Norwegian Cruise Lines has just announced that it ending it’s play at forcing its passengers to pay for room service if they want to eat anything in their staterooms. What is incredibly offensive to me is not that the play to boost onboard revenue was so blatantly obvious, but NCL decided to blame the passengers for not being clean enough for Frank Del Rio, Sr. for both its need and its failure.
Let’s back up. When Frank Del Rio, Sr., took over Norwegian Cruise Lines he stated that he was going to increase onboard revenue from each passenger by $3 to $4 per day:
I’m not asking for the moon, but an extra $3 or $4 per person. There are two people per room, for a seven-day cruise that is an extra $50. Can I get $50 from you and your wife to come aboard my ships versus someone else’s ships, and how do I get you to do that? I think I have a lot of different levers to pull.
So how has NCL gone about it? What are those levers? It hasn’t done it in a way that the average passenger would clearly recognize…and even less so by one who booked his/her cruise before the increased revenue concept was put in place. Rather than raising the cruise fare (which everyone would notice), NCL increased drink prices by $0.25 or so per drink and started charging $7.95 per room service order.
Clearly the increase in drink prices was hard to object to (and, let’s face it, not many people are going to forego a beer over $0.25), but charging for room service? That is a horse of a different color. There was immediate resistance…and a lot of it. People did the obvious: They helped themselves. Rather than call room service they went up to the buffet and brought food back to their staterooms.
This clearly undercut all that revenue that Mr. Del Rio had counted on. So how did NCL respond:
It banned the taking of food from the buffet back to your room. (You know the food you paid for when you booked your cruise.) Aside from the variety of food in the buffet being superior to NCL room service, even for a more upscale cruise passenger taking items from the buffet back to one’s room is commonplace.
For myself, I get up early, so grabbing a cup of coffee and a croissant and sitting on my balcony is the norm. It not only is quick, it doesn’t wake up my girlfriend as room service would. Heck, I’ll even grab some cheese later in the afternoon and bring it back to enjoy with a glass of wine…rather than have room service “cubed” cheese. In each instance I am doing anything but trying to avoid paying a fee (not that I have ever been on a cruise where there was such a charge). I am just trying to have a snack with a bit of quiet time rather than the noise of the buffet.
But with passengers literally up in arms (with the room service police stopping them from taking anything from any dining venue) NCL couldn’t say that their money grab didn’t work. No, they had to blame the passengers.
According to NCL CEO, Andy Stuart (who is pretty much one of the nicest guys you will ever meet) as noted in USA Today:
The new policy was nothing more than an attempt to create a more pristine environment on ships, which in turn would improve the customer experience. He says it was implemented after a recent visit to a Norwegian vessel by new Norwegian Cruise Line Holdings CEO Frank Del Rio, who was shocked by the number of dirty food trays and plates piled in corridors and the spills caused by passengers carrying food back to their rooms. In one instance, Del Rio watched as gravy slopped onto a carpeted floor from a plate being carried by a passenger.
So the issue purportedly was not revenue, but NCL guests are slobs? Seriously?
It is, plain and simply, offensive.
I also have to pause and say “pristine environment”? How about the staff attending to cleaning better? (I have been on a few NCL ships and let’s just say I have seen more consistent cleaning efforts from staterooms to public spaces to bathrooms on other lines.) And, by the way: What percentage of those “dirty food trays” actually were loaded with room service items?
Do you want me to tell you the number of times one of Frank Del Rio’s Oceania or Regent Seven Seas guests have spilled a cocktail or wine on the carpets? How about the number of room service trays that Oceania and Regent people put in the hallway and there is no charge therefore?
How about this for non-monetary driven questions and ideas?
No, this was a pure and simple money grab that went wrong…and then the only way NCL saw as a way to get out from under it was to insult their passengers because they could not maintain a “pristine environment”…or was that the staff isn’t tasked to do it?
I just wonder how Andy Stuart felt having to relay that ridiculous program and then offer up that ridiculous excuse. Andy, brace yourself for I can see another round coming!