Tag Archives: Norwegian Cruise line

Norwegian Cruise Lines – Hello from New Brunswick

Greetings from New Brunswick!

Yes, I made it all the way to the Canadian Maritimes this week with Norwegian Cruise Lines.

We’ll talk about the economy here in the Maritimes next week, but, since I’m on the Norwegian Dawn (my second time on this ship), it seems appropriate to talk about the cruise, first.

Friends of mine have called Norwegian my girlfriend. I love them, being on my 15th cruise with them. But, sadly, Norwegian doesn’t love me – or any passengers – back anymore. About two years ago, they merged with Oceana. Since that time, the cost-cutting measures have been many – and noticeable – and continue to this day.

Being sold happens on every cruise ship – on every cruise line. But cut backs, right now at least, is the specialty of Norwegian head office, from the small to the big. Six mid-level executives, including casino executive and their media relations department, haven’t replied to questions or feedback in the last two years. I also haven’t received a post-cruise questionnaire in over three years. Whether it’s perception or reality, Norwegian no longer seems to care about passenger feedback.

No more lobster in the fanciest and most expensive restaurant on ship, Cagney: That news was delivered by an embarrassed waiter during my (about) 40th visit to the restaurant. Upscale is gone – money saving is in. Free breakfast in your room…but I’m not sure what’s free about the fine print of an $8 service charge now. The room stewards seem to have more cabins to do as the quality of the rooms has noticeably deteriorated. But that may just be my cabin: I didn’t notice until the first morning that my sheets had blood stains on them or that the water glasses in the bathroom were incredibly dirty. Used glasses, dishes, etc. no longer get removed at turn-down service, but stay in the cabin until the following day. My deck has popcorn stuck on it from the previous passenger, or the one before that, or the one before that, as well as quite a bit of hair everywhere and definitely hasn’t been cleaned for some time.

Some time ago, Norwegian rolled out a program to entice you to book with them. No business wants to lower their prices, but does have to give you something to speed up your decision making process. Norwegian lets you pick from a number of add-ons, depending on the cabin type. You can pick an internet minutes package, $50 towards cruise excursions in each port, or unlimited dining and beverages. The latter two are the most popular, and the two I consistently choose. Unlimited dining was any restaurant for all six nights at sea. That became four, and has now (surprise!) become only three! And it’s not disclosed when you book!

Unlimited beverage now has you pay a $120 US dollar “fee” for it at your time of booking While it may still be a deal (go for it – it’s not as though you’re driving the ship!), it appears bar staff have been instructed to slow you down, or to make it difficult or frustrating to utilize.  While you can’t order a double (sorry heavy drinkers…) you now can’t order two drinks inside a certain unknown period of time. My guest and I ordered a shooter. and another one a few minutes later. No, you can’t do that is what we were told…by two bartenders already!

On the positive side, I can’t tell you much about the Norwegian Dawn since Media Relations didn’t reply with a simple fact sheet. It’s a mid-size ship that’s just gone through a month of renovations. This Quebec City to Boston cruise has three stops in the Maritimes, but only runs four times in the fall before going back to its regular Boston to Bermuda sailings. If you’re a senior, this week’s Maritime cruise has an average age of 66, according to one senior staff member, so you won’t be alone. If you’re not a senior, no worries – their Boston to Bermuda cruises average age is in the 40s, and the L.A. to Mexican Riviera cruises attract an even younger demographics. You’ll enjoy the enhanced variety of entertainment with something for almost everyone during the week.

If you’ve never been on a cruise before, what are you waiting for? But be careful, and book your first two with a professional travel agent. Different cruise lines and different ships have very different clientele and personalities! If you still want to test-drive Norwegian, I’d recommend the Jewel, the Pearl and the Dawn, and that you avoid the massive 4,000 passenger ships. Make it one cruise on Norwegian, maximum and avoid their loyalty program. When businesses say that you can’t put a price on loyalty and loyal customers, Norwegian can. It’s six dollars. Twelve or so cruises get you a status that includes a free dinner with bottle of wine. But the most recent cutback is that my second appetiser would be at my cost, and is now on my room charges. (You need to read the: Loyalty is Dead story we did a few weeks ago…)

With that, I have to go and now find some lobster here in Saint John. And remember, as always, you can find my previous cruise stories on yourmoneybook.com by searching the “radio stories” link.

Travel Like A Norwegian

Good morning from beautiful Mazatlan. OK, it’s not really that beautiful . But since I’m on the Norwegian Star this week on a Mexican Riviera cruise, it’s a word that gets used a lot with almost any ship announcement.

I know that huge numbers of you either aren’t Mexican vacation fans, or have never been on a Norwegian cruise ship. The former is understandable with many long-standing and well publicised troubles in Mexico. But if you haven’t been on a Norwegian cruise, you’ll definitely want to add that to your bucket list sooner, rather than later.

As more than seven million Western Canadians, we really don’t have an excuse not to, since three of their ships depart pretty close to home: In addition to the Sun’s cruises out of Los Angeles to Mexico, the Norwegian Sun cruises Alaska from May to September with many departures right out of Vancouver. The Norwegian Pear, my favourite Norwegian ship, also cruises to Alaska, departing from both Seattle and Vancouver.

If you go, or hopefully when you go, you won’t be the only Canadian. The Sun this week has passengers from 12 different countries ranging from Brazil to Ireland and China. After the 80% Americans, we Canadians are the largest group, as I’m one of 200 on board this week. I actually thought that number would be a lot higher – and it should be. With the departure being out of the Port of Los Angeles, it isn’t exactly hard, or very expensive to get to LA, since you can be there in less than four hours.

Since this is a financial program, you need to know that cruising is one of the best travel deals around, as it’s a very competitive industry. If you’ve been to a one-week all inclusive resort, you know the treatment, service, and amenities you’ll (hopefully) get. A cruise is the same thing, just with the added bonus of also getting to explore a whole lot more of the world than just the 60 or so acres of a resort. If you don’t need a suite, and can avoid the three most popular months of the year, you can cruise like a Norwegian (whatever that means…but it’s their advertising slogan) for under a hundred dollars a day. That’s cheap! You’re getting a four star all inclusive vacation AND getting to see at least three different cities in different countries during the week.

If you’re a morning person, you’ll get even more out of your cruise, as you’ll be watching six gorgeous sunrises almost all by yourself. It’ll be you and less than a couple of hundred of your fellow passengers (out of the 2,400 that the Star accommodates). I’m pretty sure it’s the 11 bars and evening activities that turn most cruise passengers into night people – or at least people that won’t be seeing any sunrises during their vacation, because, well…you know…

Even during the three at-sea days you’ll never get bored. Each day has a wide variety of more than 90 different activities. And that doesn’t even include the most important ones of just vegging, sitting in the sun, or enjoying a relaxing meal… or two… or three in one of the many restaurants. If you do end up on the Sun, you’ll be treated to one of the best food services of any ship. The variety and quality of food is unmatched by any other cruise ship I’ve been on – and that includes a lot bigger and newer ships. Even Belgian Hotel Director Hugo Vanosmael seemed a little (but very pleasantly) surprised to hear that feedback.

If you’ve never been on a cruise before, you need to so some homework. Every ship and every cruise line has a very different personality, which is just as important to know as their itinerary. First time cruisers should deal with a well-experienced travel agent that specializes in cruises. If you’ve been on a cruise before, you can find Norwegian direct at ncl.com. (Do avoid signing up for their newsletter as it’ll trigger marketing calls that are next to impossible to stop.)

And now I need to go: There’s great shopping to do here in Mazatlan and I have a two-hour ‘behind the scenes’ tour of the ship – something the inner nerd in me has wanted to do for over five years!

I’ll share another quick story about my cruise from Los Angeles next week.