Just off the Jewel where we enjoyed an 12 day Eastern Mediterannean cruise. Great itinerary, nice clean ship and pleasant staff who work very hard. We're experienced cruisers, but Im afraid NCL may have lost some customers based on thier sales philosophy.
We paid full choke ($5800) for a balcony stateroom a year in advance, and witnessed a continual decline in rates as the cruise date neared. Even though we asked three times, an upgrade was out of the question, nor could we cancel and re-book under the new rates. A little annoying, but a lesson learned. f you are flexible w your travel dates, wait until closer to cruise date to book your cabin. We met guests who paid $1399 each for the same room, booked a month before.
Once onboard, you'll enjoy excellent service from the staff, but they are all trained in never-ending upsell. We were offered water at every meal, and every disembarkation. ($4.50 a bottle). Drinks--$11.00!, 14.95 if you "collect the set of cheap plastic souveniers) Non stop photos (they took over 20 snaps of us) , for sale for the bargain price of $24.95 each. Spa services at $360 for a couple, and you had to rub the seaweed on your partner yourself! (got to admit--that was hilarious, )Art reproductions auctioned at "incredible" prices (as long as you meet the NCL minimum bid). Never ending bargain diamonds and emeralds "that you can only get onboard NCL", watches, and shopping, including the services of your own "shopping consultant" (she looked about 22 yrs old), $7 fee to exchange money--in the casino where you are already getting raped by the house!
The food was great in the specialty restaurants--but at a fee. Lobster at Cagneys is surcharged an additional $30 per person, plus the 100% mark up on the wine. We ended up paying over $150 for a simple meal on that night. Steak will cost you $20 a head, Sushi was another $15 each, Asian cost $20 as well--you get the picture. NCL has manged to run free style cruising into a science of moving the money freely from your pocket to thiers.
The NCL shore excursions were priced outrageously. All followed the same routine. Herd you onto a bus, and race through the points of interest as quickly as possible, all in an effort to save more time for --you gusessed it --shopping at NCLs recomended shops. We have 20 minutes at the Sphinx, and 90 minutes at the Papyrus shop. 1 hour at the ruins of Ephesus, to get to the "preferred" carpet shop where we enjoyed a 90 minute sales pitch. We learned quickly, and soon embarked on privaste tours with other guests, hired a local guide, and enjoyed the sites at our leisure. We did have to watch the time though--the if youre not on an NCL tour, the ship will sail without you.
Tipping has turned into an art form at NCL. They proport that it is not necessary, as we have added $10/per person per day to your bill to assure your steward is taken care of. I much preferred the old way, where you left a hundred dollars in an envelope for your room atendant, another $50 for the wiater, and $50 more fo rthe maitre'de. I knew they were getting the money at least. As it was we left another $50
in th eroom, as I felt guilty about how hard they worked for what I am sure is minimal pay from NCL. They proudly state that tipping is not necesary, as we have added an "auto gratuity" to each bill for your convenience. They have also added room on each bill for an additional tip, above the autogratuity, again for my convenience. What a helpful bunch they are! I can asure you that the service from the staff is no where near what it used to be with their new tipping policy.
I swear there wasnt a waking hour that passed that were were not assaulted by another NCL pitch to get money out of our pockets. Towards the latter part of the tour many guest were complining--and it got to be a point of humour as each day passed. The final insult was on disembarkation--NCL cautioned there were no cabs, but that they they could arrange transportation to the airort for $30 per person. We watched as people were herded into buses on regimented timetables. We left at our leisure, and grabbed a cab for $30 euros--total.
Although you might think my ramblings would indicate that Im a bit frugal, its the contrary. I do not mind paying a premium for quality, and spend lavishly on vacations. I would just rather be charged an addtional $2000 up front, and not endure the onslaught of "selling" during my leisure time. NCL, increase your prices if you must, or you will lose customers over time.
My advise to upcoming NCL cruisers is simple--get prepared for this, and you will still have a great time. Its a wonderful world to see, and cruising is a great way to do it.