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!!

Grid-It XL for your suitcase.

Grid-It XL for your suitcase.

I go to the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas almost every year, and I almost always leave with something…or at least with the information for the intent (since you typically can’t buy products on the trade show floor).

This time around, it was the Grid-It, by Cocoon; I love it.  It’s been around, but it didn’t grab my attention until I walked by their booth.  And, there might have been a rep (or model), almost as beautiful as my wife (but not quite), holding one as I walked by!

This thing is great.  It’ll hold and organize your pocket camera, phone/iPod/mp3 player, a small portable speaker (like the Jambox), drugs, toothpaste and more.  I got the three pack, and the one that holds an iPad!  These items help take the stress out of packing, and further enhances your cruising experience.