All of these cruise line companies are multi-billion dollar companies. It amazes me that with all their market research and all the feedback from their passengers that they can't seem to figure out on their own what they are doing right and what they are doing wrong.
To date my favorite cruise line is still Carnival, and specifically the Carnival Cruise Line brand. If you are not already aware, the Carnival company also owns Holland America, Princess Cruises, Fathom, P&O, Costa Cruises, and even Cunard (Queen Mary II). For those of you that are not aware, if you own 100 shares of Carnival Stock they give you $200 of on board credit on every cruise. Unfortunately, unlike commonly owned hotel brands like Hilton, credits that you earn on one brand of Carnival cruises do not count toward cruises on any other brand of Carnival cruises.
Every cruise line has their good points and their bad points. For instance, Norwegian seems to offer a great diversity of food selections in their buffet every day at breakfast, lunch and dinner, much better than Carnival. But when it comes to the meals in the main dining rooms, Carnival beats Norwegian hands down. Norwegian seems to offer practically the same menu every day in their dining rooms whereas Carnival changes it up every day. On Norwegian I am more inclined to eat most of my meals at the buffet as there is a tremendous diversity of offerings. The regular dining rooms do not seem to change their menus much from day to day. On Carnival it is just the opposite. There is not much selection in the day to day buffet but the main dining rooms drastically change their menus every day.
Below you will find my criticisms of this Norwegian Jade cruise and how I think they could improve things. Not that they will listen to me. But, if they want to here how I think they could improve the cruise experience of passengers, these are my suggestions. This cruise was definitly enjoyable and I will book Norwegian again in the future. But if Norwegian would like to provide a better experience for me, these are the changes that I would suggest that they make.
Better Promotion Of Transportation To The Southampton Port
I looked high and low all over the Norwegian Cuise Lines website at NCL.com to try to find what tansportation they offered between London and the port at Southamptom. I could not find anything! I would be more than happy to have paid Norwegian to get me from my London hotel to the cruise port and then from the cruise port back to London, but I could find no option offered at their website. Now that I'm on the cruise they have a tremendous amount of promotions of transportatin from the Southampton cruise terminal back to the airports, train stations, and hotels!
We could not wait until the last minute to figure out how we were going to get from our hotel to the cruise port and then from the cruise port to the Chunel train station in London upon our return. Thus we booked a private car service for 4 to 6 people for both ways. We are only 3 people but we do have 4 suitcases of 44 pounds each plus 3 backpages and 3 pocketbook / laptop size pieces. We've previously booked private cars for just 3 or 4 people and have almost not been able to fit in the car. So to avoid that risk again, we booked private cars for 4 to 6 people which would provide plenty of room for our luggage.
I'm sure the bus transportation provided by Norwegian Cruise Lines is a lot less expensive than the private car service that we booked. But before the cruies, I could not find any indication on the NCL website that such transportation was available. So, my suggestion to Norwegian Cruise Lines is to make it much more obvious that such transportation between the cruise port and London airports, train stations, and hotels is available via Norwegian.
Wine List In Bars & Lounges:
Almost every bar and lounge on the entire ship, and there were a lot of them, had the exact same bar menu. The wine selections were extremely limited. Wines by the glass were around $8.95 to $9.95 and by the bottle from $27 to $33. These were very low end wines that you could purchase at a retail store on shore from between $6 and $14 per bottle. You could not purchase a higher quality wine at any of the bars on the ship even if you would be happy to pay more for it. Surprisingly this was true even for Magnums Champagne & Wine Bar! Some of the restaurants did have a much more extensive wine list with a greater range in prices anywhere from $27 to several hundred dollars per bottle. My suggestion would be to offer some or all of the wines that are on the restaurant wine list at least in Magnums Champagne & Wine Bar. I think people expect that a "Wine Bar" would have a much wider selection of wines available than the other bars on the ship.
Promoting Spirit & Wine Tastings:
The Spirit & Wine Tastings were very poorly promoted. Thus, the attendance at these events was sporatic. The only place we saw them listed was buried along with dozens of other events on the daily paper schedule. You really had to go through the schedule with a fine toothcomb to find if there would be an tasting events that day. Sometimes the tasting events were announced over the ship's P.A. system, but most of them were not announced. The tastings were also never listed in the NCL SmartPhone App along with other activities. It would definitely help to list them on the App along with other events. Even when listed, there was usually no explanation about the event.
Other cruises have also often listed all the Spirit & Wine Tastings that would take place during the entire cruise listing the date, time and location of each tasting along with a full explanation about the event. They would ask people to place reservations and pay in advance for each event. Because of the extensive and organized promotion of these events they would often fill up and be booked to capacity. Even though on this cruise there would often be a sign that said "Space Limited, Register In Advance", there would often be no place to register. Most tasting events had so few people attending that we had no problem just showing up and joining the tasting at the last minute without any prior registration.
Scheduling Spirit & Wine Tasting:
When the ship did offer Spirit & Wine Tastings, it would also offer a number of different ones all on the same day! At least they didn't schedule them all at the exact same time as had happened on our of our previous cruises with a different cruise line. But on this cruise when they scheduled a wine tasting at 1:30 PM, a Margarita tasting at 3 PM, and additional different tastings at 4 PM and 5 PM, how can you really go to them all? We went to just two of the tasting events and were wiped out for the rest of the day! They really should spread these tastings out. It is better to offer just one each day then cram them all into the same day. I'm sure there are a number of people on the ship who are fans of Spirit & Wine Tastings who would attend most of them, like us, but can't possibly attend more than 1 or 2 on the same day. So far this cruise has twice cramed 4 or more tastings into the same day.
Improving Internet Quality & Speed:
The internet quality and speed was not bad on the Norwegian Jade for a cruise ship. We had excellent WiFi reception in our stateroom. Some cruise ships are now supplementing their satellite internet feed with land based connections when in port, and sometimes even when at sea but within range of cell towers. I don't know if the Norwegian Jade does this but they should look into it if they don't. If allows for much better internet quality and speed when near land based towers. The internet on the Norwegian Jade often didn't appear to be any better when in port than when out to sea. Sometimes it would even be a little worse in port which I assume would happen if it wasn't in the best position for a good connection with the satellite feed.
Improving The SmartPhone App:
List All Events: Not all events are listed in the SmartPhone App. I never saw any of the spirit or wine tasting events listed on the App. The only reliable source of all events were the paper schedule sheets that cabin stewards delivered to every room each evening. It would also be useful if the App listed disembarkation and embarkation times and decks for each port stop as soon as this information becomes available. Some other cruise lines do provide this feature.
List Purchased Shore Excursions & Other Events: It would be nice if the App listed any bookings you have made for your cruise such as shore excursions and reservations in the specialty restaurants. It does not do that. Some other cruise lines do provide this feature.
Allow It To Work Even If Internet Not Purchased: The NCL App allows you to check your account balance and activity, see what events are happening, see the layout of the ship, and see what restaurant venues are available. These functions do not require use of the ship's satellite internet services since they can all be handled by the ship's own local web server. The App should function if you connect to the ship's Wi-Fi even if you didn't purchase any internet package. The App does not appear to function unless you have purchased an internet package and are logged into your account. Some other cruise lines do allow you to access their OnBoard App even if you have not purchased any internet package.
Allow The NCL App To Function Even When On Shore: When on shore it would be nice to be able to check what events are scheduled for that evening on the ship and to review embarkation time. Even if you have access to the internet while on shore, it does not appear you can access the features of the NCL App unless you are directly connected to an NCL Wi-Fi hotspot.
Make It Clear About The $9.95 Add-On: For a one time charge of $9.95 per trip you can add the phone and messaging feature to the NCL App. However, it was not made clear that this only allows you to call and text other people on the ship that you have added to your contact list and that it only works if you have purchased one of the internet access options for the cruise. You can not use the phone and message feature to call or text anyone that is not on the cruise. You can't even call or text anyone on the cruise who hasn't also purchased this add-on feature to their NCL App.
Use A Name Brand Sweetener:
This one is a pet peeve of mine. I am well familiar with the taste of Splenda in the yellow packet, Equal in the blue packet, and Sweet'n Low in the pink packet, and Sugar in the white packet, and how much to use of each. Each is the equivalent of one packet of sugar except Sweet'n Low which is equal to two. I hate it when any restaurant uses other sweetener brands such as Domino's Wee-Cal and puts the identical sweetner into 3 different color packets (yellow, blue and pink) to make it look like they are offering the name brand sweeteners. Do they think that those of us who use sweeteners can't tell that this off brand sweetener is not the real things? I think it is kind of an insult to our intelligence and taste sense. Why don't they just put these off-brand sweeteners into some other color packets, like green packets, and not try to fool us into thinking they are offering the better sweeteners? What is the point of it being in 3 different color packets when it is the same brand in all the colors of packets? Personally I think Wee-Cal tastes terrible. It has sort of a sickly sweet taste. In my coffee one packet of Wee-Cal isn't enough for my taste and two packets are way too sweet. But even when trying to use between one and two packets in my coffee, it adds a really sickly sweet taste. It is so bad that the coffee tastes better without any sweetner rather than using this product. My suggestion to Norwegian: Pick one or more of the name brand sweetners and provide that to your passengers instead of just offering a single off-brand sweetner in deceptive packaging.