Should NCL Charge for Shows?
David Beers, editor of our sister site CruiseReviews, posted a daring blog about Norwegian Epic this week. He argues that the design of the ship makes it the antithesis of "Freestyle Cruising," at least in the entertainment realm.
Freestyle entertainment implies that guests can see any show any night, but the small venues and clunky reservation system means Epic guests are barely "free" to see any show any night - 80% of the seats are pre-reserved as many as 45 days in advance.
Basically the venues are too small, which means seating for every show is extremely limited on any given night. The largest theater onboard barely holds 15% of the ship's average passenger load.
Epic pre-reserves 80% of each show, so if you want to "Freestyle" your entertainment (see a show on a whim without a reservation) you have to be satisfied with the remaining 20% of the worst seats in the house - after spending up to an hour in the "stand-by" line just to make sure you get in.
Furthermore, even with a reservation you are still only guaranteed to get in the theater. Most cruisers coming back from Epic are reporting that even after waiting in line for up to an hour that there is jostling for the front rows when the doors open. Further complicating matters, suite guests are seated by the concierge before the doors open for regular guests - another reason regular guests must wait for the doors to open.
So here is my suggestion: Reserved assigned seating would allow guests to take their seats at anytime; even just 10 minutes before showtime, and they would still be guaranteed good seats. They would not have to wait for the suite guests to be seated in their reserved seats first. This would eliminate lines completely.
But let's take this a step further. NCL was the first cruise line to have an alternative restaurant charging a surcharge, Le Bistro. Today you are hard pressed to find any cruise ship that does not have several alternative dining spots with a surcharge. Guests expect to pay for a premium experience.
So,should NCL take the bold step of offering premium assigned theater seating for a small service fee like you pay to TicketMaster? For $5 per person you can be assured a premium seat just like the suite guests.