Friday This ‘n’ That – Cruising!

Last Friday, I talked a bit about how annoying I found microtransactions and the old upcharge. I was glad that Epic finally dropped the ridiculous 3D upcharge and hope that other chains will follow suit. please pardon me but today is just a bit of a gripe session about cruising.

I was on a wonderful cruise with my wife and friends the other week. Microtransactions are ruining the traditional cruise experience. The entire idea of cruises was that you could pay one, admittedly large, price, bring your bags aboard, and everything was taken care of, from wonderfully fancy meals to entertainment to incredible destinations. Between the hefty cruise fee and the casino winnings, cruise ships made a bundle and proliferated.

Unfortunately, greed is both terrible and unavoidable. As cruise lines grew and destinations were snatched up, the industry not only widely expanded their line of shore excursions but began inventing their own beach parties and buying their own private islands. I did not find this disturbing as it meant that I got to see countries off the otherwise beaten path. In this last case, we got to visit Roatan in Honduras and Belize City, Belize.

In their relentless quest to suck every last dollar out of you, the cruise lines introduced specialty restaurants on board ship. You could still eat at the buffet or enjoy fine dining in the main dining room but now you had the ability to pay a $10-$50 per person surcharge to eat at a steakhouse or international restaurant (French, Italian, Japanese, Brazilian, etc.).

In itself, this doesn’t sound like a bad idea. You can pay extra for a premium experience or continue as you were. Sadly, the reality is that as resources were focused on these new money generators, the other food was left to, well, rot I suppose. The buffets rapidly declined to Shoney’s/Denny’s quality food.

This however was nothing compared to the beating that the main dining experience received. First off the main dining experience was lobster, a cruising tradition. It is now a $10-$20 surcharge even in the main dining rooms but also in some of the upscale restaurants, so you pay a surcharge on top of a surcharge. The next to go were decent steaks, especially actual filet mignon. If you could get a really good steak at the main dining room, why would you pay another $30 per person (Norwegian’s Cagney) to get one at the steakhouse? The super fancy desserts are now reserved for the upscale experiences as well.

I had an absolutely wonderful vacation but I have to say that at times it was in spite of Norwegian Cruise Lines instead of because of them. I’m not sure I would ever sail with them again (many many other problems other than what I talk about here) but the other cruise lines have also declined in quality (Celebrity, Royal Caribbean, etc.) because of the specialty restaurants.