In regard to Mike Driscoll's article, my wife & I (age early 50's) have been on 10 cruises in the past 5 years - 2 with Celebrity & 8 with RCL. I have to agreed fully with the article. The cruiselines do NOT care about the individual consumer. As was said, they are always fully booked. All the new ships & attractions on them are drawing the people. The discounting going on is only a result of the over-building of new ships. Capacity has out-growned the demand - temporarily. The mickey-mouse-nickel-&-diming they are doing will eventually kill the golden goose. We REFUSE to pay anything extra if we can help it. The alternative dining rooms may be very nice, but I am already paying for my food - why pay a second time?? I can always have a fine dining experience at home. We have some of the finest restaurants close by in New York City. The excursions from the ships are atrocious in price. We have continually bought the exact trips privately at the dock-side locations all over the world. Never had any problems. And we have been all over. Don't know what the cruiselines are thinking for the long-term. Good article!!
I am going to Have to agree with Mr. Rosenberg and Mr. Driscoll.
I have a friend that was going to take his first cruise a couple of years ago.
Having cruised before I went on and on about how great it was and how much
he was going to enjoy the exprience.
When he returned his report was " I'm glad we went but I doubt We will do it again". I was blown away by his responce!
A couple of months later my wife and I went on or second cruise.
I now understand what my freind was saying.
Things had changed dramaticly! The service was nowhere near what I experienced
the first time. I payed over inflated prices for soft drinks ( that I got free the first time). Besides that I had to go out of my way alot of the times just to find a soft drink! I felt like I had to keep one hand on my wallet at all times because every where I turned some body on that ship was wanting it.I wont even go into the "port breifings" that used to be very informative.
It certainly was far different than my first exprience!
Sorry to go on and on but to mewhat was a good thing is now going bad.
My cruise on the Ecstasy was fine, but certainly not the best vacation I have ever had. After three
cruises this year (Princess, Carnival), the service is one area I have noticed has slipped. Perhaps too many new ships to
fill with crew. I am a die hard cruise fanatic and next month I am off on my first resort vacation in
years and paying some high per diems to get good service.
I will still cruise (am going to the Far East on Princess in October) but totally agree that the cruise experience isn't what it used to be. (I have been on many different lines-Princess, HAL, Hawaiian Am., and 6 or so on RCL. I have been disappointed in the food-great sounding selections, but not so great tasting. I don't see myself as a fussy person at all; I grew up with overcooked meat and don't expect a middle of the road cruise ship to deliver fine cuisine, but when I ordered sweet potato soup last year on Thanksgiving Day and got white potato soup that had lots of sugar in it, I was speechless. And like several others, the cash needed these days is annoying. I got used to cruising without cash and taking care of the tipping at the end; now I need to keep ones on me all the time. It may seem minor, but you add up all the minor annoyances and you have people who are less than thrilled with the cruise experience. And many of us can't afford to cruise on the Seabourn or Crystal lines all the time.
Our last cruise was on the Grand Princess and our next will be the Galaxy (#10). Mike is correct in many ways. The cruise lines are trying to entice a new breed of "first time cruiser" to fill its many new berths, but at the loss of the traditionalist due to changes and lack of excellent service. Example; on our 1st Princess cruise no one showed us to our cabin. What if this was our 1st. cruise? Very poor 1st. impression. Charges for Alternate Dining= $50 extra service fee for a couple is a lot for an Italian restaurant taking into consideration that does not include alcohol unless you choose the Brunch. I guess I can understand the charges for Ice Skating, Wall Climbing, etc. because not everyone wants to take advantage of these activities just like massages, gambling, beauty treatments, etc. The increased costs for photo's is out of sight, but people still line up to buy many souvenirs. I still plan to cruise, but am very particular of which line I prefer and will or will not sail upon even at a great price.
A group of us (12 couples) went on Carnival Triumph in Jan 01.
Had a great time.For most of us it was our 1st cruise.My biggest
complaint was the additional cost for drinks,pix,and any thing else they could charge you for.In spite of how cruises are advertised, there are a lot of additional costs.It is afun vacation but can get expensive if you are on a budget. We did earn a free berth because we booked at least 8 staterooms.Again it was fun but paying for just the cruise is just the start of it. The cruise line sees to that! Its like one of our group said "passengers are a captive audience and the cruise line knows it".
We have taken 11 cruises and are currenrly booked for #12 and 13.During the time frame from 1989 through 2000 we have witmessed not so much a drastic decline in service as much as the constant nickel and diming of "guests" On RCCL
we are asked to pay 10.00 for a small informal photo which I would buy for $2.00
yet I would leave in the rack for 10.00 Bingo which was at one time a leisure activity which supported the seamens fund at about 2.00 per game has now grown to 10.00 per card We calculated that on just one game the line took in roughly $1,000 and dispensed a prize of $100.00. The "Alternate Dining" is another scheme to raise capital. It appears the cruise lines are slowly evolving into First and Second class price structure. Pay the extra cost and we will treat you better.Can steerage class be far behind. Although I have expressed my disappointments with the lines I still believe ,with some prior planning, it's the besr vacation one can experience
I find it strange that on one hand, people say they would rather pay a little more on the ticket price, rather than be "nicholed and dimed" during the cruise and then they turn around and say they bring their own booze aboard, they purchase an inferior port tour because it's cheaper, they expect free cabin upgrades, they avoid the ship's gift shops and they don't avail themselves of the onboard activities unless they are free. BUT, they want new ships, more amenities, bigger staterooms, friendlier and larger ship's staff, the very best entertainment (named headliners), new, better and more ports of call.
Well, I'm here to tell you - you can't have it both ways! The major lines have huge ship building loans to repay, stockholders to please, and staff to compensate. They must constantly looking for the latest technologies to employ; evaluating which amenities to introduce, which to continue and which to eliminate. They compete with each other for guests by using discount pricing, larger ships, new destinations, improved onboard services, and inovative dining options. And what does 70% of the cruise buying public do? They look for the cheapest price and refuse to acknowlwdge all the other efforts to secure their loyalty!
Well folks, I'm afraid I've got a surprise for you - you get what you pay for. The cruise lines are a business, just like the business you work for. And just like your business, those that do not run with a strong balance sheet go out of business. So, if you want to keep sailing new ships with lots of vacation alternatives, you will have to pay for the opportunity or cruising isn't for you. Stay home and have a beer on your back porch!
We started cruising in 1996 and have gone every year since then; all on Celebrity so I can only speak from our experience with them. We've noticed some small changes since RCCL took them over but overall think they still pay attention to detail and try to make your vacation as memorable as possible. Our last cruise was aboard the Galaxy and we are again booked on the Galaxy this November.
I still think that dollar for dollar cruising gives you the most bang for your buck.
But if a passenger is nickel and dimed to death and service is going noticeably downhill then something needs to be done to balance the situation. Personally I prefer the option to say no to overpriced excursions and wave the photographer off with a smile and a "no, thanks". No one has ever on any ship been pushy or rude. Nor have I ever had to reduce a tip on board due to poor service, but there may always be a first time. We did complain to a bar server about another bar servers rudeness and that night at dinner the bar manager personally brought us a nice bottle of wine with apologies. Your post had alot of good points.
I am constantly amazed at the people who make an issue about paying for alternate dining. This is something that is optional and should not offend anyone that it is something "extra" to pay for. I for one am glad to have that option and intend to take advantage of it on the Millennium next February. We have many exceptional restaurants in the Boston area, but I never tire of finding a new one. The previous writer mentions the abundance of fine restaurants in New York, and I agree, but I can assure you that you will be paying a good deal more than the $25 per person that Millennium charges. You would be lucky to find a decent tuna salad sandwich in New York for that price.
My first cruise was 15 years ago, and I think the only thing really different is the increasing number of options, some of them you have to pay for. We didn't have balconies on my first cruise, now I won't go without one. That's my choice and I pay extra for it.
I saw someone in another reply complaining about paying for coffee and a pastry. I can only think that is in another optional location such as the Cova Cafe on the Millennium. Go up to the buffet location upstairs and get it for nothing.
I'm not sure about the other lines, but since I switched to Celebrity 4 cruises ago, I have never been disappointed.
While the Driscoll article presents some interesting discussion, I think Dan Schneck 's comments are in some cases valid, and in some cases a stretch.
I tend to agree with cruise lines that the vast majority of cruisers still complete their cruises feeling they had a wonderful vacation, and received excellent value for their $$.
Certainly on the Internet we see the vast majority of cruise passengers posting positives about their cruise experiences. Like a dead flower in a bouquet, the negatives may stand out more, but in sheer numbers, the positives far outweigh the negatives.
I believe in Mr. Schneck discussion of "deteriorating word of mouth" he discounts too easily the high expectations people have before they cruise. And this is caused in part by the combination of the cruise line advertising, and all the positive comments from past cruisers which I discussed above.
There is a bit of a "chicken or egg" arguement to be made here, but it certainly seems a great many people are out hunting for "bargain basement pricing". Everyone seems to want a $499, 7 day cruise! And why not!
However, not many seem willing to accept the limitations of a product that $499 can buy them.
They say they'd rather pay more, and have everything included in the price, but their actions speak loudly when they still book the bargain priced cruise.
On the other hand, I suppose no one would be hunting for these "bargains" if they didn't exist.
While I'm sure finances are a part of the equation, the issue of declining service onboard is likely a direct result of the large number of new builds which have come online in the last few years.
It's simply a matter of not being able to find enough qualified staff to fill the demand, and also no time to train them all properly.
As any employer can tell you, we all come across times when we simply aren't able to hire the right people when we need them. I'm sure this is the cruise line's problem now. It's never acceptable when it happens, but it does happen, and hopefully the cruise lines will find a way to overcome it.
To be sure these aren't easy questions to answer, but in my view cruising is STILL the BEST value for my vacation dollar, and simply put the BEST vacation!
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As in any business, the old repeat and referral numbers work in the cruise industry as well. After sailing Celebrity, Princess and HAL more than 10 times each, I have personally witnessed a degradation of product to the point that even if I paid $300pp for a balcony cabin... $600.00 spent on a product I am dissaatified with, is $600 wasted and not good value.
Babette--Your comments are slightly amusing. If you were to pay $300 per person for a 7 day cruise, which naturally include all room and board, entertainment etc., what could possibly make you feel disappointed enough to feel your money has been wasted? If one pays top dollar for a cruise, they certainly should expect and get top dollar service, but if a person goes for the economy rate, as you have indicated, then a person should not expect the "royalty" treatment.
When I am driving to a destination, I may stop at a Hampton Inn overnight or a Days Inn. The prices are totally different and my expectations are totally different.
Bob J. wrote:
> I am constantly amazed at the people who make an issue about
> paying for alternate dining. This is something that is
> optional and should not offend anyone that it is something
> "extra" to pay for.
> I saw someone in another reply complaining about paying for
> coffee and a pastry. I can only think that is in another
> optional location such as the Cova Cafe on the Millennium.
> Go up to the buffet location upstairs and get it for nothing.
> I'm not sure about the other lines, but since I switched to
> Celebrity 4 cruises ago, I have never been disappointed.
Bob -- HAL has alternative dining restaurant as well as Java Cafe and does not charge extra for using the restaurant (tho you have to make reservations) nor does it charge for any of the goodies we can get at the Java Cafe. Don't know why other lines do it and how they get away with it, but after a few cruises with HAL I guess I'm "spoiled" and would not be too happy at having to pay for these amenities. Maybe if more people voiced their displeasure the other lines would begin to take notice.
Jules, I mentioned paying for coffee and pastry and here's why. The first time we saw that was on a Princess ship we were visiting, a charge for coffee but NOT pastry at a small coffe bar onboard. I inquired and was told that this was simply to lessen the traffic to this popular area. Yeah OK. Next time I saw a similar coffee bar the pastry was charged for as well.
Here's my concerns with this. As you say using such an area is optional like alternative dining. That's just fine but as is what so often occurs this type of system continues to proliferate until the OPTIONAL part kind of disappears. Or the included product becomes less than good and you are almost forced into buying the OPTIONAL product. So yes I can go elsewhere to get a included pastry but why do I want to start having concern myself which area is more money and which is included?
Try to put any FREE air in your car tire lately. Of course you might find some but chances are good you will put in a quarter. Then chances are also good that the first quarter will no longer provide enough time to fill all four tires because some wiz kid figured out exactly how long it takes to fill check and fill four tires and reduced timed air compressor for a minute less, thus another quarter.
Human nature, if I can get you to pay a quarter, maybe I can get you to pay 50 cents. In the meantime I will spend a dime of the new revenue making fancy brochures to let you know that my air is indeed 5 star air...
Remember when you bought a $3,000 computer and it included a year of technical service? Now maybe you get three months and then you can give them your charge card and pay 49.50 for service on the machine they made and you bought.
Remember when ATM's were free and you were encouraged to use them because it simplified the banks work and was convenient for you? So they got rid of most of the tellers and now they often charge you for ATM usage.
You could write a book on the FREE and INCLUDED things in life that you now pay for. Hey remember when the phone company provided a phone and even fixed the dam thing ?
After reading all the posts, I think there are a lot of good ideas and comments. I had recently read an article in a news magazine about the effect the good economy has had on customer service in many different sectors; managers are keeping employees they normally would've let go because they simply can't find workers to replace them (even some fast food places were offering signing bonuses!). I believe this likely applies to the cruising industry also; "even if John Doe doesn't always have a courteous manner when interacting with guests, I can't let him go because finding and training a person who will be a better worker to replace him is an enormous task". Another article I read discussed all the woes of air travel these days (who doesn't have an airline horror story?), and there are many similarities to the cruise industry. People complain that the seats are too small, service is poor, and the food even worse, yet we all complain that prices are soaring and we instinctively look for the cheapest airfare; we can't expect airlines to fix these problems and keep prices low. And in all fairness, put yourself in the shoes of an airline employee who is working at the desk, and you are being yelled at by some jerk because his flight was delayed, something completely beyond your control, yet you are bearing the brunt of his rage (I'm not saying that rude passengers are the cause of the decline of service on cruise ships....just trying to look at other perspectives). All in all, I guess I'm trying to say that you can't pay a soda pop price for a cruise, and expect Dom Perignon in return.
I personally would rather pay a bargain price and have control over my spending on the ship, than pay a higher price and be offered lower prices on things I normally wouldn't purchase (e.g. photos, I'm content with my own pictures). Of course, this is all a matter of opinion, and I'm generally more on the frugal side. Additionally, thinking back on all the trips I've ever taken (cruise, land, or otherwise), I can't say that any one of them was absolutely, entirely flawless....I think there will always be some minor things that arise....but vacation time is too short to waste time dwelling on the negatives. Barring any major mishaps, I will continue to cruise because the biggest advantage I think is how relaxing it is to do little planning. If I were to visit as many places in a week that I did on a cruise, logisitics of planning (not to mention paying for) transportation, lodging, meals, and activities would stress me more than work, and vacation for me is all about relaxing and not having to worry about anything.
Okay, sorry I rambled on for so long. Keep posting.....I like reading everybody's comments!!!