The year was 1983 in Los Angeles and friends of my parents wanted to show us the ship which they had taken a cruise on. We drove to the Port of Los Angeles where the Sitmar cruise line ship Fairsea was disembarking passengers from a cruise to Mexico. These were the days when people could still visit ships in-port simply by boarding. Something unthinkable twenty years later.
This week I observed a good deal of buzz in the blog and online venues about Norwegian Cruise Line adding ala carte pricing to several speciality dining options on their ships. This on top of surcharges in the traditional main dining room for premium items and late night room service. The collective reaction has been to bemoan the perceived death of traditional cruising and the rise of nickel and diming passengers. However I think on balance the reaction is greatly overstated.
NCL made a name for itself over a decade ago, when the line was struggling to find an identity for itself amidst fierce competition from Royal Caribbean and the Carnival brands. Still owned by an asian cruise company that had failed miserably to manage NCL well, in 2000 “Freestyle Cruising” was introduced. A bold marketing move, it featured giving passengers the ability to book their meal times and locations in various shipboard restaurants. Naturally, the cruising establishment bemoaned the death of traditional main dining room meals-which did not and has yet to happen. This came a couple of years following Royal Caribbean introducing the first premium dining options aboard the Voyager Class of ships-which also were lamented as some harbinger of doom for main dining.
Carnival already has announced intentions to offer longer cruises with longer port stays on its flagship brand. News comes now that the “Queen” of cruise lines Cunard will mirror this with their trio of ships. Cunard’s fleet tends to travel far further afield than it’s sister lines however and that only adds more appeal to itineraries that span the globe. Passengers will enjoy sunsets over citiscapes in the likes of Venice, Quebec, Monte Carlo, and Boston. Some ports will feature overnight stays others will at a minimum allow passengers to dine in-port before 9 p.m. departures. The limited run of cruises begins in May, 2016 and concludes in December.