There was an article recently about what people felt were their most awkward financial moments.  Having a credit card rejected came in at number one.  It got me thinking about awkward moments I’ve had while cruising.

It was a HAL Eurodam cruise I took, during it’s inaugural season.  That week, a couple of things became apparent that made me feel awkward; probably would not affect many, but since I’m a Customer Experience person, they bothered me.

The first was when a crew member mentioned (to me) that the ship was sailing some 90 crew members short. We did not even ask for this information; he overheard us talking at a table in the buffet area.  We had a great time, but did experience some uncharacteristically sub-par service (by HAL’s standards).  It was good to know that the shortage is probably what contributed to how long things took that week.  However, I’m not quite sure it was right of the crew member to spill this information to passengers.  If we were told, I’m sure others were as well.  We never said anything, to anybody, about what we were told.

The second item was a different story, and made some of us feel uncomfortable.  A supervisor was loudly reprimanding a subordinate, also in the buffet area, in front of everybody!  This is a no-no, and behavior such as this should never take place in front of your customers; it can lend to poor perception. And, perception is everything!  This time, we did say something to the hotel director.  The director thanked us, and we actually received a letter later that evening!

Just as with an issue you may have with food in a restaurant, a situation which makes you feel uncomfortable should be reported to the proper department.  If it bothers you, it is probably affecting somebody else. Lastly, if the condition continues, and goes unreported, it may never improve.  Simply by doing this, you can directly have an affect on creating a positive experience not only for yourself, but for future cruisers!

IMG_1392No official word on NCL’s website, but after my iPhone 5’s last update, instructions on using the app onboard Breakaway appeared at the bottom of the “My Cruises” screen.  See the Screen Shot to the left, towards the bottom!

The iConcierge app, now on Epic, allows cruisers to see their folios, make reservations, communicate with others on board who have the app, check schedules of events and activities and more!  It will work for FREE using the ship’s wifi.  Since I use an iPhone, I canot confirm the same for Android based smartphones.

  • IMG_4719None of us will ever be around long enough to find out if the archival DVDs really last 100 years.  So, back up movies in multiple places, and in multiple formats!
  • Get a waterproof/water resistant/anti-shake camera (like a Hero).
  • Print your photographs that mean something to you.  Yes, I said print!!  A paper photo won’t “digitally disappear” due to a hard drive crash or network infiltration!  I’ve heard it too many times…people losing their collections of photos because of a hard drive failure, or even accidental deleting.
  • Bring extra media (SD cards) and batteries on your trip.
  • A device that works well in low-light situations (especially for capturing effective, in-ship video/photos)
  • A good time to get shots of the interior of the ship is before the masses have returned from a day ashore.
  • Remember your smartphones!  You can disable cell service and still use it as a still or video camera.
  • If you plan to purchase photos from the ship, find out ahead of time if there are special packages.  If you wait until check out, you may be unpleasantly surprised, causing a negative memory of your trip.
  • Research the ship and the destinations ahead of time; plan for your shots so you don’t miss anything!
  • Find out about policies in ships’ venues when an event is taking place.  If they say “no flash photography”, it doesn’t always mean that you cannot take a photo.  They may just not want the flash to be a distraction, especially with regards to safety of the performer(s).

MSC Divina rendering.

MSC Divina rendering.

Later this year, MSC will move to PortMiami for its Caribbean sailings.  MSC’s newest ship, the Divina, will call Miami its home beginning in the fall.  MSC signed a three-year deal with PortMiami.

The majority of MSC’s sailings take place overseas, and their presence in the U.S. is relatively light, compared to its competitors.  Figuring that many of you may be apprehensive about trying something new, we would like to share one of our follower’s experiences on the MSC line, just returning this past weekend:

We have just recently returned from a week cruise to the carribean (Antigua, San Juan and Nassau) on the MSC Poesia. I had read many bad reviews on cruise critic and was a little concerned prior to boarding the ship. I don’t know which ship those critics were on, but it wasn’t the Poesia. The ship itself is goregeous and spotless, the staff were courteous, especially our room attendant and dinner time servers. The cruise director and his staff were always getting cruisers involved with morning exercises and dance lessons, and the nightly shows were fabulous (very different from what you see on other lines). The costumes were elaborate. We had 2 opera singers, one torch singer, and gymnasts. We had late seating for dinner and went to the show at 7:30 p.m. which was very nice. Most ships have late seating diners eat first and then go to the shows at 10:00 p.m. or later. While it’s true that all announcements are made in 5 languages (English, French, Spanish, Italian and German), we didn’t feel it was a big issue (there was some criticism on cruisecritic. com about this). As a matter of fact, one day at lunch we sat with a husband and wife from the US who had lived in Italy, 2 sisters from Argentina and a husband and wife from Italy who didn’t speak English. We had the best time with these people. My husband spoke Spanish with the girls who then spoke Italian with the other couple and translated the Italian back into Spanish and then Leon would translate it into English for me. We highly recommend this ship.

To learn more about MSC Cruises in the U.S., click HERE.

Pilots do it, so why not cruise ship officers?  A safe cruise lends toward a Positive Cruise Experience for You!  This video is brief and explains a bit about what it is supposed to provide.  It’s also a really cool insight into the technology used today as well.  You may also recognize the person narrating…I think he was the first Captain of the Oasis of the Seas (I remember him from a documentary about the Oasis)…Captain Wright.  Click on the link below and enjoy:

The Centrum on Majesty of the Seas, sailing from Miami, 2014-2015, as part of RCCI's Short Cruise Program.

The Centrum on Majesty of the Seas, sailing from Miami, 2014-2015, as part of RCCI’s Short Cruise Program.

Today, Royal Caribbean announced its 2014-2015 Short Cruise Program.  If you live near a home port that has ships sailing short cruises, you may be in luck!

My wife and I take a short cruise (Friday-Monday) from time to time, mostly out of Miami.  They are great…we can work for part of the day Friday, and, if we must, can work most of the day on the Monday we return.  If…..we…..must!!  Sometimes, if we can sail last minute, the cost could be as low as a nice dinner, drinks and a show!  One time I recall our weekend cruise costing us (after taxes/fees) $139 per person.  Let’s see…dinner and drinks at a place like Ruth’s Chris Steakhouse, and a show at our local venue.  In one night, we could potentially spend over $300 for the dinner and show.  Don’t get me wrong…this is rare!!  But, for the purposes of comparing, we cruised for three nights, on an 80,000+ ton ship, for $278.

Click HERE for the full article on RCCI’s 2014-2015 Short Cruise Program.  And don’t forget to check on those last-minute weekend getaway deals!  Happy Cruising!

princessserverHave dining room services gone down hill, or does it just seem that way?  Did services suffer when gratuities became automatic?  I for one think that cruise ship dining room services are still several notches above average.  And yes, it may vary by cruise line, as the training does start from the top.  But, before you allow this aspect of a cruise affect your Cruise Experience, remember some of these factors:

Casual, schedule-free dining:  Did you choose the “old-school”, early/late seating, main dining room option?  It’s difficult for any server to get to know your dining and drinking habits when you have different servers, in different dining venues, at different times, each night.

While dining room talent is still excellent, cruise ships have grown in size and scope, and the number of ships per company seem to keep growing.  Fifteen to twenty years ago was a different story, and the top talent wasn’t spread as thinly as it is today.

Speaking of cruise ship size and scope, that alone makes it more challenging for the servers to perform perfectly, even if you sit with the same team every single night.  It’s simply more to do; more to remember; more to organize.  It is still incredible to think about how many people these teams serve every day.

The serving staff is multi-tasking more than ever before.  How often do you see your server from the dining room, during a different part of the day, at another dining venue…like the buffet?  Pretty often!  I realize we pay for our Cruise Experiences, but the servers are people too, and their duties are not easy!

I’m not making excuses for anybody…there are some servers that should be doing something else, somewhere else.  But there is no doubt that as dining options change, the services of today will always be different from the services and experiences of tomorrow.

Fitness Center on the NCL Epic.

HUGE Fitness Center on the NCL Epic.

I’ve often heard people say that they refuse to cruise because of all the food available and that they don’t want to miss a workout.  But, the dieting is usually the main excuse.  The truth is, a cruise can actually HELP somebody on a workout regimen, whether you are a hardcore bodybuilder, or just somebody looking to maintain your shape.  Even those of you looking to LOSE weight.

Whatever it is you are seeking to do, the best thing about a cruise is the most difficult aspect of maintaining a diet at home…food preparation.  On a cruise, you don’t have to prepare a thing…just seek it out or ask for it…as much as you want!  A cruise is perfect for several small meals a day, to keep your metabolism going…and it’s great for some quick protein right after a workout.  Just finish chest and biceps?  No problem, head up to the buffet area for some milk, or a piece of chicken (or some other protein).  Some of the

The spa cafe on the Allure of the Seas offered smoothies, protein shakes and healthy snacks and sandwiches.

The spa cafe on the Allure of the Seas offers smoothies, protein shakes and healthy snacks and sandwiches.

newer ships even have a health bar as part of their spa!  If you have the will power, a cruise certainly complements your workout diet and regimen!

If you are a “gym rat,” you won’t be disappointed by the options on today’s ships, including fitness centers that rival brick and mortar gyms in terms of size, equipment and group fitness options.  The size of the ship is also an ally; if you choose to do so, you can do a lot of walking!  Furthermore, don’t forget to skip the elevator rides and use the stairwells!

Contributor, Tore Berger

Contributor, Tore Berger

-contributor Tore Berger

On a cruise, you might want to relax with your favorite cocktail, beer, or maybe a glass of wine. What to drink? What about the selection? Why don’t they have this or that?

Today, most commercialized industries are partnering with other industries. On a cruise ship, it is common to have an agreement with one or two (sometimes three) large beverage distributors.  You need your basic wines, a main beer supplier, and you definitely need your base of liquor.  Most cruise companies have an annual point of meeting, with a selection of employees from here and there, and go through potential deals, needs, news, and wishes. You can never satisfy everybody, but you need to satisfy the most.  “Pouring brands”, the ones you use the most, are usually one of the difficult issues. The Beer supplier, and what select brands they have, is another. Wine is probably the one which makes the most discussion (at the planning meetings).

Trends – The restaurant menus – Pricing – Menu help – and of course, logistics, are key factors. You can’t have it all, you need to deal the best purchase prices, and you need to find a fine balance between that and the guests’ expectations and wishes.

The better prices and deals, the better prices for the consumer, the guests…you!

Logistics of course is equaled to price. The more, the better. It’s like that in all business, in all trades, in all companies. Sorry that we don’t always have your favorite rum, beer, wine, or maybe liqueur. But choose a professional cruise company, and I promise you that the beverage employees will help you out with an alternative. Ask the bartenders for your favorite cocktail! Ask the Sommelier (Wine steward) for his/her choice. Use the crew and their professionalism with any question concerning beverage. We can’t have anything, but we surely will help you out as best we can.

“A day without a good drink, is like a life without laughter…”

Norway greets you: Tore Berger