July 12, 2001
Cruise lines’ increasingly common trend of adding annoying for-extra-charge onboard services (from coffee to sweets to premium ice cream) -- what we call the “k’ching factor” -- got a setback today when Celebrity Cruises reversed its decision to implement admission fees to thalassotherapy pools on its Millennium class ships. Call the reversal a testament to the power-of-the-people-on-the-Internet, where the topic has been the subject of hot debate on community boards and the like. Background: After Infinity came out of her two-week emergency drydock in mid-June, onboard staff decided to make the thalassotherapy pool -- and the adjoining AquaSpa Cafe -- a fee-only (or free-for-suiteholders) attraction. Priced at $20 per day, $40 for three days, and $99 for the cruise duration, the decision made the ship’s only under-cover pool -- since she’s cruising Alaska, which can be chilly, this is no small thing -- off limits to the general passenger base. Cruisers, both those who had sailed Infinity over the past two weeks and those booked in the future on Millennium class vessels (including the not-yet-launched Summit), complained, vociferously. The Cruise Critic boards contained numerous messages dedicated to the topic, not to mention protest emails to Celebrity executives. And Celebrity not only read the emails -- and responded to them, an unusual occurrence in its own right -- it reversed its decision and admitted it was wrong. Writes Robert Keesler, Celebrity’s VP of Guest Satisfaction, “during the past week, your dialogue with us has been focused primarily on our decision to introduce a fee for use of the Thalassotherapy pools on our Millennium-class ships (currently, Millennium and Infinity). And your feedback has led us to conclude that our decision was wrong. We made a mistake. As a result, we are reversing that decision. Effective immediately, there will be no charge for use of the Thalassotherapy pools on our Millennium-class fleet of ships.” The cruise line didn’t stop there, either. It also promised that those who had paid the fees would get a refund (to the credit card used to settle the shipboard account). Online wags, very happy to discover, at long last, that passenger feedback really does get heard, are debating over which cruise line they’ll target next; we predict it might just be Princess, whose habit of charging a’la carte fees for Haagen Dazs on some ships has riled cruisers for years.