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  #11 (permalink)  
Old 07-19-2010, 02:55 AM
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We just completed the Greek Isles cruise on July 10th and the one thing I did comment on was the apparent efficiency of embarkation and debarkation, as well as shore excursion organization.

We had previously sailed on Celebrity 2 summers ago and I believe we were told to arrive at the Barcelona pier between 1 and 5 on a Saturday in late June. My wife believes in getting there early and despite my wish to arrive later than 3 to avoid the rush, we arrived at around 1. We were in that cattle line until well after 3 or 4.

This time we didn't arrive at the pier in Venice until 4 o'clock but only because we waited for an hour and a half at the luggage carousel at that awful Venice airport. We had no wait whatsoever at the pier (no welcome champagne either) and we were on the ship in minutes. However our luggage didn't get to the room until close to midnight.

The Gem is a nice ship but there are a few things that annoyed me about our time there. Firstly, the internet is snail-slow, and it was way slower on Celebrity Summitt in 2008, but despite what they may tell you there is no excuse for that in 2010. You are cut off from your family and friends on a cruise and for us the only way for my wife to communicate with her hundred year old uncle was by e-mail.

The pay-as-you-go rate for internet is 75 cents a minute which you might think sounds like a deal but composing and sending an e-mail on their computers could take 10 minutes or more. If you use your own laptop in your room you get even slower service or none at all. You can buy an internet "package deal" for 250 minutes for $100 or roughly what we pay at home for 3 1/2 months of unlimited super fast cable internet. The thing you never know for sure when you use your own laptop is whether you have truly logged out or not because sometimes the screen would freeze up and you'd have to re-log in to log out properly. I probably lost 15 minutes just doing that.

Another thing they keep pounding away at you is how you can eat any time you want. That may be true if you are up at 4 am for some reason and you want to pay a premium of $15 to $25 at a specialty restaurant for a coffee and fruit or something. The reality is that the two main dining rooms (where the food was not nearly as good as Celebrity) didn't open until 6 pm and they closed at around 9:30 I believe. The large buffet restaurant, where the food was comparable to Celebrity, on deck 12 was open at 6 am but sometimes it closed at 9 or 9:30 pm. So if you missed that closing, you are going to pay to eat.

I guess there are alot of people on cruise ships who have no issue with paying extra to eat in specialty restaurants but for me I just can't see that, considering that between the 2 of us we paid over $600 a night already, not including shore excursions or any other extra services, to eat and sleep on the ship.

We were on the ship during the World Cup and on our first night there was a quarter final match on the stateroom TVs as well as on the huge 2 story screen in the Crystal Atrium common area. I was watching the game in our room but I needed to go to the service desk for something and found that the area was packed with soccer fans, some of them rather animated and fanatical. I thought to myself, thank goodness I can go and watch the game in piece in my room without worrying whether the wrong team scores and some of these crazy fans get upset.

About 4 nights later it was the Spain vs Germany semi-final match and there were twice as many people (maybe 1000 people) crammed into the big screen area but there was no stateroom TV broadcast of this game which I found odd. When I asked at the service desk why it wasn't on the stateroom TVs the answer I got was that they got whatever feed from the satellite that was available. I thought to myself, I wonder how the game is getting to the big TV in the Atrium and all of the TVs in the ship's bars, magic? No, it wasn't magic. It would obviously have been the flip of a simple switch to provide the game in passengers' staterooms but NCL chose to go for more liquor sales - in my opinion. Too bad.

Another thing that really irked me was that I was forced to make a call from our stateroom to a person in France so I knew it was going to be expensive - $6.95 a minute. I was speaking with someone who spoke Spanish and French and it was difficult to get my message across and be polite at the same time. In the end, I watched as the counter on the phone went to 2:02 as I hung up the receiver. I just knew they were going to charge me $6.95 for those 2 seconds and guess what? They did. When I asked at the service desk what the charge was going to be the young lady said $20.85 and I said "but I went 2 seconds over". She pulled out a little card that said charges would be rounded to the nearest minute, a card which was not in the stateroom. She said sorry that's the charge and suggested that I could maybe talk to the manager, which I did. He was polite but explained that it was charged directly from the satellite service provider and that there was nothing he could do. I told him everything can be changed because this charge was just wrong and that for a customer like me deciding on whether to take a cruise with NCL again it could be the deciding factor. He said he would check on it but it was never changed.

And call me a cheapskate but that is just the type of nickel and diming that will influence my decision to sail again with NCL. It would have been a very simple decision for them to say - we will credit your account $6.50 or something, but I didn't see that they really cared enough about the customer to do that.

Its highly doubtful, because of that incident, and some of the others that I mentioned that I would sail with NCL again. And I do understand that it is a business where the goal is to squeeze every last dollar out of their customers. The other lines do it too, but it was NCL that did it to me this time.

Thanks for listening and after this long-winded post I do think I will send a copy to NCL.

I am sure you will still enjoy your cruise because, like I said, I found the things I listed to be annoyances. We still got to visit Split, Corfu, Mykonos, Santorini, and Iraklion despite the onboard challenges.

All I could say was that it was wrong
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  #12 (permalink)  
Old 07-19-2010, 12:02 PM
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And I should have added that NCL charges $12 per person per day for "service charges" which is supposed to cover gratuities, unless of course you buy soda or alcoholic beverages - then another 18% is automatically added on top.

And whether you eat on the ship or not, you pay. A table mate had spoken to some of the employees regarding this service fee and he heard that whether there were 1800 or 2300 passengers on a cruise, the employees, whose numbers apparently don't change from week to week, see little or no change in their paycheck even though there may be 500 more passengers paying $12 per day. That's an extra $42,000 in those circumstances. It may only be $40 per employee per week, but it should be theirs.

At least on Celebrity 2 years ago we had the option of providing the people who served us appropriate gratuities. I suspect that the NCL system tends to take away the incentive from some employees to go that extra mile as born out by some rather slow-moving servers.
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  #13 (permalink)  
Old 07-19-2010, 12:35 PM
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J&M,
All main stream cruise lines charge an additional 15% gratuity on beverages. My information shows NCL's is 15% not 18%. They do charge 18% on the spa treatments.

I would question that NCL is holding back gratuities unless I heard this from a NCL executive myself. Also NCL doesn't collect service charges on children under 3 years old.
  #14 (permalink)  
Old 07-19-2010, 02:54 PM
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And, my receipts from an NCL cruise I took in April 2010 confirms that bar tips are 15%, as well. (Just happened to find this in my travel wallet this morning.)

As for no-fee dining around the clock -- there's the Blue Lagoon, if you don't want room service.
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  #15 (permalink)  
Old 07-20-2010, 07:25 AM
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My mistake - 15% and not 18%. Whether other lines charge this or not is irrelevant. It doen't make it right when you are already paying an exhorbitant gratuity rate.

And we didn't have any under-3-year-old children with us. But charging a $12 a day service fee for a 2 year old would be about the same as charging charging $6.95 for 2 seconds of a phone call or $8 to send an e-mail.
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  #16 (permalink)  
Old 07-20-2010, 10:44 AM
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Quote:
My mistake - 15% and not 18%. Whether other lines charge this or not is irrelevant. It doen't make it right when you are already paying an exhorbitant gratuity rate.
I believe it is relevant because your post of July 19 @ 2:02PM suggest shock that a cruise line would do such a thing! I am pointing out all cruise lines do it, so it is relative to your post.

You don't seem to grasp the concept and purpose of the service charges. They are to cover all the wait staff, cabin steward, and behind the scenes service staff. A young child can require more attention to wait on and clean up after. If two adults and a two year old went to a restaurant in New York City, and the bill was $60, they most likely would tip approximately $9 @ 15%. Do they say "Well, the child's cost was only $15 so let's deduct that." No, I don't think they do.

No cruise ship or cruise line is perfect. Someone will always find fault. Ten people can come off the same cruise and have ten different views. What is important to one, may not be to another. What bothers one, may not the other.
Concentrate on the good things about your cruise instead of the negative and you'll have happier memories of a wonderful trip to Europe.
  #17 (permalink)  
Old 07-25-2010, 07:38 AM
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Of course I grasp the concept and purpose of the service charges. Its a convenient way for the cruise line to funnel some money from passengers directly to their employees paychecks, thereby allowing the line to reduce the actual amount they are required to pay them.

Someone asked for input or info on this ship and I responded. You don't have to like my response, Cruise Fanatic and whether other lines charge the extra 15% for alcohol certainly IS irrelevant. Moonydiva asked about NCL Gem and the fact remains that NCL does charge it.

You may enjoy paying $24 in gratuities for a room and meals that you already paid about $700 per night for but I don't when the room steward forgets to leave enough clean towels, or to check that the sink drains properly, or leave the daily newsletter, I'd like to have the option of deciding whether he deserves a tip for that or not.

I suggested earlier that moonydiva would likely enjoy her cruise but I decided to list the things that annoyed me for her benefit. I didn't only come on here and voice my opinions, I wrote my thoughts on the cruise and on the ship to NCL.

As far as I am concerned they, and other cruise lines as well, take advantage of passengers in a couple of areas because they have a captive audience. I am sure that most customers do as you suggest and "concentrate on the good things about your cruise instead of the negative and you'll have happier memories". If you do that and you never bother to let the business (cruise ship, restaurant, store) know when their service isn't as good as it should be, nothing will change or improve.

I am sure you are one of the ones who would always give the wait staff a 15% tip in a restaurant whether the service is good or crappy , and you'd probably never mention to the business or the wait staff that it was crappy either "just concentrate on the good things" about your meal experience....
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  #18 (permalink)  
Old 07-25-2010, 08:21 AM
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The bar staff isn't included in the service charge, hence the 15% tip for drinks. This is standard across all cruise lines.

The hotel staff on every mainstream cruise line derives virtually all of their income from tips and, in NCL's case, the service charge. Monthly salaries are quite small (like $150 small) and most of their compensation from the cruise line is having a bed and meals provided. Thus, if they couldn't rely on tips or that service charge, your $700 per night per diem would eventually become $750 per night or more in order to maintain a staff.

NCL does allow passengers to reduce the service charge if you let guest relations know of a problem and, if they can't resolve it, you can adjust the fee. The thing is you have to tell them about it when they can fix it, and not wait until after the cruise.

Cruise lines are not taking advantage of a captive audience. The passenger has an obligation to read and understand the terms and conditions of the cruise contract when they make the booking. It should be intuitively obvious to anyone that when you are on a cruise ship you are limited to what is offered and that you will be expected to follow the rules you agreed to when you booked. Nobody is forced to board a cruise at gunpoint.

Oh, and speaking of Celebrity....they now automatically charge each guest from $11.50 to $15 per day (depending on cabin category) for gratuities. And they have no age limit as to when it starts. This also doesn't include the bar staff.
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  #19 (permalink)  
Old 07-25-2010, 10:34 AM
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Of course they are taking advantage of a captive audience. They don't tell you anywhere in the contract language that their internet access speed is equivalent to 1998 dialup.

And they didn't say anywhere in my contract that they would charge $6.95 for 2 seconds on their phone either .. or that they would automatically round that 2:02 to three minutes. In fact they didn't even say that on the phone information card in the stateroom. They had to pull that tidbit out from under the desk at customer service, but not surprisingly it was already printed up on a little card in the office for those special occasions when someone like me questioned their insulting practice.

Sounds like I hit a nerve with you guys.
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  #20 (permalink)  
Old 07-25-2010, 12:12 PM
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Quote:
Sounds like I hit a nerve with you guys.
No. It's just that those of us with knowledge of the cruise industry understand these things.

Things such as internet speeds being conditional on satellite availability and location relevant to the ship's position. I've been on cruises where internet access was not available for great portions of time because of the ship's location and other factors. I've also had fast and slow connections. I don't board any cruise ship expecting cable or DSL speed. It is a technology that hasn't advanced much over the years regardless of the cruise line. Most of the lines use the same service provider for their satellite access.

You didn't like NCL. Sorry to hear it. They have posted record income and sales are at all time highs, so they must be appealing to lots of passengers who do enjoy the cruise product being offered.

I must also point out that our forum rules do not allow posts which are inflammatory or confrontational, such as those with insinuations about the tipping habits of other members, or the hitting of nerves. You may read the rules HERE
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