Hotels, too, are using tax season as a peg to attract guests. In Zanzibar, the Baraza Resort & Spa has a six-night “Under Taxing Rejuvenating Yoga Holiday” package; included are accommodations in a two-bedroom villa with a plunge pool, all meals, 10 one-hour yoga classes and airport transfers. From $1,995 a person. Available throughout 2017. Book by emailing info@thezanzibarcollection.com.

And in St. Lucia, the Capella Marigot Bay Resort and Marina has the “Taxes at Bay” package, including four nights’ accommodations, all meals and alcoholic beverages, a couples massage, a sunset cruise, a zip line rain forest excursion and all taxes and service charges. From $3,800 for two people. Available throughout 2017.

In the United States, Kimpton Hotels & Restaurants has several properties offering tax-related packages. Kimpton Hotel Allegro, in Chicago, is offering “Tax-Cation,” which includes accommodations without the city’s 17.4 percent accommodation tax (the hotel covers the fee), a $25 daily food and beverage credit and a welcome amenity of prosecco and chocolate gold coins. From $114 a night. Valid through May 31.

For indulgence-seekers, the Kimpton Hotel Palomar, in Philadelphia, offers “Relax After You Tax,” which includes accommodations in the presidential suite, an in-room couples massage and a bottle of sparkling wine. At $1,040 a night. Available through May 31.

Weak Pound Brings more Visitors to Britian

British hotels, restaurants and shops are benefiting from a jump in visits from foreign tourists, who are coming to the UK to make the most of the weak pound.

The rise in tourism is a corollary of the improvement in exports that economists hope will support the economy through any turmoil in the Brexit process.

Sterling dropped by around 15pc against the currencies of the UK’s major trading partners following the referendum vote to leave the EU, making British goods cheaper abroad and boosting the profits of exporting companies.

Just this week the Bank of England said that the  businesses it speaks to were reporting stronger levels of demand from tourists visiting the country.

More than 2.8m overseas residents visited the UK in January, up 11pc on the same month a year ago, the Office for National Statistics said.

The average visitor also spent more in the UK than they did before the pound fell, splurging a total of £1.5bn, a rise of 15pc on the year. This equated to an average of £536 per person visiting, up 6pc.

“The data from the ONS indicate that the sharply weakened pound is encouraging more visits to the UK from abroad and more spend by visitors,” said Howard Archer, chief UK and European economist at IHS Markit.

“This is especially true of North America, which ties in with the pound’s fall being most pronounced against the US dollar.”

The vast majority of visitors to Britain come from Europe – 2.2m of the 2.8m in January – while 240,000 came from North America and 460,000 from the rest of the world.

Over the three months to January compared with the same period a year earlier, visits from North America were up 19pc and those from Europe up 13pc.

Holidays account for a large proportion of the increase in visitors, rising 22pc compared with a 5pc growth in business trips, above the numbers made in the three months to January 2016.

The number of British residents taking trips abroad continued to rise in line with strong consumer confidence and spending levels, despite the fall in sterling. A total of 4.6m Brits went abroad in January, up by 9pc.

However the impact of the weak pound appears to be making itself felt in the amount spent while on holiday or on business trips.

The average UK resident travelling abroad spent £561 in January, down almost 3pc on the same month a year ago.

Five Days in Prague

 

(Recently published in Travel Central Post)

Prague, known as “the golden city of a hundred spires,” is one of Europe’s best preserved cities. The art and architecture alone are enough to recommend it to Europe-bound clients. Travel Agent recently spent five days in the capital of the Czech Republic. Here’s the lowdown on our trip.

Most of the important sites are in the historic Old Town, settled in medieval times. The centerpiece of Old Town is the magnificent Charles Bridge, named after King Charles IV and built during his reign in the mid-14th century. Crossing the Vltava River to connect Old Town and the Prague Castle, the current bridge was constructed in 1870 and runs 2,037 feet long. Decorated with 30 magnificent Baroque-style statues, the Charles Bridge is the gateway to Prague, an inspiring introduction to the city.

The next day we took a tour of old Jewish Quarter, provided by Wittman Tours. The three-hour, in-depth experience traces the Jewish population back to almost 1,000 years. We visited the Spanish, Maisel, Pinkas and Klausen synagogues, which now serve as exhibition spaces for the Jewish Museum with historical artworks, artifacts and documents. The high point of the tour was the visit to the Jewish cemetery, where we viewed the ancient, decayed tombstones in a peaceful garden.

The Spanish Synagogue is part of the Jewish Museum in Prague’s old Jewish Quarter.

Alphonse Mucha is the most celebrated Czech artist and his art works are considered national treasures. Born in 1860, Mucha rose to fame when he moved to Paris and designed theater posters for actress Sarah Bernhardt. His decorative Art Nouveau style of depicting beautiful female goddesses became world famous and graced paintings, murals, posters, advertisements and book illustrations plus jewelry, carpets and wallpaper. Mucha moved to Prague to pursue more serious artworks and his most accomplished work was the Slav Epic, a series of 20 gigantic paintings, each measuring approximately 20 X 26 feet and illustrating the history of the Slavic people.

Some of the best examples of Mucha’s works are at the Mucha Museum and The Municipal House. The former is home to more than 100 exhibits of paintings, photographs, charcoal drawings, pastels and lithographs, as well as personal memorabilia. Mucha was among several prominent Czech artists of the day enlisted to decorate the interiors of The Municipal House in the early 20th century; he was commissioned to decorate the circular salon of the Lord Mayor’s Hall.

Prague is also an important European center for classical music and opera, with dozens of venues selling affordably priced tickets. We lucked out and scored two tickets to Don Giovanni and felt even luckier when we were told the opera house was the same one where Mozart premiered it in 1787.

Hotel U Svatého Jana is a neo-Baroque-style hotel in Prague’s New Town.

Other must-see attractions are Prague Castle, Strahov Monastery Library and the Old Town Hall. The latter, according to Prague City Tourism, is one of the city’s most popular sites with more than 638,000 tourists visiting during the first nine months of 2016.

Instead of staying in the commercial chain hotels in Old Town, we opted to stay in New Town, away from the crowds. Set in a quiet neighborhood, 10 minutes away by tram from Old Town, Hotel U Svatého Jana is a neo-Baroque-style hotel and the former priests’ quarters of the St. John of Nepomuk church next door. Even though it’s a three-star hotel, our accommodations were very comfortable with spacious rooms, excellent front desk service and a hearty buffet breakfast. We paid less than 100 euros a night. We also appreciated how inexpensive food (we never spent more than 25 euros per person for a meal), transportation and attractions were in Prague.

There are also many fine four- and five-star Czech properties in Prague, and if your clients prefer a more familiar name in accommodations, several top brands are represented here, including Barceló, Four Seasons, Hilton, ibis, Luxury Collection, Mandarin Oriental, Marriott and Radisson Blu.

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Where are People Happy

Norway is the happiest place on earth, according to this year’s World Happiness Report by the United Nations Sustainable Development Solutions Network. The report is shared annually to mark World Happiness Day on March 20. It determines “life satisfaction” among 155 nations by using Gallup poll data to rank, as its overview explains, “the factors found to support happiness: caring, freedom, generosity, honesty, health, income and good governance.”

We’d add that happy locals create a welcoming environment for visitors, too, so one idea for your next vacation is to get to know the residents in one of the world’s happiest countries. Norway tops the list, jumping up from the number four spot last year. It’s followed by Denmark, Iceland, Switzerland, and Finland; the U.S. is number 14. Here are the top 20. For insider info on planning your trip to many of these cheery destinations, click through to our Insider’s Guides or Ask Wendy.

  1. Norway
  2. Denmark
  3. Iceland
  4. Switzerland
  5. Finland
  6. Netherlands
  7. Canada
  8. New Zealand
  9. Australia
  10. Sweden
  11. Israel
  12. Costa Rica
  13. Austria
  14. United States
  15. Ireland
  16. Germany
  17. Belgium
  18. Luxembourg
  19. United Kingdom
  20. Chile

 

Why Cruises are Cool!

(THIS ARTICLE WAS RECENTLY POSTED IN CRUISE CRITIC)

1. From a single pool to an aquatic oasis

Gone are the days when your only option for cooling off on a hot day was the single pool on the Lido Deck. Today’s big cruise ships have multiple pools, one or more water slides and kid’s wading and splash areas. Royal Caribbean’s Harmony of the Seas, for instance, has three outdoor pools, three water slides collectively dubbed the “Perfect Storm” and a kiddy water area called Splashaway Bay; the line’s smaller Liberty of the Seas also has the Perfect Storm trio of water slides, Splashaway Bay and two pools. You’ll find similar offerings on big cruise ships from Norwegian Cruise Line and Carnival Cruise Line.

2. From pure relaxation to total exhilaration

When cruising first took off in the ’70s and ’80s, travelers cruised in order to get away from it all, hang around by the pool, sip cocktails and read a book. There’s still plenty of relaxation to be had, but many of today’s cruisers are also looking for fun — and cruise ships have it in spades. Ziplines, simulated surfing, vertical tunnel skydiving, ropes courses and rock walls all offer enough adrenaline pumping action to keep most thrill seekers entertained.

B.B. King's Blues Club

3. From Las Vegas to Broadway

No more the days of sitting through a badly sung and danced Las Vegas-style revue with cheesy outfits and no special effects. Today’s cruise shows run the gamut from high-tech extravaganzas (on Carnival Cruise Line) and stage partnerships with entities like B.B. King, Lincoln Center and Billboard (on Holland America Line ships) to full-length Broadway or Broadway-inspired shows. Norwegian Cruise Line, for instance, has ships with productions of “Priscilla Queen of the Desert,” “Rock of Ages,” “Million Dollar Quartet” and “After Midnight,” while select Royal Caribbean ships feature “CATS,” “Mamma Mia!”, “We Will Rock You” and “Grease.”

4. From one massive dining room with set seating to multiple dining venues and flexible scheduling

In the early days of cruising, all passengers ate in one large dining room at assigned tables during either an early time slot or a later one.  As cruising progressed, the lines added buffets and specialty restaurants to give cruisers a more casual option outside of the main dining room. Today, main dining rooms are only a small part of the dining equation on any cruise ship. Most ships have multiple dining venues –some included in the cruise price and some for an extra fee, with flexible schedules that allow passengers to pick what time they want to eat, rather than have to show up at a set time. (Traditional set seating is still available on most cruise lines, as well, for those who prefer the traditional set up.)

5. From a trunk full of ball gowns and tuxedos to carry-ons packed with sundresses and collared shirts

Not only was the dining system formalized on cruises back in the day, but so was the dress code.  Cruisers were required to change for dinner every night and formal night wasn’t just a suggestion. Today, cruise passengers can choose to dress up if they like or remain casual (even on formal night!), with some lines even OK with shorts and T-shirts in most onboard eateries. Whatever you feel most comfortable in is pretty much OK with most mainstream cruise lines nowadays.

6. From American and continental cuisine to a smorgasbord of tastes

With just one restaurant (two if a ship had a buffet), cruise ship chefs tended to keep meals simple and straightforward with tried-and-true American, Italian, British and French dishes on the menu. But as the lines expanded their culinary offerings to include more dining venues, the options to provide a variety of cuisines increased as well. Today’s ships might offer Brazilian, Indian, Mexican, pan-Asian or sushi restaurants, to name just a few.

7. From balconies only in top suites to all-balcony ships

Once upon a time, cruise balconies were only for the elite, with most cruise ships having just a handful of suites offering the alfresco amenity. Today’s cruise ships (at least those that are over 10 years old) offer way more rooms with balconies than without. Some ships, particularly in the luxury segment don’t even have ships without balconies.  All of Viking Ocean Cruises’ ships, for instance, are all-balcony, as are most Regent Seven Seas ships.

8. From Isaac on the Love Boat serving margaritas to robots and trained mixologists

Sure you can still get a frozen margarita or Long Island Ice Tea (though good luck finding a Pink Lady or Harvey Wallbanger), but today’s menu of libations is vastly expanded from what bartenders back in the day were handing out. From trained mixologists whipping up unique cocktails to match your mood to bars that specialize in just one beverage (whisky, beer, rum, tequila) there’s something to suit the tastes of every cruise drinker. Oh, and one bar — the Bionic Bar on select Royal Caribbean ships — doesn’t even have a bartender; instead drinks are served by robotic arms backlit by neon lights, which stop to dance along to the beat-heavy music every now and then.

9. From cut off from the world to as connected as you want to be

Like airplanes, getting on a cruise ship used to mean going without contact with your friends and family back home for the length of your trip. That’s no longer even remotely the case, with just about every big ship having front-to-back Wi-Fi and packages that are reasonably priced. As examples, Royal Caribbean’s super fast Voom Wi-Fi starts at $12.99 per day, per device, for everything but streaming, while on Carnival Cruise Line, cruisers can purchase social packages for $5 a day that provide access to Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and other social sites. More robust packages cost $16 or $25 per day, with the latter including the ability to stream.  So instead of having to send a postcard from Puerto Vallarta, today you just ‘Gram your selfie from wherever you are — even on the ship.