Posts tagged news
Bigger and better? Or Practical and Soulless?

My friend sent this article from Bloomberg to me, highlighting the changes in the cruise industry in its efforts to modernise and attract a younger market.

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Gone are the days when entertainment at sea consisted of a lounge act near the mini casino and shuffleboard on the lido deck. As Norwegian Cruise Line Holdings Ltd., Carnival Corp. and Royal Caribbean Cruises Ltd. build ever larger vessels and try to lure younger guests, they’re unleashing an arms race to deliver ever more-elaborate onboard activities.

BLOOMBERG - BILLION-DOLLAR CRUISE SHIP BRINGS GO-KARTS AND LASER TAG TO THE HIGH SEAS

In addition we see cruise lines moving away from all inclusive packages, and start charging for various activities and dining. Royal Caribbean has a few specialty restaurants requiring payment (and I can't help but feel that Harmony of the Seas has been designed to really push guests to specialty dining, the Windjammer buffet is one of the most limited I have encountered).  They are also charging guests on some cruises to use features like the North Star

As one of the officers confessed to me the other day, one of the problems with the larger ships is "throughput". How can RCI give all guests a chance to experience all the features onboard.  Norwegian has addressed this by introducing fees.

“What they’re trying to do is minimize the crowds,” said Stewart Chiron, who runs the online travel site cruiseguy.com. The cost “is not going to dissuade you from going. It may dissuade you from doing it 20 times.”
— Bloomberg - Billion-Dollar Cruise Ship Brings Go-Karts and Laser Tag to the High Seas
The  North Star  viewing platform over Auckland Harbour. On some cruises it costs money.

The North Star viewing platform over Auckland Harbour. On some cruises it costs money.

To long time cruisers this feels like (to borrow the American phrase) "nickel and diming". But how else do you provide everyone a chance to use the facilities? One option could be coupons; Royal Caribbean's Seapass already comes pre-loaded with the "coupons" for food and drink available to that guest, there is no reason it couldn't be extended to the activities and shows on board. But of course coupons don't increase revenue, and at heart every cruise line is a business with shareholders, revenue is what they do this for. 

My concern is that in search of the "wow" Royal Caribbean (and the other cruise lines) are losing the romance. Go-Karts and Laser Tag, how often do you want to do that? How often can you go down the same water slide? How many times can you ride the Flow Rider before you are asked to get off to allow other guests a chance? How many times can you escape the same Escape Room? Not only is throughput limited, the law of diminishing returns  begins to apply. Then ships with the "Wow" become ships with the "been there! done that!" And the arms race of developing attractions and excitement just gets taken to the next level. All at the cost of what was at the core of cruising, personal relationships.

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The smaller ships, limited by physical capacity, rely on the emotional experience to generate great memories. The physical rush of laser tag, go karts, or big water slides is so temporary. But emotional connections are longer lasting, richer and more meaningful.

The romance and character of smaller ships is getting lost in this new age. I wonder if there will be space in the future for a cruise line dedicated to some of the old experiences of cruising, with less emphasis on the superficial and more on the heart and soul. I can only hope, but I am not holding my breath. 

Sanitation Levels - What are they?

Yes yes, another post about the gastro outbreak on the Ovation . But this time I have some answers. This answers here are from the Ovation, so like all things Royal Caribbean, may or may not be applicable fleet wide. 

And hopefully after this, I can drop the subject and move onto more adventurous things; things like the Ultmate Dining Package (wooooooh!) 😱.

So sanitation levels (I still like BioSec more) can be set at Levels 1 through 3, with 3 being the strictest.  

Level 1

This is the default setting where the ship normally operates at. Staff are required to wipe down and clean surfaces a set number per shift. If you have been on a cruise, you have experienced this. And I’ll give Royal Caribbean this, I have never thought of their ships as dirty.   You can have fruit 🍋 garnishes in your drinks  

Level 2

Photo by Talaj/iStock / Getty Images

As a passenger you shouldn’t really notice much difference. Everything is open, you have all the access that you had at Level 1. The biggest difference is to the staff. They have to wipe down and clean all surfaces around 2x more frequently per shift.  Your very clean ship, gets cleaner.  The only thing I have noticed between 1 and 2 was that the barman swung by every 15 minutes to wipe down the bar and ordered drinks up off the bar to accomplish this. I maybe imagining this but at Level 1 I think they just wipe around your drinks 🍹.

You can still have fruit 🍈 garnishes in your drinks. 😊 

But there is no soft serve ice cream! 😱

Level 3

This is where things get real, and as a guest you will notice it. Many entrances are closed off, and guests are funnelled through choke points for “Washy Washy!”. For the staff, it’s basically non stop cleaning.  I noticed that even my hung up to “please don’t wash!” towel was getting taken away and fresh towels were issued every day.  And there’s no fruit 🍋 🍒 🍍 for your cocktails (and my soda water 🤯)

I also learnt that taking food back to your room is discouraged across all levels.  They won’t stop you at the lower levels but at 3. 🚨. 

Change of Level

So the big question is when does the level change! Royal Caribbean weren't to forthcoming with this information. Basically an increase in level is designed to contain the spread of infections. If they start seeing an infection spreading, up goes the level. If there is no increase in infection within a certain time, down goes the level. 

Currently on board Ovation of the Seas we are at Level 2. We have been that way for the past few days, but for most of the cruise we were at Level 3. Apparently for the next cruise the rough plan is to run at Level 2 for a couple to few days and see how the passengers are travelling. No new cases. We go to level 1. And we get soft serve icecream 🍦.

Questions? contact me below in the comments, or twitter or email.

 

 

 

Not so much gastro on the Ovation? - update
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Following reports of gastro on the Ovation  I reached out to the RC twitter team to see if they had anything to say on the issue. 

 Hey there, Chris. There has been no report of a mass outbreak of GI at this time. If anything changes, we’d notify you immediately. -Gabbie

So that’s the way things currently stand. I’ll update with more news if I get any.