Cutbacks and changes are being rolled out on the world's largest cruise lines, including Royal Caribbean, Carnival Cruise Line and Norwegian Cruise Line, as cruise lines seek to reduce costs due to debt loads incurred during the global health pandemic.
Reduced housekeeping service and changes to main dining room menus are currently hot topics, with changes and cutbacks not going unnoticed by avid Cruise Critic members.
We've taken a deep dive on our message boards to find out what recent changes cruisers are complaining about.
This one has certainly been the subject of contention among passengers sailing on Norwegian Cruise Line recently, with the line dropping the pandemic-era digital muster drill and reintroducing the in-person drill. Naturally, cruisers have been quick to complain, but equally quick to offer a balanced perspective of the return of the traditional muster, too.
On Norwegian Cruise Line's Cruise Critic message board, Cruise Critic member shof515 wrote: "in person is back, same horrible process that takes forever."
ChiefMateJRK added: "We were in person on the (Norwegian) Sky last week and it was a wasted 40 minutes of my life that I will never get back. We showed up a minute or two early, were rudely ordered to stand first here, no wait move there, etc. A slew of people packed in like rats under a lifeboat (que the Covid spreading discussion)."
In the same thread, debenson0723 counteracted: "The muster drill on the (Norwegian) Joy today was organized and quick. Mine was held in the theater...started promptly at 3:30 and was completed at 3:41. The passengers were quiet and respectful to the crew and everything could be seen and heard. Such a non issue for all this drama and bickering."
However, since this article was originally published, some good news: Norwegian Cruise Line announced that digital muster drills will be returning across the fleet beginning April 1, 2023.
Not a member of our message boards? Sign up to add your two cents -- the good, the bad and everything in between.
Among the cutbacks Cruise Critic members are seeing on Royal Caribbean are changes to main dining room and buffet restaurant menus, including reduced choice and quality.
In a balanced and detailed breakdown on Royal Caribbean's board, Cruise Critic member Fianna13 who has recently sailed on Grandeur of the Seas said: "I don't expect a 5-star experience from the MDR, but this was definitely a pretty big step down from pre-Covid cruising. They're doing more with less in terms of staff and the reduction in choices on the new menus means that they can also do more with less in the kitchen."
In the same thread, Ashland added: "[A] Very long time cruiser with RCI and have always enjoyed our preferred dining in the WJ. Just off the Navigator and unfortunately we were very saddened with the WJ. Food was probably the worst we've experienced especially comparing it to the six RCI ships we sailed on during 2022. The food options, quality, temperature and the fact that they ran out of so many items was surprising. We're just basic diners not picky at all...but this was a definite let down."
lovesthebeach2 added: "We were on Serenade (of the Seas) for 10 nights recently and we noticed Royal has reduced the menu with items to NOT include some that may cost them more (lamb chops for example) so it’s more important to serve these cheaper items properly. They should not be overcooked where it’s hard to even cut into a chicken breast, or serving an item cold when it should be warm like you mentioned.
"I really am not a complainer, but that cruise was our worst for food, and the fact that we left the MDR a few nights after we had been served our food - and went up to the WJ which we never have done, shows that there is something that needs to be addressed. I’ve said it before, there is a point at which some of us will just do other forms of travel."
The biggest talking point on Cruise Critic's message boards is the reduction in daily housekeeping services on Royal Caribbean, Carnival and NCL. Here's what Cruise Critic members have to say:
On Norwegian's board's pages, Lissete wrote: "We did not like it at all this past week on the Bliss. I don’t mind once daily, but I’d like it too be done while we’re at dinner. We always choose evening service on Carnival. I like coming back to a fresh bed & bath when turning in at night. Our steward was done around 6pm, when we were still getting ready for dinner."
Over on Royal Caribbean's board, cruiselvr04 wrote: "I’ll be asking to store extra towels in my room. Breakfast dishes will have to go to the hall as we will be night service people and I won’t leave them sitting in the room all day. They are in the way for one thing. (BTW I hate seeing dishes in the hall. Maybe they will need someone to constantly roam to pick them up if they decrease service? Last cruise they sat in the hall until the stewards came to clean, sometimes all day. We left ours in the room.)
"Do I need fresh towels twice a day? No. But I’m not at home and desire a bit more upgraded experience for my money while on vacation. We are very tidy so there’s no picking up to do but I know some people make a lot of work for their stewards.
"If the problem is really not enough staff I understand. But know it will never come back to twice a day as people will accept it as the way it is and it will save the cruise line money."
In the same post, mrbrandonterry reasons: "I don't see any problem with once a day housekeeping. If you need something ask your cabin attendant but I see no point in them coming in twice a day when most people don't need it. It does suck that with this change they increase the number of rooms they have to clean."
On Carnival Cruise Line's board, kelkel2 makes sure to praise the line's room stewards:
"I think the room stewards have to be some of the hardest working individuals on the ship. It’s disappointing what the room cleaning has become. I miss turndown service or a choice in the timing of my cleaning (night vs day).
"Of all the talks about cutbacks etc, this is where we noticed it the most. Having not cruised since 2015, we really noticed a huge difference in the service. And I honestly don’t think it’s just a steward being ‘not good’ it’s them being overworked. 35 rooms is too many. That’s just absurd.
"We had a suite for the first time on this cruise and we really noticed the difference in the service. We really thought our service would be excellent but it just wasn’t. It was ok at best. We never were even given an option of day vs night service."
mz-s added: "Yes since the restart, most of my stewards have told me when they clean the rooms (morning or night), they do not give me an option to pick and twice daily on Carnival is flat-out not an option anymore. I'm sure if I voiced an opinion they'd offer one or the other, but it doesn't really matter to my wife and I anyway. All the special touches of Carnival in the past are gone."
Have you noticed cutbacks and changes onboard your favorite cruise line? Have your say on Cruise Critic's message boards.
Updated March 24, 2023