Celebrity Cruises - Jan 19 to Feb 2, 2014
Celebrity Cruises has come a long way since our last cruise with them a couple of years ago, unfortunately it is in the wrong direction. However, they are perhaps following a trend in the cruise industry that is a result of not understanding or properly choosing their “target market.” Initially their target market was the “Love Boat Crowd” or those wishing to visit the cities of Europe for historical reason. As the popularity of cruising increased, so did the destinations, as well as the potential to make additional profit off of tours and other related services. Price competition exacerbated the problem by shifting the marketing by the cruise lines to initial cost versus total cost at disembarkation.
Another problem could also be a result of expanding their cruise destinations without doing the proper planning to deal with these destinations. The bottom-line is that most of the “decisions” seem to be driven by that bottom-line of profit as opposed to customer satisfaction or providing real value for the dollars spent.
Summary: For those that do not like long stories I will sum up my conclusions first. If you want to see tropical islands with white sandy beaches, go to the Caribbean, not South East Asia (SEA). The “locals” have similar life styles and it will not take you 24 hours of flying time to get there. You may visit a few luxury resorts while in SEA, but for the cost of the cruise line tours you could spend an extra day or two at one of those resorts in the Caribbean. The combination of ship size and docking facilities results in “tendering” for many of the SEA stops and even when docked the points of interest are thirty or more minutes away by taxi or other forms of expensive transportation.
Cost is always a consideration for all but the wealthiest of us and even those did not get to be wealthy by throwing money away. When one adds the cost of the transportation to SEA, the cruise cost, the tour costs, and the cost of beverages, that total approximates the cost of a luxury cruise on one of the smaller ships that include most of these costs plus other benefits and truly quality food.
Another new trend to avoid is the “anytime dinning” option. I believe that has led to both a decline in the quality of the food served as well as the service. This will be discussed further in the rest of this document. However, I believe Celebrity has set a new low standard for the quality of food in the cruise industry.
Celebrity Millennium: Food – Some food was good, most was eatable to mediocre, and some was actually uneatable. In 1986 I did a Panama Canal Cruise on the Royal Princess with my parents and I remember my dad saying how the quality of the food had declined since they first started cruising in the 1970’s. Part of the problem may be the cruise destinations for SEA and obtaining quality meat products. I do not know the answer to that question, but most of the beef we had was either tasteless, tough, or both.
The “anytime dinning” may be a contributor to this problem since with the old way of first or second seating the chef had a pretty good idea of how many would show up for dinner as well as what the popular meals would be. Now with the combination of anytime dinning and the optional “specialty” dinning venues, those numbers as well as the staff required to serve them can vary widely. When these factors are combined with the focus on making the maximum profit, the result is predictable and not good for the customer.
Unfortunately one of the driving factors for all of issues associated with the food is cost / profit, and that seems to be driving the train. We were on a Princess Cruise; October – November 2013, and the food was far superior to that we had on this Celebrity SEA cruise, but that was a 15 day roundtrip cruise from San Francisco to Hawaii; supply may not have been a problem.
Celebrity Millennium: Service – Walk the Talk! Not really; again this may be a result of the changes in “tipping” policies that have taken place over the years. When I first started cruising we got envelopes for tipping the various servers that took care of our needs during the cruise. Today those “tips” are automatically added to your room bill unless you elect to have them removed; a fact which is not well publicized. So it is kind of like “socialism;” everyone one shares equally regardless of how hard they work. Of course if your “clients” selected first or second seating you will have the same “dinner” customers every night so you will do the extra things for them because they may give you an additional tip at the end of the cruise. The problem with this approach is that it does not promote teamwork and I often observed a server or their assistant standing around talking while the other severs were rushing around because their tables were full.
The problem gets worse if you eat breakfast or lunch in the dining room; something I highly recommend because the food at the buffet is marginal. Unless your regular server is handling your table the “service” will be adequate, but not great. I blame this on the head waiter and their assistants; they should be walking their stations with coffee or water supporting the assistant waiters in their tasks and setting an example. We were eight days into our fourteen day cruise before we even knew who our head waiter was. At this point we suspected he was grooming us for his tip at the end of the cruise.
Celebrity Millennium: The Ship – The ship is in serious need of some maintenance where the salt water and air have caused extensive corrosion. Our balcony door was badly corroded and should have been replaced. There is similar evidence of wear and tear throughout the ship and it makes one wonder about some of the equipment we cannot see.
The electrical system is outdated as there are insufficient outlets in the rooms to allow the hookup of phone and camera chargers, laptop computers, and medical devices (sleep apnea CPAP machine). We had to have a ten foot extension cord run from the desk to the bedside for the CPAP machine and that was a tripping hazard to go onto the balcony.
One of the really big “rip-offs” on cruise lines today is the charges for Internet Service. Almost all today’s travelers rely on maintaining Internet contact with family, friends, or business associates, on a regular basis. When the cruise line charges for these services for one hour exceeds my home bill for a whole month I know I am being overcharged. Then when one considers the speed of the Internet service coupled with the quality, it becomes really aggravating.
Celebrity Millennium: Not Alone – Today’s Trends – More and more cruise lines are doing things to improve profits, but at the expense of customer satisfaction and providing value. The hope, maybe even belief, is that the customer will not figure it out until after the cruise line has made their money. I believe those running cruise lines following this path are going to fail because others, like me, will publish their stories and the word will spread.
I used to like cruising vacations because they provide a good value. A good value is not determined by the provider of the service calculating the maximum price that can be charged for a service, but by the value the recipient of the service places on that service. The cruise lines must remember they not only have other cruise lines to compete with, but other alternative vacation choices. We will be looking into the higher end cruise lines where more amenities are included as well as all inclusive resorts with great reviews. Vacations are about relaxation and fun.