Hi, new to the boards and will be a first time cruiser in a few days.
Sorry, for the length of this post. Got going, and didn't know when to stop!
First, let me say that having cruised before, of course I don't yet understand what the experience will be like. However, I have run a resort and kids camp in the mountains of Northern Colorado. I have done this type of job for almost 40 years. We are a little bit like a land based cruise ship in that we offer activities, programs, lodging, meals, coffee shop, store, etc. Of course there are big differences and we are much smaller. But some of the principles are the same.
Resorts and cruise ships sell an experience, this experience is made up of a lodging element, a meal service element, an activity element, etc. Each element either can add or detract from the total experience.
All resorts, cruise lines, and even restaurants have a certain price point and clientele that they are trying to reach. For example McDonalds has become so big because they offer decent (in the opinion of the majority that use them) food at a low price. Olive Garden, offers better food and an actually dining experience for a higher price. An excellent steak house will be more, etc.
Cruise lines have realized that they can attract more people by offering the basic amenities of a cruise at a low price and then offering "a'la carte" choices that cost more. This is a very good strategy.
This makes the cruising experience available to a much wide population base. Those with limited incomes can enjoy the basic experience. This also helps with another factor.
Retaining a guest as a customer is MUCH easier and less expensive than obtaining a new customer. It is obvious from the cruise boards that this works. Many people will take a first time lower cost cruise, enjoy it, and come back for a more expensive one.
I am sure the cruise lines are always evaluating what to add, what to drop, what to cut costs on, what to spend a little more on. I think about how many hours I or my Chef have spent talking with different vendors trying to improve quality and lower costs.
Finally, I am frankly amazed at what the cruise lines do. They are certainly not perfect, but I know how much work it is just to keep 250 people happy, let alone thousands - and if we run out of something it is usually just two hours away, not miles over the ocean.