Greetings from St. Thomas, US Virgin Islands today! As I’m on the Norwegian Cruise Line (NCL)Getaway. So it only seems fitting to talk about it for a few minutes. Some people have joked that Norwegian is my girlfriend because I spend so much time on their cruises. But it’s about time to break up with Norwegian. Since all of you listening and reading this live a short drive or flight from LA, Seattle, Vancouver, or Victoria, lots of you do go on cruises – and you should!
NCL recently merged with another line, got a new CEO, and billions of dollars of debt from the merger. Someone has to pay for that. The rates haven’t changed much with Norwegian, but they’ve cut back on some not so noticeable things, and some really obvious ones.
Big cutbacks on the awesome little chocolates on your pillow at night. Got my first one on night four… good thing there’s no shortage of sweets at the buffet, so I’ll be OK for my sugar fix. Probably a cost saving, but pretty stupid if you ask me. No more kids’ discount in the surcharge restaurants, and no more St. Maartin port of call. The ship recently switched to a stop in the British Virgin Islands (BVI) with huge savings in their port fees. St. Maartin is a dream stop with a ton of sightseeing, tourist attractions, and shopping! BVI has pretty much none of that. That’s really bad for passengers, really cost effective for NCL. As a really frequent passenger, there used to be a package of some perks in the cabin. There wasn’t. I’m not sure if they’ve been cut back or cut out, they just forgot me, or if my complaint got them. But in every industry, regulars get taken for granted while all marketing goes to new customers.
I’m actually here this week for a free slot tournament. Or that’s my excuse anyway. Except my three-month ago entry never got processed. It took the host to actually find someone at head office on a Friday night to get me in…while I got to freak out and sweat it out for three hours! I did get my welcome gifts – sort of. The highlight of my trip is dinner at the steak restaurant called Cagney’s. I love that place. The welcome package is always a dinner for two. I’m here solo, so it’s always been OK to just go twice. No, with the cutbacks that’s no longer allowed. Help me with the math: Dinner for 2 is $60. Dinner for one, going twice is $30 x 2 or…yes…$60. Two other people were almost as choked as me at this stupidity. So I gave back my dinner certificate and a $150 spa credit. I don’t think my message to tell the VP who makes these decisions to shove it will get delivered. If Norwegian wants to save money, I donated back $210. If they don’t want my business, I KNOW RC (Royal Caribbean) does.
Lastly, the downside to big ships like the Getaway is trying to get a dinner reservation in a you-pay restaurant, or seeing a show. On this same ship in December I was not able to get any reservations for any show the entire week. This time, I was one of the first people on the ship and immediately went to the interactive screens at every elevator bank to make sure that didn’t happen again. Well, they don’t work or didn’t work. Pick the show, confirm the person and press ‘next.’ Except ‘next’ doesn’t work. I MAY be seeing one show – not sure yet. That’ll be one in 14 days on the ship! And before 95% of passengers were on board, some restaurants only had 9:45 pm reservations! Who eats dinner after 10:00 pm and how did a few passengers on board before noon already make thousands of reservations? In fairness, the Assistant to the Hotel Director did volunteering to help me. However, morally I couldn’t ask for something other guests can’t get and still have the right to share it with you.
Would I go on another cruise? Would next week be too soon? Would it be Norwegian again? Not likely. Obvious cost-saving cutbacks just tick people off, something I certainly heard during the week. Another passenger commented that it really wasn’t freestyle anymore with the odds to getting into a show or dinner. How sad – how unnecessary – but how common after almost any merger…