We hadn't sailed in about three years (owing to family needs). We then went on NCL on 9/20, RCCI on 10/4 and we're booked onto the Carnival Elation on 11/30. Our fare (pp) for a 4-day cruise (OV) is $40.00, port fees are $99.00 each plus taxes. (The fare only for balcony room if we could have gotten it was $210.00).
We noticed many, many cost-saving measures on NCL and a lot more "opportunities" to purchase things around the ship. The cost of adult beverages had increased to about $9.00 for the fun drinks. They were about a dollar less on RCCI. Especially on NCL, the crew just looked tired. I noticed that our cabin steward seemed to have more rooms and that there were fewer bar waiters. After embarkation day, I noticed fewer alcohol drinkers than I've ever seen.
The point is, at $10.00 a day per person, it's quite a deal, especially if you throw in meals (all you can eat, however simple) and entertainment. I feel as though I have to be somewhat understanding of the cruise lines' fiscal needs in this economy. I certainly hope that the cruise experience returns to its former glory in the future, but right now I'm prepared to take advantage of the lower fares and pay for the extras.
Smoking is a problem with all the lines. Celebrity has very few venues and you can't even smoke on your balcony. RCCI lets you smoke on the balcony, along with a couple of indoor and outdoor areas. NCL lets you smoke on the balcony but the only indoor area was the casino and there was no place to converse. I hope that they sort this out.
I wish the cruise experience was what it was even 10 years ago. I also wish I weighed what I did 10 years ago.