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booklady26

Email to NCL Customer Service

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In the wake of NCL's new liquor pricing, I sent the following email to their Customer Service. As you can see, my dissatisfaction goes beyond no longer being able to drink my vodka of choice. The new policy is just one more manifestation of their corporate greed.  Maybe if enough people voice their opinion to the company, or better yet, choose not to sail with them, things may change. On the other hand, they may not give a crap, which is far more likely. Either way, it did feel good to hit the send key.

 

Dear NCL Customer Service,

 

My husband and I are currently booked on the 2/23/19 sailing on the Norwegian Bliss. We are Platinum Plus Latitudes members, having taken 20 cruises with NCL. We are also NCL shareholders.

 

In the past few years there has been a steady erosion of onboard offerings and a steady increase in additional charges. We have accepted these changes and have continued to cruise with NCL. We always felt that you offered a good value for your product, in spite of the changes. However, after the latest changes to the Ultimate Beverage Package, which will be in effect for our Bliss cruise, we are seriously rethinking about any future cruises with NCL.

NCL is no longer in step with its competitors. The product offered has been skinnied down and the upcharges and service charges far exceed those charged by lines such as Celebrity, Princess, Royal Caribbean and MSC. Base cruise prices are also no longer as competitive as they once were, making the overall cost to the consumer much higher. I will cite some specific examples:

BEVERAGE PACKAGE

I’ll start with it since this is the most recent change and the most contentious, based on the recent postings on the Cruise Critic website.

If chosen as a perk, a service charge of 20% of the total package price must be paid. Based on the outrageous current price of $99 per day/per person, this is a charge of $277.20 for 2 people. This includes any alcoholic beverages up to $15, which NO LONGER INCLUDES brands such as Grey Goose and Belvedere vodkas, single malt scotch such as Glenmorangie, as well other premium brands of bourbon, whiskey, gin and liqueurs which had previously been included in your package. Cruise lines such as Celebrity, Princess and Holland America do not charge service fees when chosen as a perk. If one chooses to purchase a package when sailing on these lines, the cost ranges from $60-$70 per day per person with an additional service charge of a maximum of 18%. The beverage packages on these lines includes the aforementioned premium brands, as well as bottled water, fresh squeezed juices and specialty coffees, such as cappuccino, latte and espresso, all of which are excluded from the NCL packages. So, not only do you charge more, you provide less.

 

TAX ON PURCHASES IN PORT

NCL charges sales tax on purchases made while in port, such as beverages bought in Florida or New York embarkation ports. I don’t have problem with the tax charge as such, but I have never been charged this on any other cruise line. In fact, while on our last cruise on the Epic in November, we were still being charged tax for a glass of wine at dinner, which was at 7:30. We had sailed at about 4:00PM and we were told that the ship had not yet reached international waters, but noted that the casino and gift shops had already been open for some time. It made me wonder if the state of Florida was actually collecting this tax or was it just another money maker for NCL. 

 

SPECIALTY DINING

NCL is the only cruise line which charges a service fee on both dining packages and fixed or ala carte priced meals. In fact, some lines such as Celebrity & Royal Caribbean specify that the per person charge in the specialty restaurants includes gratuity. You charge 20% additional, even when a dining package is selected as a perk. In the past few years, you have also removed more popular items from the various specialty restaurants such as lobster, ribeye steak, Dover sole, rack of lamb and roast duck. Many of these items are offered in main dining rooms on select nights on other cruise lines free of additional charge.

 

SHORE EXCURSIONS

We’ve  cruised often enough (71 total cruises) on just about every major cruise line (top or near top status on Celebrity, RCCL, Princess and MSC among others) and know that we pay a premium for the convenience of an excursion offered by the ship. We have also done excursions on our own and know just how much that premium can be. But we do pay it willingly when we choose to book a cruise sponsored excursion. But NCL’s prices are often considerably higher for the same excursions offered on other cruise lines. For example, on our recent cruise on the Epic, in Jamaica, there was a VIP excursion to Bamboo Beach Club offered at a price of $109 per person. Earlier in the year, we took this same excursion on a Princess cruise for $79. This was also the price for this excursion last week on our MSC cruise. That’s a $60 price difference for 2. In comparing excursions on our upcoming Bliss cruise with other lines, your price is generally at least $20 higher per person. Let’s face it, we know cruise lines make money on shore excursions, but NCL seems to be gouging its passengers.

 

I could go on with more comparisons, such as your Haven experience versus MCL’s Yacht club. We have done both and would never do The Haven again but will always do the Yacht Club on MSC, who offers a far superior experience for several thousand dollars less with 30% lower service charges with butler and concierge services included. AND YACHT CLUB GUESTS CAN GET PREMIUM ALCOHOLIC DRINKS WITH NO UPCHARGE THROUGHOUT THE SHIP.  In my opinion, upcharges for premium liquor for Haven guests is an insult to them. I can’t put that any plainer.

 

We have been cruising for 38 years and have seen many changes take place, some good, some not so good. However, we have always accepted the changes as the “new normal” in cruising. What used to be included is no longer free, but ships are more expansive and offer so many more amenities to guests, so it’s a trade we’ve been willing to make.

 

But the latest change to your beverage package was really the proverbial straw that has broken this camel’s back. In the past few years, you have chipped away at what you offer your guests and charge them more money for the privilege of depleting their vacation experience.

 

Both of us also spent many years in the business world before retiring and know that the ultimate goal of any company is to make money, especially when you have shareholders to answer to. We are also NCL shareholders, but do not believe that turning a profit should come at the expense of shortchanging your customers. There also comes a time when some companies go from a desire to be profitable to being just plain greedy and we think that NCL is now crossing that line.

 

We will have to think very hard about booking another NCL cruise when we can get a superior product on another cruise line, often for less money.

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Good! I wish more people would send them emails like this including myself. You have every right to express your dissatisfaction and to take your business elsewhere. The new beverage upgrade costs are simply ridiculous and I’d bet there will be very very few people if any that will pay for the upgrade to premium at the high prices they are asking. 

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Very well written letter, but I doubt it will have any effect. Their pricing policy is ridiculous. I can't afford the Haven, but the fact that they even charge the the Haven passengers the service charge on the UDP is just gouging. After 2 recent cruise on NCL, and biting the bullet on the UDP, I, too, can't see spending my money on a line that has ONLY bottom line, not the passengers, intheir sights.By the way, I'm booked on the MSC Seaside in the YC for 2 for under $4500.00. This is for an outside balcony. If you go inside, it's about $1000.00 less.

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56 minutes ago, booklady26 said:

TAX ON PURCHASES IN PORT

NCL charges sales tax on purchases made while in port, such as beverages bought in Florida or New York embarkation ports. I don’t have problem with the tax charge as such, but I have never been charged this on any other cruise line.

 

Carnival Cruises sail out of New York and there is a tax on alcohol when purchased on board the ship until it reaches international waters. The same thing happens when Carnival sails out of Texas. Royal Caribbean is the only cruise line that i read about that has no alcohol port tax during embarkation day 

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Does make you feel better.  I did it a few years ago.  Eventually got a reply back from Andy.  It was pretty much a packaged public relations response saying what a valued customer I was and what a value an NCL cruise is.   

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Its a nice gesture but unfortunately its not going to accomplish anything.  If a bunch of people cancelled their cruise, then maybe.  Until bookings drop, NCL will continue to push the envelope to find more revenue.   NCL cares more about NEW cruisers, not the experienced ones that know the cruising game.  As long as new cruisers continue to book, expect things to stay the same.

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4 minutes ago, david_sobe said:

Its a nice gesture but unfortunately its not going to accomplish anything.  If a bunch of people cancelled their cruise, then maybe.  Until bookings drop, NCL will continue to push the envelope to find more revenue.   NCL cares more about NEW cruisers, not the experienced ones that know the cruising game.  As long as new cruisers continue to book, expect things to stay the same.

And....67% filled already for 2019.....they say.  Regarding marketing, I have a local nephew who is a lawyer and a big housing land lord in the area.  I have an aircraft hanger at the local airport that I rent.  Hangers are very much in demand with a big waiting list.  As such, my nephew can't imagined why I'm not paying much more because of the demand, more revenue for the city that owns them.  He says it should be a case of the city raising, raising, raising rental rates until they finally are not getting rented, and then keep it right at that level.   Unfortunately, my nephew, from a business perspective, is absolutely right.  And that is what NCL is probably doing.  That's business and profits.  And you're right...new cruisers is what it is all about...not us.   

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Letters, like the one posted, that are long and full of inaccuracies go directly to the deleted folder. If you are going to complain and compare to other lines and changes make sure you are accurate.

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Everything you say is true!  But I don’t think it will change anything.  I wrote an email a few months ago and was called, but the representative was very rude and basically said nothing could be done.  I then sent a mailed letter to NCL and never even heard back from them.  They definitely have gone down hill and don’t care about their customers.  After this cruise we will not be cruising on a NCL again!  I’m glad you took the time to write to them.

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Writing a proper complaint letter is almost an art...and something that most people can't/won't do.

 

A glaring problem with your letter is the final statement:

"We will have to think very hard about booking another NCL cruise when we can get a superior product on another cruise line, often for less money."

 

You are making the case that other cruise lines offer a superior product for less money. Which begs the question, why on earth are you not cruising with them? You shouldn't have to think very hard about it...superior product, less money...EASY decision.

 

The fact that you care enough about NCL to want to write the letter, that you are still considering them (even though the competition offers a superior product for less money), the fact you care about NCL to even post your thoughts to Cruise Critic...all signs that you WANT to sail NCL.  That is not going to cause worry/concern with NCL management.

 

What WILL cause worry/concern is when loyal customers simply walk away, sail with the competition, and not say one word about it. That is a lost customer.

 

The person who is "thinking very hard about it" is someone who still wants to be the customer of a line with an inferior product for a higher price...just makes no logical sense.

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To me the key issue is "bait & switch".  People who booked the cruise/UBP before the price increase were entitled to the "now-upcharged" brands as an inclusion.  Now they are an exclusion.  Given that NCL's language says "we can change anything, any time" but it STILL gives the appearance of bait & switch.  And - if the bars truly run out of the "no-upcharge" brands, as was said in another thread, so there is no "included" option, that makes it much worse to me.  It's one thing if us non-picky folks can switch brands - Ketel One is fine with us - but it's another thing entirely if UBP becomes like the $50 excursion credit - there is no "free" option.  And what's worse, of course, is all of us have paid hundreds in "gratuity" (which is at this point, getting close to what the cost of the UBP was several years ago) and don't expect to have to pay still more for "normal" brands!

 

DH and I love the Haven product, but OP's comments about MSC are making it worth my while to investigate MSC's offering to see if we might like it, and to do some price comparisons for some itineraries we are considering.  And, if we end up booking MSC instead of NCL because of this type of thing, I WILL post here that I did it, and why.

 

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As a former business owner all feedback was valuable to me. However it was the short and to

the point letters that I read all the way through. The thing I do not like about the beverage package

is that if a couple is sailing and one does not drink alcoholic beverages and does not like

soft drinks or mocktails they still make that person get the package if the other cabin occupant

gets it.

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Booklady26

Thank you, that was a great email! 

Edited by vicnsue

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1 hour ago, shof515 said:

 

Carnival Cruises sail out of New York and there is a tax on alcohol when purchased on board the ship until it reaches international waters. The same thing happens when Carnival sails out of Texas. Royal Caribbean is the only cruise line that i read about that has no alcohol port tax during embarkation day 

 

We don't sail Carnival, so I could not have known that. But their Princess brand does not charge tax.

 

Within the past few years, we have sailed chiefly NCL, Celebrity, Princess, RCCL, MSC &  both out of NY & Florida ports and have only been charged tax on NCL.

 

Also, I was really more irked about being charged tax more than 3 hours after sailing when the casino and shops had been open for quite some time. 

 

PS - sorry is my post was too long, but I choose to be as specific as possible rather than shorten it by making broad generalizations. And yes, I did do research about charges on various cruise lines. One response said that my post was full of inaccuracies. Other than the tax issue, everything else was either based on careful research or personal experience.

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Complements to the poster. 

NCL need reminding that the customer can spend money anywhere.

Lots of choice on the cruise market 

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I totally agree with everything said in this letter. I also agree with those who say NCL is not concerned with how happy their guests are, as long as the ships keep sailing full, although I hope you have better luck than I did. I sent a letter at the end of September to NCL corporate. It was regarding the fact that my itinerary was changed three times, and on the second change I was not only not notified, but when I called NCL to question the possibility of a change (because I suspected another switch), I was told that everything was status quo. My original letter was ignored, so I sent a copy of the original, along with a tersely worded follow-up letter, about two months later. The second letter elicited a phone call, where they claimed to have never received the original letter, claimed I was sent notice for all three changes, somewhat apologized for the number of itinerary changes, but still could not tell me a specific reason for the second and third changes. They simply said "berthing conflict", which is outrageous since the problem was that they scheduled two ships to dock at the same time at Harvest Caye, an island they built, and therefore know full-well it does not accommodate two ships simultaneously. Anyway, it was quickly obvious that my letter had fallen on deaf ears, so I ended the phone call.

 

When I started sailing NCL they seemed to be very customer-service oriented, and were still turning a nice profit. Over the past two to three years, or around the time Frank Del Rio took over, I noticed a dramatic switch to a financial focus, often at the expense of customer satisfaction. Complaints on public forums seem to have tripled, and contact with corporate often gets you nowhere. In fact, the most generous corporate responses seem to be when people go to the media with their complaints, even when they aren't particularly valid, so maybe that is the answer. Anyway, please let us know if/when you receive a reply from NCL. I'd be curious to hear what they have to say.

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1 hour ago, erdoran said:

 

DH and I love the Haven product, but OP's comments about MSC are making it worth my while to investigate MSC's offering to see if we might like it, and to do some price comparisons for some itineraries we are considering.  And, if we end up booking MSC instead of NCL because of this type of thing, I WILL post here that I did it, and why.

 

We sailed the MSC  Seaside this past April because of rising prices and nickel and diming. It was a phenomenal cruise at a phenomenal price. Even with their premium drink package ( best we’ve ever had at sea) it was a better deal than anyone else could offer. MSC didn’t disappoint, that’s for sure. Go for it! 

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Here's the thing - unless people vote with their wallets nothing will change.  As long as someone - newbies are just fine - is willing to pay NCL for a cruise and their ships keep filling up, there IS no incentive to change.  

 

Look at how frequently Disney raises costs for park tickets, dining plan, etc, etc - and the parks are still jammed.

 

That's business, folks!  We are all entitled to our opinions, but ultimately, the only way to effect change is to vote with our wallets and let the vendor know WHY we are no longer doing business with them.

 

Does the beverage price increase/increased out of pocket justify changing cruise lines?  Does higher prices?  Or is it an annoyance (like charging tax on drinks in port - I did think that bit about charging tax when the casino and DUTY FREE shop were open is pretty blatant) but not a deal-breaker?  It's up to each of us if the good outweighs the bad.

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3 hours ago, erdoran said:

To me the key issue is "bait & switch".  People who booked the cruise/UBP before the price increase were entitled to the "now-upcharged" brands as an inclusion.  Now they are an exclusion.  Given that NCL's language says "we can change anything, any time" but it STILL gives the appearance of bait & switch.  And - if the bars truly run out of the "no-upcharge" brands, as was said in another thread, so there is no "included" option, that makes it much worse to me.  It's one thing if us non-picky folks can switch brands - Ketel One is fine with us - but it's another thing entirely if UBP becomes like the $50 excursion credit - there is no "free" option.  And what's worse, of course, is all of us have paid hundreds in "gratuity" (which is at this point, getting close to what the cost of the UBP was several years ago) and don't expect to have to pay still more for "normal" brands!

 

DH and I love the Haven product, but OP's comments about MSC are making it worth my while to investigate MSC's offering to see if we might like it, and to do some price comparisons for some itineraries we are considering.  And, if we end up booking MSC instead of NCL because of this type of thing, I WILL post here that I did it, and why.

 

I've been very loyal to NCL, mainly because of the UBP package and no limits etc....

 

I have booked a cruise on MSC for this April....Seaside out of Miami, Eastern Caribbean....balcony cabin, non YC....the price was much better and included a base alcohol package and internet.  I am voting with my wallet, going to see how I like MSC.    I was looking at NCL...I don't book way ahead...just made final payment yesterday.  Only reserved it 10 days or so ago.  

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1 hour ago, tallnthensome said:

We sailed the MSC  Seaside this past April because of rising prices and nickel and diming. It was a phenomenal cruise at a phenomenal price. Even with their premium drink package ( best we’ve ever had at sea) it was a better deal than anyone else could offer. MSC didn’t disappoint, that’s for sure. Go for it! 

Good to hear..I am looking forward to sailing on her in April.  

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I status matched to black on MSC and have booked YC for May.

 

As a previous NCL Haven guest, I went from loyal to looking after Del Rio took over.  Besides my Haven costs I always had a ton of onboard costs and I was an exceptional tipper over and above the DSC.  I find the "Priceline-esque" bid system an insult to those of us who book suites outright.

 

Doubt they have missed me though.

 

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Those of you switching to MSC, what do they have that's comparable to the Haven area?  That's our biggie - DH likes the "ship within a ship" concept, the private restaurant/bar, uncrowded pool & hot tub.

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