It seems Bermuda has a plan; one which it hopes will help lure additional amounts of cruise ships to visit the beautiful island.

Next time, there will be people in this photo!

Next time, there will be people in this photo!

In their most recent attempt at allowing cruise ships’ casinos to open while in port, the Bermuda Cruise Ship (Casino) Act 2013 passed last October. On-board casinos can now operate between 9pm and 5am, in return for a license fee per ship payable to the Bermuda Government. Smaller ships, with a passenger capacity not exceeding 2,000, would not be charged the fee. It is interesting because Bermuda has seen a decline in attracting smaller, high-end cruise ships. The Parliament feels the exemption would encourage more visits.

Bermuda from above!

Bermuda from above!

At the same time, Bermuda does not want to discourage the larger, newer vessels; ships like the forthcoming Quantum-class of Royal Caribbean, for example. In the news recently, Parliament is investigating ways in which narrow channels can be widened to enable mega-cruise ships to visit Bermuda. In order to allow bigger liners access, Parliament is considering realigning either the North or South Channel or upgrading the existing route of the South Channel.

Whether you are a fan of mega-ships or not, the real news here is the fact that Bermuda is open to all of this. In past years, Bermuda has had some of the most stringent policies regarding what cruise companies may and may not do while visiting. It seems the  Bermuda Cruise Ship (Casino) Act is a sign of things to come.

Contributor, Tore Berger

Contributor, Tore Berger

In today`s world of professionalism, most of us know what we want, what we like, and we let our demands be heard. When we go on a cruise, and into a bar, it tends to be the same way. We know, we want, and we demand!

A bartender is like any other profession: service; knowledge of the trade; small talk by the counter; seeing the guests; and knowledge of the bottles.

Berger’s law:

A bartender is a person which the guests seek. In the opposite of a waiter, the bartender is standby at the bar counter.  That can be demanding, but also giving. People seek You, the professional, the bartender.

  1. A bartender knows all his/her bottles and what they are.
  2. A bartender knows about the production of all his bottles.
  3. A bartender welcomes all his guests, and sees them.
  4. Knowledge of alcohol law is always at it’s place.
  5. The bartender knows about alcohol limits, potential dangers, and effects.
  6. A bartender uses small talk effectively, both for pleasure and for checking the guests status.
  7. The bartender knows his bar menu, and a lot of international cocktails.
  8. A bartender always has a design cocktail for You!
  9. If the guest is having a bad day, the bartender has a solution!
  10. A bar professional can cheer me up.
  11. The bartender is always a listener.
  12. A bartender is never the same…

Like Isaac from “Love Boat”, or like Sam in “Cheers,” the bartender is your friend and guest host during a cruise. Ask him for your favorite cocktail. Ask him for something special. Ask him for his favorite. The bar menu is just the ABC’s, it is the rest that separates the pro from the others. “Cheers,” cruise lovers, and have a “cocktail dreams” next cruise!

“It’s not the mixing which is the difficult part, but to be a bartender…”

Greetings from the sea: Tore Berger

Shops of St. Thomas, USVI.

Shops of St. Thomas, USVI.

The debate goes on with regards to cruise passengers’ feelings about the ever-increasing amounts of “specialty charges” on board most major cruise ships.  One thing is for sure…numbers don’t lie!  A recent study (conducted by the Business Research & Economic Advisors (B.R.E.A.) for the Florida-Caribbean Cruise Association) shows decreases in Average Percentage of Passengers Making Purchases at 21 (survey) participating ports of call in the Caribbean.  In my opinion, it is pretty clear that as passengers partake of an increased number of on-board activities (costing money), it is less likely that they will spend more on land.  Here are the stats as compiled by the B.R.E.A. (2008/09 Cruise Year, 2011/12 Cruise Year):

  • Watches & Jewelry: 18.1%, 17.0%
  • Taxis/Ground Transportation: 23.3%, 18.5%
  • Clothing: 40.0%, 40.1%
  • Local Crafts & Souvenirs: 48.5%, 46.7%
  • F&B at Restaurants & Bars: 41.5%, 45.8%
  • Shore Excursions: 56.6%, 56.1%
  • Other Purchases: 22.2%, 20.0%

The net result was a slight decline of 0.8 percent in the average weighted expenditure of cruise passengers during the 2011/2012 year to $97.12 per passenger visit, from $97.93 per passenger visit in the 2008/2009 cruise year.  Interesting of note is that while the average amount of passengers who made purchases decreased, the dollar amount per purchase, per passenger, increased!  Seems those who are shopping are spending greater amounts while in port!

Happy Cruising and Happy Fathers Day everybody!

Nassau's Atlantis, as seen from the deck of Royal Caribbean's Allure of the Seas.

Nassau’s Atlantis, as seen from the deck of Royal Caribbean’s Allure of the Seas.

The Florida-Caribbean Cruise Association, in its most recent report on Economic Contribution of Cruise Tourism, lists The Bahamas as Number One in “Total Cruise Tourism Expenditures” (2011-2012 Cruise Year) with a total of $393.8 (U.S.) million.  While many of the ships calling in The Bahamas dock in Nassau, this total encompasses all ports of call in The Bahamas.

St. Maarten ($356.2 million), The U.S. Virgin Islands ($339.8 million), Puerto Rico ($186.6 million) and The Cayman Islands ($157.7 million) round out the top five.  Together, the top five accounted for 72 percent of the total cruise tourism expenditures among the 21 destinations.  The bottom two were St. Vincent and The Grenadines ($3.0 million) and Nicaragua ($2.0 million).

All destinations combined totaled $1,990.0 million.

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!

Cruise lines have different policies with regards to bringing liquor and wine on board.  Some ban it altogether, while other lines allow certain amounts.  Although I am a cruising veteran, I did not do my homework before our 2011 cruise on the Allure of the Seas.

It was already several hours after boarding and we were still missing one piece of luggage.  We thought it was either lost, or the tag came off, so therefore being held.  We “heard” that we were allowed “one bottle per passenger,” so we didn’t think there were any other issues.  We came back from eating to find a note in our stateroom, indicating that we needed to go to deck 1 (I think) to pick up our bag.  That’s when it hit us…they knew to contact us, so we then realized it had to be the booze!  So, we headed to the elevator bays that went to that depth of the ship.

A couple of decks down the elevator stopped and a man walked in.  He saw we were going to deck 1, and apparently he was too.  He asked, “booze or iron?”  I said, “booze, you?”  “Iron,” he said.  We both played along, and at the same time, he, my wife and I just looked down in shame, slightly shook our heads, and then shared a laugh.  When we saw each other two other times during the week, we would just bow our heads in shame as we walked by, before greeting! Ah, the elevator ride of shame!

So, enhance your cruise experience and do your homework before you set sail!  Here is a link for alcohol “smuggling” guidelines for many of the major cruise lines.

How Victoria looked when we arrived during our 2009 Alaskan Cruise.

How Victoria looked when we arrived during our 2009 Alaskan Cruise.

My wife Cathy and her girlfriend are in Seattle as I write this, a girl get-a-way!  Today, they took a ferry to Victoria, British Columbia.  We went to Victoria, together, during our Alaskan Cruise (also out of Seattle) in 2009.

I was psyched; I heard how beautiful Victoria was, and everybody told me…make sure you check out Butchart Gardens.  I’m a control freak, and normally as organized as anybody.  I’m not sure what happened in 2009, but I did not do my homework.  I did not realize how late we would be arriving into Victoria, and that it was the “token foreign port stop” during the cruise (Alaska, of course, was all U.S.A.).  Well, we arrived even later than advertised, it was dark, we only had four hours, and, the Gardens were closed!

Today, Cathy and her friend took the Victoria Clipper Ferry from Seattle to Victoria, and are also headed to the Gardens.  The high-speed ferry takes about 2:40 hours from port to port, and averages $145 per person, round trip.  I wish we had the time after the cruise in 2009.  Hope you enjoyed the trip babe!

Grenada_1

Our impressions at ports of call, particularly first impressions, can have a tremendous affect on our overall cruise experience.  So, when the locals go out of their way to make cruisers feel welcome, it deserves to be mentioned.

During our honeymoon cruise on the Norwegian Spirit in November of 2004, one of our scheduled visits was to the island of Grenada.  The Spirit did call upon Grenada, but the stop was in question leading all the way up to our cruise departure.  Earlier in 2004, Grenada was struck by Hurricane Ivan, while a Category 3 storm.  Needless to say, the island and its inhabitants were devastated, homes and lives destroyed and changed forever.  As it turned out, the Spirit, during our cruise, would be the first ship to call on St. Georges, Grenada after Hurricane Ivan.

After tendering, and as we walked closer the (small) terminal, the sound of local (live) music was growing louder and louder.  It was also apparent that there was some sort of activity, involving lots of movement, taking place towards the entrance into the modest terminal.  We were delighted to see a welcoming committee of students and teachers, singing, dancing, smiling…and hugging anyone who would let them.  They weren’t begging, they weren’t asking for money…they were delighted to see us and appreciative that we were coming to visit their home.

The locals did not take it for granted that cruisers would come back after the repairs, simply because the government had contractual obligations with various cruise lines. They organized several ceremonies such as this early on (after Ivan), in an effort to make everyone feel welcome, and that their people shall overcome the major inconveniences caused by the storm.  Cathy and I truly felt like we were being told that “it was okay to visit, even though the struggles were far from over,” and that we were not imposing.  We have flown to the island a few times since then, and felt welcomed during each visit.

Today, in Le Havre, France, the Le Havre Cruise Club has launched its new Cruise Welcome Program, an effort that is sure to enhance our experience during calls to its port.  Read more about this HERE.

DSC07652-200x150As a Senior Ops Exec in hospitality, one of the phrases which makes me cringe is “…this is the way we’ve always done it….”  A variation, “…if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it….”  Not exactly a great way to keep your organization, resort, property and cruise ship/cruise line recognized as a leader in your industry.  Keeping status quo may work for a little while, but you must always act as if you are playing CHESS, not CHECKERS.  You must think several moves ahead, and not one move at a time.  How will what you do today affect tomorrow?

Seems Crystal Cruises agrees, as they strive make their Cruise Customer Experience the best in the (luxury) industry.  Here is the article:

Spring 2013: Luxury: Crystal Mission: To Be Best

Several years ago, when the internet craze was in its infancy, I understood why ships were charging extremely high connection rates.  Everybody seemed to be charging…something.  Early on, even Starbucks would only give away their internet if you had an account with the same service that they had their partnership with (three letters with an “&” somewhere in between).

This is now 2013, and wifi is practically a way of life…a staple.  It is expected to be in place almost anywhere one goes.  Yes, it is available on board most cruise ships, but it seems the pricing structure remains constant…constantly high!  $75 for 100 minutes?  75 cents per minute?  These rates are about the same as they were in the “old days of internet.”

I’m not looking for it to be free…just moderately priced.  Hotels do it.  And let’s face it, if a hotel is advertising it as “FREE”, it’s included somewhere in your charges, like in the resort fee.

Since our connectivity is such a way of life these days, I’m one for including internet in the cost of the cruise.  Of course, I do not know what the numbers should be (I’m sure size of ship and number of passengers will partially dictate this), but psychologically, I’d rather pay more for my trip than be hit with the crazy numbers above.  It is so difficult to get away from work sometimes, and reasonable internet rates would make cruising even more attractive for those who find it difficult (for business and pleasure) to be away for the length of the cruise.

What do you think?

UPDATE ….Found a link to a message board thread about UNLIMITED INTERNET PACKAGES on CARNIVAL!!