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When it comes to housekeeping, cruise ships blow hotels out of the water right now

Aug. 05, 2021
6 min read
When it comes to housekeeping, cruise ships blow hotels out of the water right now
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Do you miss the good old days of travel -- you know, back in 2019 -- when you didn't have to make a special request just to get the most basic housekeeping service at a hotel?

Well, maybe it's time you consider a cruise.

As I've seen firsthand in recent weeks as I've sailed on some of the first cruise ships to restart operations in North America since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, the over-the-top service culture that has long been a hallmark of the cruise industry is alive and well, particularly when it comes to housekeeping standards.

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Even as a growing number of hotels and resorts cut back sharply on housekeeping services (some are no longer offering daily room cleaning at all; others only offer it every few days), cruise lines are starting back up with a commitment to continue to provide not just daily housekeeping service but twice-daily housekeeping service.

The latter has been a long tradition in the cruise world not just on luxury vessels but ships at all price points.

Not only have I received twice-a-day room cleaning service on all three cruise ships on which I've sailed in recent weeks (two operated by Royal Caribbean, one by Celebrity Cruises), I've also had a knock on the door within hours of boarding all three vessels from the persons assigned to clean my room just to introduce themselves and make sure everything was up to snuff -- another hallmark of cruising at nearly all price points.

TPG cruise writer Gene Sloan's room on Royal Caribbean's Serenade of the Seas was cleaned twice a day during a recent sailing. (Photo by Gene Sloan/The Points Guy)

These room attendants also all announced they were there should I have any special requests. This above-and-beyond service promise included offers to take my laundry out for cleaning if I needed it (and, on a recent voyage where I ran out of clean shirts, I did), and bring me buckets of ice, should the desire arise.

When's the last time you experienced that sort of personal service from a room attendant at a hotel, even before the pandemic?

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The end of daily housekeeping service at many hotels over the past year and a half has been a well-documented trend, with hotel chains such as Hilton and Marriott saying they've done it to keep us safer during the coronavirus crisis.

As Hilton Hotels and Resorts recently put it in a statement, the end to daily room cleaning at many of the company's brands is "for your comfort."

Dewa, a room steward on Royal Caribbean's Serenade of the Seas, often waits to greet guests in the morning. (Photo by Gene Sloan/The Points Guy)

The storyline here is that bringing a halt to staff vacuuming up the cookie crumbs your kids leave on your hotel room floor, making your bed and replacing your wet towels on a daily basis is just the right thing to do to protect us all from the spread of COVID-19.

Of course, the cynic in me notes that it also saves hotel companies a lot of money as they cut down on cleaning staff -- savings that, as far as I can tell, haven't been passed on to me in the form of a reduction in hotel room rates or resort fees.

And it's no longer looking like it'll be a temporary change, at least at some hotel chains. Hilton in July became the first major hotel company to say it was making its cutbacks to daily room servicing permanent. Hotel guests at many of the company's chains will no longer receive daily room cleaning automatically, though they can request it.

Cruise lines, by contrast, are continuing with full-service housekeeping.

On a recent sailing of Royal Caribbean's Serenade of the Seas out of Seattle, for example, my room steward, Dewa, was an omnipresence in and around my room, keeping the cluster of cabins for which he was responsible in the immediate area in a constant state of pristine-ness.

Dewa typically would do a full cleaning of my room while I was out at breakfast each morning -- after cheerfully greeting me as I emerged into the hallway. Then he would return in the evening for a second full round of cleaning.

We're not talking just a turndown service here. The second service was a complete put-the-room-back-in-its-perfect-state sort of operation.

Towel animals still are appearing in cabins on Royal Caribbean ships on a daily basis. (Photo by Gene Sloan/The Points Guy)

Plus, as is cruise ship tradition, Dewa on most nights would leave me a little surprise in the form of a cleverly crafted towel animal.

The over-the-top room-cleaning culture of cruise ships always has struck me as a bit overkill. Do I really need my room cleaned every 12 hours? But I've experienced the opposite extreme a few times already at hotels as I've started to travel again, staying at places with limited to no housekeeping services, and I have to say the cruise line experience right now is a lot more enticing.

In the great Battle Between Land and Sea Vacations, the sea side right now clearly has the advantage -- at least when it comes to the cleanliness levels of rooms.

Planning a cruise? Start with these stories:

Featured image by Top suites on Royal Caribbean ships come with a butler known as a Royal Genie. (Photo courtesy of Royal Caribbean)
Editorial disclaimer: Opinions expressed here are the author’s alone, not those of any bank, credit card issuer, airline or hotel chain, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.

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5XGet 5X Membership Rewards® points on flights and prepaid hotels on amextravel.com
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1X1X points for each dollar you spend on eligible purchases.
  • Intro Offer
    The Points Guy Exclusive Offer: Earn 150,000 Membership Rewards® points after you spend $15,000 on eligible purchases with the Business Platinum Card® within the first 3 months of Card Membership.

    Earn 150,000 points
    120,000 points
  • Annual Fee

    $695
  • Recommended Credit
    Credit ranges are a variation of FICO© Score 8, one of many types of credit scores lenders may use when considering your credit card application.

    670-850
    Good, Excellent

Why We Chose It

It's hard to find a card that competes with the mile-long list of benefits that come with the Amex Business Platinum. While it's certainly not the card for the average consumer, a business owner with tons of expenses -- especially related to travel -- will find this card incredibly valuable. This card is similar to the consumer version that Amex offers, but with more business-oriented perks around statement credits and earning rates that are a better fit for business owners.

Pros

  • An up to $100 credit for Global Entry or TSA PreCheck application fee every four to five years
  • Up to $400 annual credit for eligible U.S. Dell purchases (enrollment required)
  • Gold status at Marriott and Hilton hotels (enrollment required)
  • Access to the Fine Hotels & Resorts program and Hotel Collection
  • Extended warranty protection
  • International Airline Program and Cruise Privileges Program

Cons

  • Steep annual fee
  • Difficulty meeting $15,000 welcome offer for smaller businesses
  • Limited high-bonus categories outside of travel
  • The Points Guy Exclusive Offer: Earn 150,000 Membership Rewards® points after you spend $15,000 on eligible purchases with the Business Platinum Card® within the first 3 months of Card Membership.
  • Get 5X Membership Rewards® points on flights and prepaid hotels on amextravel.com, and 1X points for each dollar you spend on eligible purchases.
  • Earn 1.5X points (that’s an extra half point per dollar) on eligible purchases at US construction material & hardware suppliers, electronic goods retailers and software & cloud system providers, and shipping providers, as well as on purchases of $5,000 or more everywhere else, on up to $2 million of these purchases per calendar year.
  • Unlock over $1,000 in annual statement credits on a curation of business purchases, including select purchases made with Dell Technologies, Indeed, Adobe, and U.S. wireless service providers.
  • $200 Airline Fee Credit: Get up to $200 in statement credits per calendar year for checked baggage fees, lounge day passes, and more at one selected airline.
  • $189 CLEAR® Credit: Use your Card and get up to $189 back per year on your CLEAR® membership. CLEAR® is available at more than 50 U.S. airports and stadiums.
  • The American Express Global Lounge Collection® can provide an escape at the airport. With more than 1,400 airport lounges across 140 countries and counting, you have more lounge location options than any other credit card on the market as of 9/2021.
  • $695 Annual Fee.
  • Terms Apply.