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Everything posted by DougK

  1. The question is where one draws the line. One could separate out every component of the cruise and charge separately: all meals a la carte, entertainment, use of loungers and pools, religious services, even housekeeping, and I'm sure the list goes on and on. For each of these, some passengers use them and others don't. For example, I haven't been in a pool other than a T-pool on a cruise ship for decades (if ever), rarely use loungers, rarely go to shows, don't go to religious services, am vegetarian so never have steak/lobster/etc., and would be fine with housekeeping only every couple of days. Yet I pay the same price as passengers who do all of those, so effectively I'm subsidizing them. Why shouldn't they subsidize my internet use in return? I think much of the draw of cruising traditionally has been its inclusiveness, where passengers don't pay separately for each item. Heck, look at the uproar on these boards when HAL experimented with a charge for second entrees--even though most people don't want/need them. Imagine the uproar if they started charging for each item on the menu, or for each show. Personally, I much prefer an all-inclusive system, even though it effectively means I subsidize other passengers who use more than I do--the simplicity and absence of constant upselling is a big attraction to me, and makes up for savings I would get from a true a la carte system. I think a lot of the distinctions between what is and isn't included in the base fare come more from history than from a logical difference between items. If one were starting fresh today, I suspect that internet usage would be considered as much a staple as production shows. But nobody is starting fresh; even new cruise lines have to deal with expectations of passengers based on past cruise lines.
  2. I agree on the reasoning; my point was just that one shouldn't expect good Internet on Alaska cruises. Virtually all of them go to Skagway or other inaccessible places, since the whole attraction of Alaska is the stark nature. On some days the Internet may be fine, but on others it will be bad. I personally found that to be pretty frustrating.
  3. My experience on the Nieuw Amsterdam this summer was much different. Internet was fine on some days, but very slow or nonexistent on others. I think the worst was around Skagway, where there was no connectivity at all.
  4. Some airlines, particularly European ones, don't allow free seat assignments until checkin. Lufthansa is one of those airlines, so the only way you can get your seats now is to pay for them. It has nothing to do with the fact you booked through Flight Ease.
  5. I agree with everybody who says that the statistics are infinitely malleable, as is the presentation, so it's not a particularly meaningful claim. But I'll add this question: Is it even the mark of a good line to have the highest repeater rate? Sure, on the one hand it can be viewed to mean that people are satisfied and want to come back. But on the other hand, it can also be viewed to mean that the line, either through its product or its marketing, does little to attract new cruisers--which in the long term means the line will fail. Perhaps it would be best if the line has a middle-of-the-road repeater rate...
  6. DougK


    This has been recently discussed on the Scenic roll call, and I think this is the consensus: 1) If you arrange your travel and any pre- or post-cruise hotels through Scenic, then transfers are included. 2) If you arrange your travel on your own, but arrive/leave the day of the cruise, then transfers are included. 3) If you arrange your travel on your own, and arrive one or more days early, or leave one or more days late, then transfers are not included. As an example, last year we went on a Scenic cruise, and arranged our own travel. We flew into Amsterdam a couple of days early, and did our own transfer to the hotel we stayed. (On embarkation day, the "transfer" from the hotel to the ship only involved walking around the corner. 😊). In Budapest, we flew out on disembarkation day, and Scenic provided the transfer to the airport. Although we don't have that status yet, my understanding is that when you become a Platinum repeat passenger, Scenic also starts including transfers between your home and airport on both ends of your travel.
  7. 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.
  8. 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.
  9. 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.
  10. 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.
  11. 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.
  12. 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.
  13. 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?
  14. 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.
  15. 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.
  16. 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.
  17. 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.
  18. 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.
  19. 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.
  20. 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?
  21. 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!
  22. This sounds a lot like arguments that TAs made back in the days when airlines first started to talk about cutting commissions. But airlines eventually called the TA bluff then, deciding that TAs weren't actually steering clients to them--clients were mainly choosing their own flights. I wonder if we're hitting the same point here. As I see it, there are three pots of passengers: those who book directly with the cruise line, those who choose their own cruise and use a TA primarily as an order taker (perhaps for perks), and those who use a TA to decide on a cruise. The first pot is most profitable for the cruise line; the last pot costs the cruise line more but potentially means more sales; and the middle pot is simply a cost for the cruise line with minimal benefit. At some point, if the relative size of the last pot shrinks, cruise lines are going to start cutting commissions, figuring that it's worthwhile to sacrifice the last pot (cruise-steering TAs) in order to move people from the middle pot (order-taking TAs) into the first pot (direct cruiseline sales). So the big question is the size of the last pot. How many passengers actually use a TA to decide which cruise to go on, let alone which cruise line? With so much information readily available today on the Internet, it seems to me like most passengers are making their own decisions about cruise lines. Even 25 years ago when I started cruising, I wouldn't have relied on a TA; instead I looked at other sources (at the time, primarily books). I honestly don't know what the breakdown is today, but I'm willing to bet it's shrinking, and shrinking fast. My guess is that older passengers are more likely to use a TA--but those passengers are also more likely to have cruised before and already know their preferences and aren't being steered by a TA. And younger passengers are more likely to do their research online. The upshot is that I wouldn't be at all surprised to see cruise lines cutting commissions to TAs within the next 10 years, and maybe much sooner.
  23. And here's an example of the terminology problem. By "entertainment," I'm guessing you mean on the main stage. But I'm willing to bet there was plenty of what I'd include in the category of "entertainment" in other venues on the ship, particularly various types of music.
  24. Everybody has different ideas of what "entertainment" is. For years, most cruise lines were similar, offering production music/dancing shows mixed in with comedians/magicians and the like on the main stage, and limited entertainment elsewhere (perhaps a piano player or small band in another lounge). For better or worse, HAL has broken with this model, putting all of its efforts into multiple smaller live-music venues. The production shows are gone, and although comedians/magicians are still around, some nights the main stage is empty or showing a movie. But the live-music venues are top notch with BB Kings, for a popular band, Billboard On Board for piano and singing, and Lincoln Center for quality classical music. For some people, this is a huge upgrade in entertainment; for others, it's considered a major cutback. I don't have any facts on this, but I strongly suspect there's a generational divide, with younger, first-time, short-trip cruisers being happier with the new format, and old-timers being disappointed. All I know for a fact is that on my recent 7-day Alaska Nieuw Amsterdam cruise, all of the live music venues were overflowing with passengers who seemed to be enjoying themselves. When I stuck my head in to the main stage shows, there were a lot of empty seats. Maybe it wouldn't have been that way with production shows, but I don't know. Personally, I quit going to almost any main stage shows on any line at least 15 years ago.
  25. Don't count on this. That was my plan on the Nieuw Amsterdam last month, and I was disappointed to discover that the price onboard (as soon as we embarked) was significantly higher than it had been if we had booked pre-cruise. IIRC, the online price had been $209 for a week-long couple's pass, but it was $279 onboard.
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