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DougK

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  1. The music venues, especially Lincoln Center. Much better than bland production shows. Tamarind--it's so nice to find a cruise line who understands there's more to fine cuisine than steak, seafood, and Italian.
  2. This is very odd. On our Amsterdam->Budapest cruise last year, Scenic had the bikes out and available for use at pretty much every stop, and the bikes were used quite a bit by passengers, for both short trips and longer excursions. This matches the description in their brochure, which says you can use the bikes to "discover on your own." I don't know why they weren't available on your cruise except for the one guided tour. We unfortunately missed the Melk->Durnstein bike excursion on our cruise because we were swapping ships that day due to low water levels. But we're booked on the Romantic Rhine & Moselle cruise for next year, and the itinerary says that during the Moselle cruise day there is an option for biking to Bernkastel instead of cruising during the afternoon, which I might do.
  3. I'm glad that HAL has been able to accommodate your needs--twice. But it seems to me that you should reconsider booking guarantee cabins in the future. The entire point of a guarantee is that you can end up with any cabin within that category (or higher). You should not assume that you will be able to switch cabins if you don't like your first assignment, whether or not it's due to your autism. If you need to get a cabin on a higher deck, you should book a cabin there to begin with.
  4. You've made a good argument for how the package will entice low-spending passengers to spend more, making the cruise line more money off them. But you've missed the flip side, which is that the package also entices high-spending passengers to spend less (by buying the package instead of going a la carte), which means the cruise line makes less money off them. Using the same drink example as above, unlike mr X who decides to skip the $6 beer, mr Y is willing to pay $6/beer, and still buys 6 of them a day (for total of $36). How much will mr X pay for the package? My guess is $15 or less, if he's only willing to pay $3/beer. So if the cruise line finds the package price has to be $15 or less in order to get mr X to buy it , then they're making more money than before from mr X ($15 vs. $0), but they're losing money on mr Y ($15 vs. $36). Plus their costs are higher, since both mr X and mr Y are likely to consume more than if they didn't have packages. So it's a very delicate balance on package pricing, based on estimates of how many passengers are like mr X and how many like mr Y. If they guess wrong, it's easy to see how it loses money for the cruise line. Many passengers, such as 3rdGenCunarder, will do the math, and only opt for the package if it saves them money. Is there any price that will serve to entice enough low-spenders to buy the package but not lose too much income from the high-spenders? I don't know. One indication to me is the current pricing of beverage packages, which is set high enough to IMO discourage all but high-spenders from buying them. Maybe this is seen only though my personal lenses, but I suspect most passengers don't drink enough cocktails a day to make the package worthwhile; it certainly isn't going to entice mr X, who isn't willing to pay $6 for one beer. The upshot is that as long as the package is an option, I don't think it solves the problem.
  5. I'm not sure this actually works as an escape from the box. Yes, it lets passengers avoid nickel and diming, but I'm not sure it answers the cruise line's dilemma. In fact, it might make it worse. Those passengers who do little onboard spending now will continue to book the cabin at the base fare (and possibly a loss to the cruise line). Those who do a lot of onboard spending will opt for the package if it saves them money (and thus is not as good for the cruise line). The only way this helps the cruise line is if it entices passengers who would not otherwise purchase things on board to sign up for the package, spending more than they otherwise would. Who knows? Maybe there are enough such passengers, but I wouldn't bet the farm on it.
  6. And this is exactly HAL's dilemma (as it is for all mass market lines). Although I'm not an insider and thus don't have the numbers, I strongly suspect that HAL does not make a profit based on the cruise fares alone. Instead, they're dependent on people spending money on board. In other words, the cruise fares may well not cover the costs to provide the cruise. Unfortunately, seasoned cruisers, such as us, often limit their onboard spending because, as you describe, they can find better value elsewhere. Which means that many of HAL's most loyal passengers may actually cost HAL money, not spending enough on board to make up for the low cruise fares they pay. Obviously, this isn't true across the board; many 5-star mariners to, in fact, spend freely on board. But, on average, I'm willing to bet that there is a strong and decreasing correlation between on board spending and number of cruises taken. So that leaves HAL in a tight spot, where they can neither afford to alienate loyal cruisers (and be unable to fill berths) nor to encourage them to fill berths at a loss to HAL. That explains moves such as slowly changing the loyalty system to incorporate on board spending, but that's only a tiny step. On a premium/luxury line which is largely or all inclusive, this dilemma doesn't exist. The line makes their profit mainly from their fares, so loyal cruisers are an undoubted benefit, providing profit each cruise--and thus worth rewarding. Decades ago, the mass market lines were similar; although there was some profit from onboard spending, there were many fewer opportunities for that, and the cruise fares themselves better reflected the actual costs of providing the cruise. But now they've boxed themselves into a corner with bargain basement fares, and a desperate need to find profit elsewhere. Which leads to the nickel and dime situation that we all hate. But there's no easy way out of this box; whichever mass market line tries to go first and raise cruise fares to actual costs is likely to see a huge loss of passengers.
  7. I've seen this said many times, but I don't really understand it. Sure, you're proofing only one charge slip against the final bill, but aren't you still proofing each drink slip against the beverage card itself? Doesn't it end up being the same amount of work?
  8. It was cheaper pre-boarding on a 7-day cruise on the NA in July. I made the mistake of waiting in expectation of an embarkation day special, but it ended up being significantly more expensive.
  9. I'll second the recommendation for Jayleen's Whale Watching. I went out with Captain Jayleen in July, and it was a wonderful trip on a small boat, captained by a woman who grew up in the area and has been driving boats since she was a young teenager. She knows her stuff, and her tour is longer than most, giving more time to locate and stay with whales.
  10. Thank you for posting this. It's good to see the actual words of a HAL representative. I still find it hard to consider something a policy when it's not communicated to passengers (e.g., in their FAQ, passenger documentation). But at least now I see where you are all coming from, and I apologize for questioning it.
  11. I *have* searched CC, and I fail to come up with anything. If it's so easy to find, why won't you post a link? My point remains the same. I'm a reasonably intelligent passenger, but I can't find any statement by HAL even when I diligently search for it. So what's the point of the "policy" if they don't communicate it to their passengers? I don't doubt that you firmly believe that HAL has a specific policy. But all you can point to is your memory of a single social media post from years ago. Surely you can understand why I might doubt that it's actually a policy. As I said before, if you can point me to the actual policy, I will gladly eat my words and apologize. But thus far, nobody has done so.
  12. That section clearly states that it applies to alcoholic beverages. It's entirely silent on the subject of nonalcoholic beverages, in either checked or carry-on luggage.
  13. I'm sorry, but I find it hard to accept a single post on social media as representing HAL policy. For that matter, nobody has has yet even given a link to that post. I'm not on FB and can't search for myself. But even if I could, what difference would it make? What's the point of a "policy" that isn't communicated to HAL's passengers? The mere fact that a few posters on Cruise Critic repeat this claim doesn't turn it into policy. If HAL actually had a policy (at least one that they cared about), they'd have it on their web site, or in passenger documentation, or somewhere that passengers would actually see it.
  14. As best I can tell, HAL does *not* have a policy saying that soda and water must be carried on. At least, it doesn't appear on their web site or in any passenger documentation, and when I've asked on this board before, nobody was able to point to the actual policy. If you can provide a pointer to such a policy, I'll gladly eat my words and apologize. But in the meantime, I have severe doubts that the policy exists. Perhaps it's a good idea not to check soda/water. But it's strange to me that it's only the HAL board where I've seen this argument, and boards for other cruise lines instead suggest checking in cases of water. The facilities for handling luggage are the same for all cruise lines, so why would extra care be needed only on HAL?
  15. Does anybody have experience with Scenic's cooking classes (Scenic Culinaire)? I've seen conflicting information about whether these are hands-on or just a demonstration. I've also seen something saying space is limited. How hard is it to get a place in these classes? I think this is something my wife might enjoy, but I'd like to know more details before I mention the possibility to her--don't want to raise hopes beyond what reality. Thanks much!
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