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View Poll Results: Would you pay a fee for reserved premium seating in shows?
No - all cruise shows should be free open seating 85 64.39%
No - but I like the idea of assigned seating reservations 19 14.39%
Yes - I would pay - but only a small fee for a good, reserved seat 21 15.91%
Yes - I would pay more than a small fee if the show deserves it 7 5.30%
Voters: 132. You may not vote on this poll

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Old September 9th, 2010, 05:59 PM
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Default Would You Pay a Small Fee for NCL Shows?

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.
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Old September 9th, 2010, 06:07 PM
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The truth is that we all pay for shipboard entertainment - it is built in to the cruise fare.

The cost of sailing on Norwegian Epic - or Oasis or Allure, should never be equal to regular cruise ships solely because the entertainment costs of the ship are much higher than average ships.

People pay hundreds more to go on theme cruises; jazz, rock, etc.

But for some reason people simply refuse to pay for enertainment on a cruise ship for almost any reason (unless there is food involved).

For those of you who say you would never pay - but you went to Cirque Dreams or the Nickelodeon Breakfast - guess what; they had to feed you anyway, so you just paid for the show (tricky, eh?).

But did it kill you to pay? What if the show is truly worth it, as Blue Man Group is to me?

Would you EVER pay for a Cruise Ship Show? Especially if it means avoiding the lines currently happening on Epic?
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Old September 9th, 2010, 07:16 PM
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Paul you said it all in this statement:

"The truth is that we all pay for shipboard entertainment - it is built in to the cruise fare."

And this should actually be the case of all the food on board too. That is one reason we won't go to any of the extra pay resturants on any ship.

The fact is who ever is truely responsible for the design of the Epic really screwed up with making the entertainment rooms so small that the passengers can not see the shows.

NCL "Freestyle" is really anything but since if you want to eat anyplace other than the MDR you need a reservation and that is not freestyle in my book that is more regeminented than having a set dining time, as you can always not go to the main dining room but rather the buffet and eat just as good.

We have yet to ever consider booking a themed cruise because of the higher price so it would really have to be something for us to do that. And from all that we have seen a lot of the group cruises are also more expensive and what do you get for the extra, a obc that you are really paying for and a party that you are paying for.

These things go hand in hand for us. We don't have a big budget for cruising so we have to make sure we get all we can for our money. We will pay for excursions otherwise we would not be able to see much of wherever we are cruising to. And that to us is more important than paying for shows or dining.
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Old September 10th, 2010, 07:19 AM
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>>But for some reason people simply refuse to pay for enertainment on a cruise ship for >>almost any reason

That is the same reason people are discusing the bier prize :
3.50 or 4,5 is a big different


Once apon a time a saild on small luxus ship (r7).
70 % balcony cabin.

There was comon swiming pool in the midle and more "private" small on the front of the ship wit sauna etc. , but it cost 5 Euro a day.

People pay more than 5000 USD for 1 person in the a cabin but all the time I was
alone on "my private small pool,

Nobody was ready to pay 5 Euro a day.
And I swear there was really a lot very wealthy people on Bord.
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Old September 10th, 2010, 07:31 AM
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Family cruise on Norwegian Epic

This column says NCL just doubled the prices on Cirque Dreams & Dinner to $30 and $20 (for $15 and $10).

As I said - the truth is that they had to feed you anyway, so in fact you are paying for the entertainment.

I voted that I would pay a small fee ($5) for a reserved seat in a front row that I did not have to stand in line for. But I like good seats. I also usually try to get the best seats I can for any show on land, it makes such a difference.
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Old September 10th, 2010, 11:22 AM
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This is a really slippery slope. I voted #2 that I would not want to pay extra but I do want reserved seating.

The issue I have is that once additional charge entertainment is implemented it will be done across the fleet and across the industry. The history of alternative restaurants and open seating are just two of NCL's initiatives that are now industry wide. Cruising is going to become more of a Vegas experience rather than a cruise experience.

NCL's co-parent company, Star Cruises, has a basically pay as you go format for cruises. In their model you pay extra for food and entertainment. The higher the category of cabin you have then you pay less or none for your food and entertainment. Book a standard inside cabin and you get to eat at a buffet and that's it. If you want to eat at a regular restaurant then you pay extra. This model is being integrated into NCL. NCL still has included restaurants but they are becoming fewer in number.

I am also beginning to re-think the NCL Villa concept. I have sailed in their suites and yes they are great, with some nice amenities, but the pricing for them has become out of line. I have been price comparing and I can sail Seabourn or Regent for less than I can sail, in a Suite, on most NCL cruises. With the luxury lines I won't have the gratuity or beverage expenses nor will I have the alternative restaurant fees. It makes the luxury lines a much better deal than sailing in an NCL suite.

When I cruise, I want to pay for as much as possible up front and not worry about the added expenses that I will incur.

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Old September 10th, 2010, 01:12 PM
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Mike...

In fact, I tend to agree with you. I would prefer to see cruise lines stick to the model of offering high-quality food and entertainment with no extra onboard surcharges.

But you have to admit we have come to accept alternative dining as a reasonable and worthwhile added value purchase.

If I had a choice of seeing a regular production show or an extra charge show from someone I like (Blue Man Group) I would go for the latter. Especially if it means cruises getting cheaper if I choose not to attend any of the entertainment onboard, because in fact I am not big on shipboard entertainment.

But the cruise lines have to "keep it real."

A good example of where they have complete off the deepend is charging $12 to $15 just for one pay per view movie in your stateroom. They should have recent movies running free all the time anyway, but if they want to have PPV they should only be a few dollars - not $15.

The only time I ever paid that much was a week-long cruise on MSC where I was sailing alone on a ship full of French people and was bored stiff. I did it one time.
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Old September 10th, 2010, 03:44 PM
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I voted for the small fee for a good reserved seat. While it is an extra fee, it also levels the playing field with the suite guests who currently get their pick of the best seating by being trotted in a side door by the concierge.
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Old September 10th, 2010, 03:46 PM
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I too like NCL's alternative restaurant strategy and I eat at all of them and plan the additional charges into my cruise fare. I like the variety.

I do see the trend increasing and additional charges for different entertainment, dining, night clubs and activities. Is this bad? No, but it changes the image of cruising. It does reinforce the idea of "nickle and diming". If people do not want to pay for it then they don't have to participate but when you see a list of "fun and exciting" things to do on board and 3/4 of them come with an additional charge it can be off putting.

The cruise line will push the pay as you go and surcharges to the point they "go too far", as with the ppv movies, and will back off on the strategy. Where that point is will be determined by the consumer.

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Old September 10th, 2010, 04:22 PM
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NO, we pay for too many things now with NCL that should be included with the cruise fare. Why should we pay to eat at a noodle bar, when the ingredients cast less than a dollar? There are many other things we are charged for that really are pushing the envelope. Soon nothing will be included in our fare, much like with the airlines.


So, it really is Harrah's at sea; like paying the $10.00 fee for "Express Entry" to the Paris Buffet!! Now, I see where NCL/Harrah's Apollo Management is going with this. Truly the Vegas Strip at sea.

Last edited by gkbii; September 10th, 2010 at 04:30 PM.
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Old September 10th, 2010, 04:49 PM
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gkbii ...

You really crack me up!

For those of you who have not met gkbii, I know his real name and will use it if he lets me (first name only).

We met on Epic and I never met anyone who has a better handle on customer service. He belongs to almost every airline, hotel and cruise line loyalty program there is, and he knows the differences between them all.

He is a professional traveler.

I'm glad you're here.
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Old September 10th, 2010, 07:44 PM
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No, I absolutely would not pay for entertainment on board a ship.

This has nothing to do with my ability to pay, or my budget for the cruise. I find the question, "would it kill you to pay?", VERY offensive. Whether it would "kill me" to pay or not is totally irrelevant.

My understanding of the deal you make with the cruiseline when you book a cruise is that you are buying a room (for the duration of the cruise) with all food and entertainment included.

I wouldn't pay even $1 for food, when I can get very good food that is included in my cruise fare. Likewise, I wouldn't pay even $1 for entertainment, either. I find it mind-boggling that anybody would.

Now, paying a premium fee for reserving the best seats in the house, well, I wouldn't do that for most shows, but I could understand why someone might do that. But that's only okay in my book if the rest of the seats are still included with cruise fare.

Now, on land, they do charge entrance for various entertainments, but that's totally different. WHY is that different? BECAUSE, we are not paying an admission fee that supposedly entitles us to this stuff already. If I go to the movie theater or the opera, why, that's not somehow "included" in my rent or mortgage, and I don't expect it to be free.

In summary, I pay my cruise fare expecting to have pre-paid for all food and entertainment on board the ship. I find it a slap in the face to be asked to pay again. Therefore, I would not pay it.
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Old September 10th, 2010, 08:18 PM
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Hi Whatie...

Thank you for your response. I expect that you are in the majority here, and I also think there will always be a market for people like you.

Carnival Cruise Lines, for example, has always provided quality food and entertainment at no extra charge. They usually have just one specialty restaurant onboard that may seat 5% of the capacity.

But let me put it to you this way...

Cruise ship entertainment now costs the cruise lines much more than it did 10 years ago. An average cruise ship theater has $1,000,000 in sound & lights where 10 years ago it was $50,000.

Costumes, sets, stage hands and other ongoing fees have also gone up dramatically. This means a better product for you, but you are also paying any more than you did before in the cruise fare. It is inevitable, the cruise line must make up the cost.

There are plenty of examples of places you go where entertainment is extra. Las Vegas hotels. Yes, you are paying to stay in a hotel, but if you want to see the show it costs extra. Having the hotel charge separately for the shows keeps the cost of the room LOWER for you.

If you ever went to go to Las Vegas where would you stay? In a hotel that includes shows and meals, or a regular hotel? Personally, I like the idea of not having to pay extra to supplement the $100,000,000 cirque show they have.

Theme cruises - you are pre-paying a lot extra for whatever the theme of the cruise is. And this is a good example because it is in addition to the regularly scheduled cruise programming.

I am sure there will always be "free" entertainment on ships, but does the option of "alternative shows at a surcharge" sound so outlandish when "alternative dining for a surcharge" is a wholly accepted premise?
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Old September 10th, 2010, 10:22 PM
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Paul brings up a great point with the price of cruise ship entertainment.

Last year I was told by a cruise director (I won't mention the cruise line) that their typical "production show" - meaning the usual musical revue which I find boring - costs them around $5 million or more to get ready for presentation, and it takes them around 18 months on average to get it "ship ready". These are ballpark figures, and some shows have gone to $10 million and two years to get ready. I am not making this up.

Then you add the costs of replacing the entertainers as people move in and out of the staff, training the ship's theater staff, licensing fees, copyright fees, and all the other little things, and you can see why the cruise lines will stick with a specific show for 3 or more years, moving it from ship-to-ship before finally retiring the show.

I have no doubt that NCL has tens of millions invested in the Epic entertainment, if not hundreds of millions.
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Old September 11th, 2010, 04:36 AM
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If people start to pay extra for entertainment, next thing you know, they will put in pay toilets.
I think that cruising should be all inclusive, instead of nickel and diming passengers for all kinds of stuff.

I will not pay extra to see a show on any ship.

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Old September 11th, 2010, 07:21 AM
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Hi Paul Thanks for responding to me personally

Quote:
There are plenty of examples of places you go where entertainment is extra. Las Vegas hotels. Yes, you are paying to stay in a hotel, but if you want to see the show it costs extra. Having the hotel charge separately for the shows keeps the cost of the room LOWER for you.

If you ever went to go to Las Vegas where would you stay? In a hotel that includes shows and meals, or a regular hotel? Personally, I like the idea of not having to pay extra to supplement the $100,000,000 cirque show they have.
Well, I can't imagine wanting to go to Las Vegas, but if I did... well, I don't know what I would choose. It really depends on why I am there. I mean, do I want to see the entertainment? Or am I there for some other reason?

But the point is, I would know BEFORE I paid my money what I was getting. If I paid for a room only, then that is all I expect, and I have no problem with that. The contract is that I get a room and nothing else, for $x. On the OTHER hand, if I paid $y with the expectation of getting entertainment included in that price, and then they stopped me at the door and asked for another payment - yes, even the tiniest amount - then I would be quite angry about it.

The cruise lines are marketing the concept that you're getting an "all-inclusive" vacation - specifically and pointedly including all food and entertainment. I have no problem with the fact that they charge extra if you use the spa services, because they never pretended otherwise. I have no problem with paying for any professional pictures that I want to keep, because nowhere did it say or even imply that I was entitled to free photos. (Though I do wish their darn photographers didn't take quite so MANY good photos, heh.) But everywhere I turn, whenever I am considering a cruise vacation, I am constantly given the message that food and entertainment are included in the price. So, this is what I expect.

Of course you pay extra for theme cruises. If I am interested in that theme, I have no problem with shelling out extra. But the thing is, I know upfront that this cruise costs more because I am getting something extra included in the price. If I pay my fare, then this is what I have agreed to.

Quote:
I am sure there will always be "free" entertainment on ships, but does the option of "alternative shows at a surcharge" sound so outlandish when "alternative dining for a surcharge" is a wholly accepted premise?

Wholly accepted by whom?

*I* do not accept it.


Technically, the cruise lines don't make it a secret that there are some food venues that may charge; but they sure don't prominently advertise them, either, now do they? I find it rather deceitful. Therefore, I do not participate.

So, your argument (or question?) is totally invalid in my worldview
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Old September 11th, 2010, 07:23 AM
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Forgot to add:

Quote:
If people start to pay extra for entertainment, next thing you know, they will put in pay toilets.
I think that cruising should be all inclusive, instead of nickel and diming passengers for all kinds of stuff.
What Manuel said. Brilliantly put
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Old September 11th, 2010, 01:10 PM
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Smile Hi Paul,

Quote:
Originally Posted by Paul Motter View Post
gkbii ...

You really crack me up!

For those of you who have not met gkbii, I know his real name and will use it if he lets me (first name only).

We met on Epic and I never met anyone who has a better handle on customer service. He belongs to almost every airline, hotel and cruise line loyalty program there is, and he knows the differences between them all.

He is a professional traveler.

I'm glad you're here.

Paul, it was great to meet you on our Epic Discovery Cruise. Hi everyone, I'm George, over the last couple of years I have traveled a good bit and have some ideas on travel.

My comments above were based on several life experiences. Several friends of mine were strong players/gamblers so I have had a "education" about all things Harrah's. In May I stayed in Vegas and paid the $10 fee for the Paris buffet, no I did not make this up. My main view of the Epic, as discussed with Paul; is that I see it as a large floating Harrah's casino. As odd as it seems, the Epic could be very successful (in my estimation) being docked in the New Orleans/Biloxi/Gulfport area. Really, it is a gamblers ship in most every way, down to the Harrah' carpeting and Vegas/Atlantic City $500,000 LCD chandelier.

When I travel I always stay where I get loyalty points, such has Hyatt/Radisson, fly only Star Alliance with loyalty programs BMI/US Airways.

Much of my experience was gained by studying the sister site to this flyertalk.com. Some may consider me somewhat demanding, but this is normally only due to when a company falls far short of the accepted industry standard.

I will say that having Paul on this site is a key asset that others don't have.

One last point, I hope the cruise lines realize how "crap fees" can hurt their business. The are many hotels in Vegas I would like to visit/stay: however, I won't pay the daily "resort fee" and therefore, refuse to stay or visit any Station (Green Valley Ranch) or MGM Mirage property!

Last edited by gkbii; September 11th, 2010 at 01:24 PM.
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Old September 11th, 2010, 09:44 PM
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Thumbs down

How about paying extra to get paper towls to wipe your hands?

Pay for bath towels.

Pay to use the swiming pool.

Pay to use the elevator

Don't let them get started on more nickel and diming.

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Old September 12th, 2010, 11:13 AM
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Thanks for introducing yourself, George.

A lot of people are voting in the poll even though they have not commented and it does look like no one wants alternative entertainment.

Now - it is important to remember that we are talking about "added value" entertainment, but your run of the mill cruise ship show. We are talking about licensed shows from Broadway or proven hits like Blue Man Group.

I think it was a fair question and that most people got it - and they are still saying they would not want this even offered on a cruise ship.

The follow-up assumption to this is that most people are perfectly happy with current cruise shows and attend them regularly - otherwise you wouldn't care if the cruise ship had premium shows they wanted to charge for - because you don't go to shows anyway.

But that isn't the feeling I am getting here. I feeling I am getting is that people object more to the premise of a cruise line charging more for anything than they object specifically to the concept of having premium shows on a ship.

The comments we see are "it's a cruise and entertainment is included," even if it is just another cruise show like you have seen on every other cruise you have taken.

But not all entertainment is equal.
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Old September 12th, 2010, 03:20 PM
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Without the Epic's entertainment options, why would anyone in their right mind sail on her?? When we were aboard her, I was surprised how many people did not like the three Vegas style shows. I met several people who got up and left The Blue Man Group, as well as being unhappy with the other shows. Perhaps Vegas shows don't work well with some of the average cruising public. Perhaps "gamblers" really are different after all.

A key area (like in Vegas) is after you have seen the show (Wayne Newton excluded) would you really want to go see them a second time? Thus will there be much ship loyalty for Epic? This is supposed to be the big thing for Epic, "The ship for Entertainment".
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Old September 12th, 2010, 04:14 PM
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George, the people I saw walking out of BMG were mostly older.

Blue Man Group is one of my most favorite shows in the world. I have seen it five times including Epic. Yes, I would return to Epic for the entertainment.

To me the key is differentiating Epic entertainment from other cruise ships. With the exception of some of the bigger Royal Caribbean and Carnival ships most cruise ship entertainment is quite cliche.

I know some people didnt get BMG, but I am sure the vast majority of people loved it. Especially people 30-50 which are the prime demo for cruising.

I also liked Howl at the Moon and Second City a lot. A lot of people raved about Fat Cats blues club.

Sorry, but no one will convince me there is anything wrong with the actual entertainment on Epic. It may not appeal to the Cunard or Holland Americaa crowd, but it certainly fits Epic - which I believe will become known as a young person's ship.

(but they still have a problem with the venue sizes),
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Old September 13th, 2010, 03:02 PM
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Paul,


My point is rather the average person would go on the Epic a second time, based on already seeing the shows. By the way, I think you really will enjoy the Disney shows when you have your first cruise with them.
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Old September 13th, 2010, 10:39 PM
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I cruise 2 times a year and have for about 15 years now. I am constantly looking for new experiences. But after reading this article the epic is definately off my list. I have never really liked Norwegians free style cruising to begin with and this just makes it worse.
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Old September 13th, 2010, 11:13 PM
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I think I mentioned on another board here that a buddy of mine and myself ( me a complete landlubber!) are planning a cruise in 2011.
Let me tell you, its become quite a chore!!!! Besides researching which cruise line to go on, I have definitely noticed almost all cruise lines are charging for some of the "better" restaurants on board and some of the "better" activities as well (with the NCL EPIC requiring an accountant to figure out all the surcharges )
So, on the top of the fare, you must add in whatever "surcharges" you will encounter which is yet another calculation you must do! What appears to be happening is cruise lines are "luring you in" with low fares but minimizing what it will really cost after all the "add ons" for the "good stuff." I just hope they don't make the free food and free shows so bad that you are forced to pay for edible food and real entertainment just to add more revenue!
In terms of entertainment I would pay a reasonable surcharge to see a "straight from Vegas, straight from Broadway" show or a famous headliner as long as I have guaranteed seat assignment. Maybe the cruise line can rotate acts as well to keep them fresh- just my 2 cents from a newbie!
So far from what I am finding is cruises are not "all inclusive" as I originally thought

Last edited by puggo63; September 13th, 2010 at 11:24 PM.
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Old September 14th, 2010, 06:58 AM
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Thanks Pluggo - don't let the extra cost options deter you too much. It is really up to you how much extra you spend. On any ship, including Epic, you can go and not spend anything extra if you don't want to. There are always the included options.

In the cruise trade, these are considered "alternatives" - like Las Vegas if you only go to the free lounge shows and have a coupon for free meals the entire trip in limited restaurants. Yes, the added options are there but they aren't mandatory.

George - I have to say even though I see your point and it makes sense. Yes, the entertainment on Epic will be the same the next time you go, but BMG is a show that is different every time. Legends will change the featured stars every six months and Second City and Howl at the moon are all completely extemporaneous shows that are not scripted so they are always different. You have a point, but I think some may also return because they enjopyed the entertainment so much.

Any ship that has entertainment as its main draw would face the same dilemma, and in that point you are correct. I just recall seeing a LOT of people in Howl at the Moon having a ton of fun night after night.
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Old September 14th, 2010, 07:03 AM
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I think it would be right to point out how Carnival is one cruise line that has really avoided the extra-charge dilemma.

They have great, all-included meals and just one alternative restaurant most people never even see on most ships. The entertainment is also first rate but it doesn't add to the cost of the cruise.

They don't charge for ice cream. They have decent TV in the cabins (although they probably do have pay per view there are still other things to watch) and they never charge for room service.
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Old September 14th, 2010, 08:50 AM
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The fact is who ever is truely responsible for the design of the Epic really screwed up with making the entertainment rooms so small that the passengers can not see the shows.
NLB, Man did you save me some writing since I agree totally with all you said about the Edsel, I mean Epic.

My first cruise was in 1984 on the NCL Skyward, followed by several NCL sailings, I was truly addicted to cruising and truly addicted to NCL. Then NCL staff became unhappy and you FELT it. Add on charges began culminating on the only infamous $2 room service fee. On the edge of bankruptcy NCL was purchased by Asian Star. Some one should write a book on NCL so all could know how to take a great product and run it to ground during a time when cruising was in a period of expansion.

Paul says that Epic is for younger crowd. Okay they can have it! I just don't know how they will be able to afford it since they all seem to be moving home with the older crowd.

I just sailed Veendam and did a review which was submitted here and should appear soon I would think. I don't usually sail HA but wanted to do a smaller ship that docked in Bermuda on Front Street before that becomes impossible. Even HA has freestyle dining called something else like Wish dining or something. Yeah I wish they hadn't reduced staff and bought beepers! Then tried to sell it as a favor to me, the consumer.

Bottom line as a regular cruiser, every year cruising gets less and less a unique sea adventure and more and more a land vacation that can rock and has smaller rooms than a hotel.

They want to stick more people on each ship simply a operational cost ratio thing while failing to provide the infrastructure needed to support because it effects the bottom line.

Hey Paul, uh, define younger? Is it persons not old enough to as yet be able to determine when they are being screwed out of a buck?

George in NY
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Old September 14th, 2010, 08:51 AM
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But let me put it to you this way...

Cruise ship entertainment now costs the cruise lines much more than it did 10 years ago. An average cruise ship theater has $1,000,000 in sound & lights where 10 years ago it was $50,000.
Paul, I haven't read in the WSJ were the cruiselines are losing money. If the competition can do it that NCL can do it or belly up.

Also, have you noticed that the specialty restaurant prices have been creeping up. That $5 for shows you are talking about will not be $5 in a few years.
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Old September 14th, 2010, 08:57 AM
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Yes, I have to chime in with agreement about Carnival.

Granted, I've only had one cruise - but it was on Carnival.

I did not successfully explore the entire ship (sad!) before the cruise was over... but, that said, I never even SAW a specialty restaurant that charged extra. All food I found anywhere on the ship was totally free. All the drinks are also free (except anything with alcohol in it, of course, and also the small assortment of stuff in cans and bottles they leave in your room - they charge you if you actually drink or otherwise remove any of it, so just set that stuff to the side out of your way at the beginning, perch a towel animal on top, and pretend it isn't there).

What really, really surprised me, actually, was that all this free food was really delicious. In all honesty, I was totally and completely expecting the food to be of "edible" quality - and not one iota better. I was very pleasantly surprised at this turn of events.

Pretty much the only thing Carnival did that I didn't appreciate was leaving that stuff I had no intention of touching in my room. It looked like a "sucker trap" for people who are too dumb to read the notice that you'll get charged if you drink this, and it certainly felt rude that they left what looked like a gift at first glance but would have charged me if I'd accepted said gift. Oh well; everything else was so stellar that I was willing to forgive and forget that little detail.

Carnival does it right - no sneaky extra charges; if they say something is included, then they mean it. For that, they have my respect, and they have won my loyalty.

(No, that doesn't mean I would never sail a different cruise line, but it does mean that I will return to Carnival, again and again - not because I want "a cruise" and Carnival happened to be convenient to my needs, but because I will seek out Carnival's offerings and choose from those.)
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