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.
andyham-I agree that the prices you quoted seem a little high but you didn't comment on the quality of food in all the specialty restaurants-there are several that don't charge a fee,nor did you mention the 2for1 specials at Cagney's or Le Bistro! Even at $20 additional for a great steak at Cagney's or $15 for a meal at Le Bistro-the prices are still better than a great restaurant ashore! Have you purchased cocktails at a good shore restaurant or nightclub lately? Prices ashore in Europe have gone off the scale due to our lowered dollar value! Maybe your criticism is a wee bit unfair-I feel NCL holds its own quite competitively with other cruise lines. Perhaps NCL is not the cruiseline for you! Don't give up cruising-but don't be afraid to try another cruiseline or cruise style and always be prepared for the prices!
Just remember, you can go and cancel the $10 a day tip...and then tip who want to tip and how much you want.....More and more cruislines are going to the pre-paid tips....I don't like it, but it's a fact of life...I always tip extra to those who deserve it....and NCL isn't any different than any other cruiseline about extracting your money from your wallet....Many things on the ship don't cost a thing...Just enjoy yourself....even if it costs a few bucks..it's only money....
Just remember, you can go and cancel the $10 a day tip...and then tip who want to tip and how much you want.....
Berick, that is no longer the case with NCL. Their policy is the tips will be automatic. They will not allow you to address it at the end or dispute the tips at the end. If you have a problem onboard you are to report it then and there and give them the opportunity to correct it for you. If they do not they will then and only then even consider the posibilty of adjusting grats. I was just forced recently into one of those conference room training things with their big wigs to discuss some other topics and this new policy was addressed.
I may be only money but the drink prices stated by the OP are not in line or competitive with other lines. Nor is the level of product hawking. If they're becoming this aggressive in the approach I believe the summary he provided may be accurate. It not the first time I've heard such a report from clients. It is also not the norm. If they're trying this on some sailings to experiment (I'm guessing now and have no facts on it) with ways to increase revenue I believe as the OP did that it will backfire in the long run.
I have read your post with lots of interest. As a cruiser and all cruisers that have been on any ship should realize the cruise are for-profit companies. The major cruise lines are all publicly held companies, meaning they are listed on a stock exchange such as the NYSE or Malaysia stock exchange (NCL-Star Cruise Lines). So they want to make money, as they have shareholders to report to. Your word upsell is actually "cross selling". Yes, lots of pictures, but you do not have to buy them. Yes, bottled water when disembarking, but you don't have to buy it. For dinner, you have the choice of tap water, which is ultra purified water from the ship, or you can purchase Evaian or another carboninated water. You are not forced to buy the water. As for the cover charges in the speciality restaurants, your prices stated seem to be rather inflated. On other NCL ships the cover charges are as follows, including the newest NCL ship the Pearl. Cagneys is $20.00 extra to get thru the door. I am sure that your menu had two sides to it. The left side of the menu, gives all the choices for your $20.00 per person cover charge. On the right side is another set of choices like whole lobster and filet mignon at another $10.00-$20.00 per person. So if you go the ultimate route of dining, then your cost would be $30.00-40.00 per person. It's very hard to find a 1 1/2 lb lobster and steak anywhere in the USA in a fine restaurant like Cagney's for $30.00. The wine, is standard prices. You can go to the liquor store and buy a bottle of Beringer White Zinfindal for $5.00 or less in any USA grocery store. On the ship it's $22.00. Any USA restaurant will either double or triple the price of a wine over a standard USA liquor/grocery store. Remember that you were not forced to buy the wine. The Sushi bar is $15.00 for all you can possibly eat. The Asian restaurants like Lotus Garden is $10.00 person not $20.00. In the Freestyle Daily there are daily specials usually 2 for 1 specials that you can enjoy during certain eating times. LeBistro is $20.00 person for the finest in dining pleasure and 5 star service and selection. That's a bargain.
When crusing in the future, be sure to read these message boards as there are lots of good tips to save the cruiser lots of money. As for the fares, all cruise lines are the same. Sometimes you can get a great deal months in advance, sometimes weeks in advance. On our Pearl cruise in Feb, we got a Penthouse suite #9500 for just $1800 each, and that Penthouse usually sells for much more. We saved thousands on that suite. We shopped for a great deal. There are several travel agents that post here and they can give you some great tips for traveling and saving money.
As for tips, the NCL $10.00 per day person for all your staff. Cabin Stewards, waiters, waitreses, any other staff that helps you. YOuu need to understand the tip schedule before laying extra tips in the restaurants, bars, etc.
Drink prices very from a Martini for $6.95 to as high as 12.95. I have the Martini menu in front of me from our recent Pearl cruise on May 20th, 2007. It depends on what you drink. Souvrnier drinks command higher prices for the cheap plastic glass that you never want anyway, and who wants to pack that junk in a suitcase. It only looks pretty in the glass. The beer prices are standard and are cheaper than a USA ballpark, NBA Basketball game or NFL Football game.
Plan ahead and book your own excursions. New rules in Alaska and current Alaska legislation now says that cruise ships must tell the passengers the mark up on the excursions so they may compare to local merchants off the ship who offer the same excursion.
Prior reseach when cruising and input from sites like this can save you hundreds if not thousands of dollars.
Bottom line, cruise companies are out to make money, not give away amenties at cost. Just like any other business. You as the crusier have the ultimate control on expenses, so when you get the bill at the end of cruise at your stateroom door you are not shocked. Buy your own bottled water in port. Transport a few sodas back to the ship from port, which is totally allowable. You must get used to the "cross selling" and be able to say no when you don't want to buy. Let the cruise ships take as many pictures as they wnat, and just let other people buy them. There are no requirements to buy anything on the ship. Yes they have good sales techniques and in any retail business thats what it takes to make money.
Next time you sail, check in here at this site for helpful hints and ask lots of questions. We can offer some great advice and some great opinions whether you like them or not or use the advice that is given.
On a typical cruise our end of the week stateroom bill is usually less than $200....as we have learned what to buy and what not to buy.
Crusing is a great value when you have some basic knowledge. We too learned quickly on our first few cruises about spending and cross selling. Now WE are in control not the cruise ship company.