Cruise Line, for a Change!
Normally I wouldn’t even think of writing such an article for my viewers, but after due reflection (with my thoughts) about the subject I decided that it was more a duty to report facts, and to do my part in promoting cruise industry information to the cruising public. While I truly endeavor to refrain from painting bleak pictures, nor coming off sounding like I am whining about my chosen profession. I am sure about one thing. Which is, that cruise business across the boards are being impacted, some more than others. But as for me and others like me (being located in the greater southwest), which would appear to have had more than our fair share of hard, I see a ray of sunshine.
It’s no wonder what with a downed economy, worries over Mexican cartel reprisals, and concerns about increased port fees after the Panama Canal project is completed, and then there was the Costa Concordia disaster that we are seeing a real slump in the California cruise market. Even though there are three ports in California, pretty much most of the west coast cruise traffic has chosen to make home at southern, or east coast ports, or elsewhere other than for a presence in Seattle and Vancouver for the Alaska Season (which is pretty much the April to October time frame). So for the most part California has become a virtual Cruiseship ghost town. All of which having left us (agents and customers alike), with many changes by and from the cruise lines that have basically relegated the need to work a lot harder, while earning less, and incurring increased fees. But then so is everybody else these days! Right?
Even though times are at their toughest, one cruise company has stepped forward from the pack to try to make things better for me and for my cruise customers. While there are several cruise lines that like to say or promote that they help, none have truly made a real effort to make it happen, until recently with NCL Norwegian Cruise Lines.
Initially a couple of years ago, I saw NCL begin to make a welcome change in their “thinking” process and not just to their policies. They chose to refer to me as their “partner” rather than an “outside” something or other. They have continually and religiously stayed in communications in bringing to me their monthly meetings with their key management team and regionalized product familiarizations. They also have made great strides in making improvements in the way we conduct business with each other, “simplifying” processes and generating new ideas and areas of support where possible to make things better and easier for us to effectively do a better job for our customers. In short, they have not only listened, but they have taken what they have been hearing from folks like myself, and most importantly from their cruise customers as well, and actually have done something about it. I like to call it responsive management. What a novel idea!
It has been in years gone by NCL was just a quiet little cruise line that folks didn’t give too much thought to as they were such a small percentage of the cruise market. Years ago even though they were small they brought about some fundamental changes to the way they cruised being the first to introduce the concept of “anytime dining”. Which, lead to other innovations in the regimented and formalized mentality of the cruise industry as to just how a cruise should be, which they referred to as “Freestyle” cruising, with more options so the customer could cruise with their pleasure and comfort in mind, as opposed to the wants and perceptions of the cruise line mentality. This concept has grown in popularity so greatly over the years, that every other cruise line has adopted almost all of their innovative thinking and incorporated it into changes made to their own way of doing things as well. That should tell you something right there!
Norwegian Cruise Line has been committed to providing one of the youngest fleets of modernized vessels in the industry today, with more spacious and refined staterooms, and an upgraded style and service level of suite accommodations, as well as to enhancing their public areas onboard ship, with some new ideas like offering “studio” staterooms for those cruising alone. While this was not a new concept to the cruise industry, it was certainly a new idea to the North American cruise culture. NCL will soon have these staterooms on her three largest ships Epic (130 rooms already), as well as the soon to be launched Breakaway, and Getaway with the present thinking of incorporating such rooms into their upcoming fleet renovations. Again something other cruise lines are not even thinking about, let alone making it happen. Way to go NCL!
Also, you have to truly experience their Freestyle Cruising which is cruising the way you want to, or as you would please! I strongly recommend you check out my recent reviews of the “Epic”, (click here to see) and the soon to come “Breakaway” (click here to read about it) and “Getaway” ships to gain more insight into the changes they have made. “Ice Bars” (the only one at sea) with more firsts yet to come. More specialty restaurants, and a new program where they offer several different specialty dining packages that allow you to sample at least three of their specialty dining venues for just $47 which historically has been about the price of a single visit on many other cruise lines. I also appreciate the continuation of NCL’s special One Day and Weekend Sales offerings. Just some more ways NCL helps in stretching your cruise dollar which is a big winner in my book!
NCL offers a top-notch entertainment experience for all cruise passengers. With a special emphasis on children offering some of the best in recreation, and play activity areas aboard ship today. Speaking of things for the younger set, NCL is great in their planned youth activities, which is segregated into five unique age appropriate groupings, of up to 2, 3-5, 6-9, and 10-12 with their Nickelodeon and Hilario (Cirque Du Jour) children’s programs. Offering interactive workshops, and a Kid’s Center. There is even a 13-17 age group called “Teens Entourage” providing organized and supervised sporting and themed events as well as their fully equipped Teen Center. And, should Mom and Dad choose to take a shore excursion, or late night out alone, NCL offers two wonderful kids programs which they call Port Play, and Late Night Fun Zone. Nice that someone is thinking about giving parents some time alone too! One of the newest additions I am happy to talk about is that on many cruise lines other than water and iced tea there may not be too much selection in the form of “free beverages” that are suited for kids taste, but on NCL they have introduced Lemonade, Tropical Mango, and Strawberry Kiwi flavored beverages to help parents to be able to curb those costly soda charges which is something I am most happy to see. Keep it up NCL!
Actually, there is so much that’s new and improved that it is really difficult to try to include everything here. If you haven’t ever been on a Norwegian Cruise, or it’s been a while since you have; you really should give them a try, as their customer satisfaction surveys prove out, they are the best when it comes to customer satisfaction, which is no accident for sure. You have to really not only want something a lot, but to actually succeed in doing things better than others in order to be the voted best at it. I am in particular, a stickler when it comes to value for your cruise dollar, and am happy to say here that Budget Travel Magazine has named NCL their 2012, readers’ choice award for “Best Cruise Line”. Take it from me! Why not consider taking your next cruise with a cruise company that is not only focused on the future, but to genuine customer service and satisfaction. Why not make it an NCL Cruise for a change! Happy Cruising!! – CruisewithMike
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