Last year, in an attempt to diversify their offerings and dominate more of the market at the same time, Norwegian Cruise Line acquired two more cruise lines. True, their acquisition of Oceania will certainly help them capture more luxury passengers than even their Haven product has been able to do thus far. However, it’s the policy changes on their Norwegian fleet that has captured my attention.
I’ve frequently thought that, while I personally enjoy cruising on Norwegian quite a bit, they tried a little too hard to be all things to all people, and there have been places in which they’ve fallen down quite hard. When you’re trying to satisfy absolutely everyone, there are always things that are going to fall through the cracks and sadly, even though I worked quite hard to bring those issues to Norwegian’s executive team, my efforts were for naught. This time, though, it does seem as though voices of travel professionals and passengers alike are finally being heard in at least one area, and that’s heartening.
There’s the news that Norwegian Sky, which traditionally services their 3 and 4-day Bahamas cruise itineraries (itineraries which have long been regarded at booze cruises), will include unlimited alcoholic beverages in 2016. I honestly might consider taking one of those cruises now that this inclusion is being offered. So that move itself was a great one.
The recent stumbles took place with regards to room service. There are quite a few people that I know (including myself) who tend to use room service in the mornings rather than inflict our pre-coffee presence on others. When Norwegian announced that it was testing out a service fee for their “expanded” room service menu, there was a huge uproar. When it was announced that the tests had apparently gone well and that this $7.95 room service fee was being implemented fleet-wide, there was an even bigger uproar. But when it was also announced that food from the restaurants was no longer being allowed to leave the restaurants – be they leftovers from Cagney’s or a tray of danish, cereal, and coffee from the buffet – people went insane.
This wasn’t just “I’m gonna complain on Cruise Critic” insane. This was huge Facebook threads, hundreds of comments long, where people shared their various reasons (limited mobility, pain issues, anxiety issues, infants, moody toddlers, picky teenagers, and much, much more) for choosing to occasionally dine in their cabins. Others got inventive and started testing the newly announced policy while they were on the ships by taking a plate of food from the buffet on a “tour” of the ship, just to see whether or not they’d be stopped by crew, and posting those photo tours to Facebook.
Nobody was. Not one.
When Norwegian released their repeal of the policy, they talked about how their mission was to reduce the number of plates in the hallways, and how they had no idea how many people would object to suddenly being told that their “Freestyle” cruise was no longer quite so free. And they made it very clear that, rather than talk to those that would be impacted by such a change (the crew, housekeeping, and passengers), they simply thought up an idea, implemented it, and had to be shown by hundreds of people in varied ways just how quickly this policy would be deemed a screaming failure.
You can be a great deal of things to a great deal of people, and you can even make a profit while you do so. But I think that the takeaway here is that if you’re going to make sweeping policy changes, it is absolutely necessary to consult with those who will be directly affected – both crew and passengers – and not assume how effective something will be simply by spitballing some ideas in a meeting room in Miami. There are many things that look great on paper, but when you try to put them into practice, you find very quickly that it just won’t float.
Crickett Lancaster is the owner of the home-based agency Go Away! in Brooklyn, NY. She’s an avid knitter, a karaoke fiend, and loves the freedom of being able to work in her pajamas if she so chooses. She occasionally posts travel-related rants and reviews at http://www.crickett.net, and can also be found on Facebook or email.