Happy that his wife accompanied him on his very first cruise vacation, Abiodun Ogunkoya “will not mind going on a second cruise.” His maiden sea voyage was very good and the arrangement superb as it afforded him the chance to explore historical sites and tourist attractions in Spain, France, and Italy – all on one vacation. The value he derived from the five-day- sea-faring experience was mindboggling when compared to similar vacations on land.
Like Ogunkoya, more Nigerians are becoming aware of the benefit of a cruise vacation but sadly, there are few companies in this sector of the travel industry.
Ogunkoya’s cruise tagged ‘Couples Cruise’ was packaged by Corporate Leisure Limited (CLL) on board a massive Royal Caribbean’s vessel. Apart from the Ogunkoyas, there were 11 other couples, most of whom had never been on a cruise but wagered on CCL’s cruise package which met and even exceeded their expectations.
“For the first time in almost 30 years, I and my wife were truly away – from domestic chores, family obligations and work stress,” discloses George Thorpe, another vacationer on the cruise. Thorpe, a self-acclaimed frequent traveller found the tour to Cannes very significant and felt like a star. He adds that it was remarkable for him and his wife to find themselves “in the middle of nowhere with plenty of time to savour each other. After five days of good food and drinks together with plenty of fun along the way, we were in the danger of getting used to too-good-a-thing (as the cruise).”
Reviving a dead culture
The chief executive officer of Corporate Leisure Limited, Biodun Jaji, says his company aims to rekindle a dead culture in Nigeria, especially in Lagos. “We are reviving people’s interest in cruising and we are doing it in a way that helps families stay together. African culture is firmly rooted in family structure and when we were growing up, cruising was a frequent thing for our parents.” He however regrets that Lagos’ many recreational centres, which served the communities as avenues for physical activities and bonding, are now glorified monuments or in some instances, decaying relics. Jaji recalls activities at Rowe Park in Yaba, Campos Square, Onikan Stadium, National Theatre, and even local cruises from Victoria Island to Apapa.
“All these have been replaced by many screens that call for our attentions on daily basis. Mobile phone screen, TV screen, cinema screen etc. Consequently, we lead passive lives and are separated further from one another,” he says.
Jaji adds that the current lifestyle of many Lagosians does not portend wellbeing and reiterates that it must be redressed through creative leisure.
The company is currently planning ‘Couples Cruise II’ for December; this time to the United Arab Emirates. The ports of call will include Dubai, Fujairah, Muscat and Abu Dhabi. The cruise will be aboard a 90.09 ton Royal Caribbean vessel called ‘Brilliance of the Seas’.
Jaji discloses, “It is equipped with rock-climbing wall, Portofino Italian restaurant, dry spa and fitness centre, basketball/volleyball courts, casino, sea view cafe, solarium, etc. Most importantly, a relationship expert, Funmi Akingbade, will also be on board to provide the catalyst for a sparkling romantic cruise.”
“The best part of a cruise vacation is being able to relax because almost everything is planned for you,” Jaji explains. “Unlike land vacation, where the vacationer has to spend quality time finding the balance between his/her budget and a good hotel and valuable activities, cruise needs you only to come on board, to be carried under the sailing wings of splendid activities, planned with you in mind.” Cruises come with many freebies, which usually attract additional cost in hotels. For instance, Jaji says ‘Couples Cruise II’ comes with up to seven meals on daily basis and free use of onboard gym facilities. Plus you only unpack once as you hop from one place to another.
“Going for a vacation on land? You had better go with your credit card,” Jaji continues, adding: “There are many fickle factors ranging from change in fares and rates to emergencies and profligacy. Therefore, if you care about leaving your budget intact, cruising is the best option for the allocation voted for vacation.”