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AR May 14th, 2012 01:04 PM

On "Nickel and Diming"
A good article has appeared in the NYT by Michelle Higgins, one of their better travel writers. It's about saving money on cruises, and I recommend it to you.

Here's one cutting from Michelle's piece. . .

Many of the new [extra charge] offerings reflect the changing tastes of passengers as cruise ships replace outdated casinos or less frequented theaters.

“What we’re offering, the consumer is saying ‘yes’ to,” said Dan Hanrahan, chief executive of Celebrity Cruises, who pointed out that passengers still have plenty of onboard dining and entertainment options with no fees attached. “That hasn’t changed since the day we started.”

I was struck by this, having just returned from a TA on Celebrity, because my observations correspond so closely with the article. Note that we sailed on an essentially full Solstice class ship, the Eclipse.

--We slogged through the casino fairly often to get from one end of the ship to the other. On average there were far fewer gamblers there than on previous cruises we've taken, TA or otherwise. We both commented on this during the cruise. It was very obvious.

--Similar experience in the large theater. There was never a problem finding a seat for any show, and sometimes the audience was so sparse that I actually felt sorry for the performers, especially the comedians. The production shows drew a somewhat larger crowd, but again, if you wanted a seat there were plenty, even if you came late. It appeared that the cooking demonstrations and other "enrichment" events in the large theater generally drew bigger crowds than most of the standard "shows."

--Despite all the moaning on this site and elsewhere about specialty restaurants and their cost, they were doing a brisk business. We went to Qsine the first night and had a ball. We were surprised that there weren't many people there, but it was obvious that business picked up as word-of-mouth spread. When we went again late in the cruise it was hammered. We also ate at all the other specialties, which were doing well. Other "extra cost" venues were also doing well: the bars, the spa, the specialty coffee bar and the internet cafe were all hopping, and generating significant revenue in addition to the base fares. The auction of a half dozen pieces from the Corning glass blowers brought thousands of dollars for charity.

--And, I was surprised to see that the art auctions are HISTORY on this ship. No sign of them anywhere.

The times, they are a' changin'. The cruise lines aren't stupid. They're obviously continuously tailoring their offerings to the things people are willing to spend for, and these days it seems to be specialty restaurants, good coffee, and decent saloons. It was surprising to see how many people had purchased the soda, coffee and "drink till you drop" cards, the latter costing something like $700 per person.

And so it goes.

Kuki May 14th, 2012 03:16 PM

I do believe there's some variances between cruise lines on what they are targeting.

For example, unlike Celebrity, Royal Caribbean, Carnival and NCL have taken paths to regenerate the entertainment offered onboard. They've upgraded from standard production shows, and basic "headliners" of comedian, juggler, ventriloquist templates.

As far as dining, I think the cruise lines all got a bit of wake up call, when NCL debuted Free Style cruising, with all its options and choices, and got a pretty well deserved response, and buzz.

Since then they've all attempted (in sort of their own way) to upgrade on those ideas.

Of course, much of the innovation in that area comes from what is "happening" on land in the restaurant business, not from their own imagination.

The hottest restaurant "thing" on land is the young, up and coming, celebrity chefs. Even in a down economy, the hot thing is hot chefs, chef's tables, tastings menus. and the cruise lines are attempting to take bites of the same apple.

On a somewhat upscale cruise line like Celebrity, I'm not surprised they'd direct their attention to that, as opposed to entertainment. They are probably guessing their passengers are the same ones paying extra for the more "in" restaurants at home.

If many more people are purchasing the various beverage packages, dining in the extra charge restaurants, and booking some of the more expensive Spa cabins, etc. I'd think those people might start looking at and comparing Celebrity to the more upscale luxury all inclusive lines (including drinks, tips, even excursions), which after adding in all expenditures would probably compare quite favorably when the final bill is tabulated.

The luxury ships certainly focus less on theater entertainment, and more on enrichment programs, excellent well known guest lecturers, etc.

Celebrity seems to be aiming for the luxury light market. Those who enjoy it, might find they can get the full luxury model with a very similar sticker price.

Trip May 14th, 2012 03:47 PM

Kuki, your quote, "Celebrity seems to be aiming for the luxury light market. Those who enjoy it, might find they can get the full luxury model with a very similar sticker price, pretty much summed up what I heard at a seminar,when I toured the Eclipse. They were looking to the yournger upscale cruiser, rather than at families.

AR May 14th, 2012 05:21 PM

Interesting stuff. Ever since they first became available we've never done anything other than the "anytime dining" option on whatever line we were on. It absolutely matches our style of informality and not overly pre-planning things when we cruise. This combined with significant meals in the speciality restaurants has been the right mix for us.

Celebrity chefs: absolutely. They're a big deal. Tom Ramsey was on our cruise and was a hoot. Terry spent a lot of time at his demonstrations and lessons, and we had a lot of laughs when he happened to be eating at Qsine on the same night we were.

We've been on Oceania a couple times and liked it, and I've been thinking a lot lately about what Kuki says re simply upgrading to the full premium lines where the dollars might come out in the wash vis a vis lines like Celebrity. The idea has merit. The only mitigating factor for us is that once you get to Elite status on Celebrity, the perks are significant. We don't drink alcohol during the day, and the free nightly Elite "booze and schmooze" hours are ample if we want a drink. We'll often have a glass of wine with dinner, but we don't go at the booze very hard. Plus, free internet, free laundry, and the daily Elite breakfasts that feature fresh-squeezed juice and "real" coffee together make for a meaningful package of freebies, at least for us. Add to that the fact that we almost never take ship's tours (although of course if they were included we might), and our cruise-end bills are startlingly small, even though we do haunt the specialty restaurants. But still, I'm going to do an "all-in" comparison and see how it works out.

Talking to the Captain's Club hostess on this last TA, we learned that 1800 of the 3000 passengers had some Captain's Club status, but the real shocker was that fully 800 of us were Elite. She said the average is only about 60 Elite, but TAs are just a different breed. Those nightly cocktail parties were BIG, and we quickly realized that it was wise to wait until the first seating crowd had left a little before six if we wanted a drink. Once, we were at an event in the same room until about 4:30 and when we left the elevator lobby was jammed with people waiting to be first in line at the bar come 5:00. Yikes.

Also, if Celebrity is marketing to younger folks, it didn't work out that way on this TA. Just the opposite. In fact, I was going to suggest to the CD that she stage wheelchair and electric cart races on deck 5, but I didn't get around to it. But again, I think this uber-old factor may be somewhat unique to TAs.

Kuki May 14th, 2012 05:58 PM

TAs on any cruise line are atypical. Always attracting a rather "ancient" crowd. We're the ones who have the time to be away that long :)

I do think for some time Celeb has tried to target the upscale passenger, though I don't think young would necessarily be included in that. On their Caribbean sailings they still try to draw plenty of families, because that is kind of the life blood of Caribbean sailings on large ships.

As far as the offerings on luxury lines VS premium... there is a noticeable upgrade in passenger space ratios, as well as level of service on the lux lines that carries value too, though not easily monatized.

At dinner, there's no awkward moments about whether you should offer to share wine you purchased, or if you should except your tablemates to reciprocate next time. It's included, so everyone orders what they want.
Part of the lux package is the elimination of most awkward moments regarding alot of little interactions taking place.

I have been quite smitten by my luxury cruise experiences, but then, I may have felt different if I was footing the bill. rofl

Snoozeman May 14th, 2012 10:25 PM

Holland America has been doing the fancy cooking demos on a daily basis for quite a while. Even have their own designated area/stage on the ships.

Trip May 14th, 2012 10:45 PM

Hosting the two Epic cruises with Chef Matt, it's easy to see where this would be uber interesting. There was much enthusiasm, for his demos,and it was only open for Cruisemates! The food was delicious,and something like this on a larger scale on ships, would be very well attended I would bet.

MercedMike May 15th, 2012 09:28 AM

HAL cooking

Originally Posted by Trip (Post 1428542)
Hosting the two Epic cruises with Chef Matt, it's easy to see where this would be uber interesting. There was much enthusiasm, for his demos,and it was only open for Cruisemates! The food was delicious,and something like this on a larger scale on ships, would be very well attended I would bet.

The designated cooking theater on HAL is marvelous. They even have the overhead cameras like the cooking shows do so you can see what is cooking. The demonstrations are no charge, but the hands on cooking lessons have a small charge.

On our Indonesia cruise we participated in quite a few of them. My DW Renée actually won the on board contest and got to demonstrate one of her recipes!

Here are some pictures:

The Executive Chef hosted some of the sessions

but when the Cruise Director tried his hand it was hilarious!

Of course I think my wife's demonstration was the best ever! You can see more, including her Italian Sausage Soup recipe, at

Australia and Indonesia Cruise page 1
Australia and Indonesia Cruise page 2

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