April 1, 2003
First European Cruises (known in Europe as Festival) has sealed-the-deal on
an onboard program it's launching with Hilton International. Dubbed "Hilton
Floating Resorts on Festival Cruises," specially-designated suites will be
set aside on the fleet's Mistral, European Vision and European Stars.
Passengers who book a First European/Hilton suite -- and it's open to anyone
not just Hilton's frequent guest members -- pay an eight percent surcharge.
In return, they receive special services. Some are more worthwhile than
others; in a press release, the company says that "Hilton Suite" guests are
offered special check-in and private to-stateroom escort from passport
control. Suites will contain a complimentary array of goodies, like
champagne, chocolate and fruit.
Other extras? Free champagne during gala dinners, complementary after-dinner
liqueurs and a 20-percent discount off of the cruise line's wine list are
bona fides. These folks also will receive priority booking for
limited-number shore excursions and a 10 percent discount in the gift shop.
And in the "nice touch" category comes "special" in-cabin breakfast service
(only major differences from regular offerings are fresh squeezed o.j. as
opposed to the "other kind" and a vague reference to "nicer presentation,"
though no details are provided.
We were a little puzzled by the press release's reference to "free access to
the Fitness Center offering step, running, rowing and weight machines with a
sweeping sea view." Which brings up an obvious question: Is First
European/Festival now charging its hoi polloi passengers to use the gym? Is
this yet another example of the continuing a'la-cartization of the onboard
Nah, relax. A spokeswoman replies that free access to fitness facilities
still reigns. For all.
The program will go into effect on a gradual basis. Look for the "Hilton
Suites" concept to debut on European Stars on April 6, on European Vision on
May 3, and Mistral on May 17. And here's a tip: the company's offering, as a
limited-time-only special, a waiver of the 8 percent surcharge. Up until May
31, passengers can book a "Hilton Suite" for the same rate as a regular