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

Aug 24, 2021

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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 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 three cruise ships on which I’ve sailed recently (two operated by Royal Caribbean, one by Celebrity Cruises), I’ve also had a knock on the door within hours of boarding all three aforementioned 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?

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 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.

Featured image courtesy of Royal Caribbean.  

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