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Old September 15th, 2000, 11:39 AM
George in NY
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Default RE: Free-style cruising

I can't speak on Voyagerfl's negative thoughts but I will express my own concerning NCL. A line that I believe will follow in Premiers footsteps although not as drastically. Before the question is asked, YES, I have sailed NCL, in fact was once my favorite cruiseline. I have sailed the Skyward ( our honeymoon in fact in 1984 ), Starward, Seaward, Dreamward (twice) before stretching, Norway ( before added deck ). I have also toured and dined on Sky when she was in NY for inaugural. I therefore feel I have some basis for my thoughts on NCL and why I think they are destined to extinction or takeover.

NCL ownership/management has been drifting hither and dither for several years now seemingly rudderless but constantly making the wrong moves. First I believe that cruising's popularity stemmed from having a painless and different vacation experience. What I mean by that is that an almost all inclusive pricing strategy ( tours, drinks and spas always an added charge but no nickle and diming on the small stuff at least ) and an absence of having to spend time contemplating where to go, what to do, having a mix of regimented shows and the ability to partake or not. Sleep in and get room service or get out there for morning arobics, whatever. Spend the day in shorts reading a book or touring an island and then experience the magic of the ship turning into a fashionable evening resort.

Since money is the bottom line of any business the cruise industry has continued to attempt to grow and service more numbers. To do so the mega ship was born. Simple reasoning is that if you carry more passengers the revenue derived increases more than the added cost of operation.

NCL instead of planning for this made stop gap measures. They added a deck to the Norway years ago. Since ship size remained the same they merely added more passengers without the ability to add more passenger service because of design limitations. They simply crowded more people onboard and in many instances overtaxed their ability to handle the larger numbers. Then they designed two new ships, the Dreamward and Windward and witin a short span ( about 5 years I think ) stretched them, again to accomodate more passengers yet provide only limited larger areas for service. Holding such things as chocolate buffet in a hallway and necessitated cramped and crowded lines. Buffets areas in regular dining area and such since they eliminated pool area buffets and stuck a tiny buffet area without adequate seating as an offshoot of the Sports bar for those that would simply like to have a hamburger or a hotdog.

Then they added a $2 service charge for room service ( after a couple of years finally eliminated ) then started with added charges for " special dining " and so forth. Yes all the lines are following to some degree and NCL is not alone of course. Onboard revenue becomes more important each year as bargain hunters look not at overall expense but simply at quoted specials. You too can cruise for $199, well actually you can't. Premier can tell you that.

Freestyle cruising is yet another attempt to get to a mass market, quanity versus quality. So who wants freestyle cruising in my humble opinion? The guy that doesn't want to bother getting dressed for dinner? The person that moans that they must put on a tie? Well that's all well and good but I have to ask, will those same people really want to come onboard ships time and time again? As cruisng gets closer and closer to the routine land experience in travel, ordering by TV, paying for an ice cream cone, having a different waiter each night and so forth why bother doing it on a resort that rocks with the sea movement? And how happy are such people going to be when they find that thier $199 cruise actually costs them more and more while onboard?

As cruising becomes more and more like any mainstream vacation where is the lure? In the meantime the people devoted to what the concept of cruising was originally become more and more unhappy about the mass market strategy's will they continue to cruise or simply pick out suitable and comparable land vacations?

Okay I'll sick back and take the hits now.

George in NY
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