Category Archives: Carnival

National Cruise Vacation Week

Also known as the “World’s Largest Cruise Sale”, National Cruise Vacation Week is one of the highlights of the year!  This is celebrated every October, and it’s your chance to get some great deals on cruises!

This year, the National Cruise Vacation Week is October 20-27.  So, if you’ve been thinking of taking a cruise next year, this is the time to book!  We’ve put together a list of the largest cruise lines, with the exclusive deals they are offering during this time.  Please look them over, and let us know if you have any questions, or if you’d like to take advantage of one (or more!) of these offers:

Azamara

Up to $500 onboard credit* per stateroom on Europe 2014 voyages.

Carnival

Up to $200 off Fun Select rates per stateroom, up to $200 onboard credit per stateroom, best available upgrades, and 50% reduced deposits available on select sailings through December 31, 2014, if booked Oct. 20-27, 2013.

Celebrity

During the week of Oct. 20-27, book any Celebrity cruise, 5 nights or longer, to Alaska, Bermuda, Caribbean, or Europe departing January 1, 2014 to April 30, 2015 and receive up to $250 onboard credit*.

Disney Cruise Line

Receive $50 onboard credit* per stateroom on a 3- or 4-night Bahamian cruise aboard Disney Magic® or Disney Dream® departing from Port Canaveral, Florida Jan. 5 – May 29, 2014.   Valid for new bookings made between Oct. 20-27.   Travel window is:

  • Disney Magic®, 3- and 4-night voyages departing Jan. 6 – May 16, 2014
  • Disney Dream®, 3- and 4-night voyages departing Jan. 5 – May 29, 2014

Holland America

Explore4 promotion on select December 2013 holiday cruises and 2014 sailings that provides four added-value extras—a free Signature Beverage Package or beverage card, free specialty restaurant dinner, free or reduced fares for third and fourth guests in the same stateroom, and reduced deposits of 50% off normal deposit rate.  Guests making a booking Oct. 20-27, 2013 can also qualify for up to $200 per stateroom in shipboard credits* in addition to the four Explore4 offers!

MSC

Special pricing for selected sailings in Summer Caribbean 2014, plus receive up to $200 per stateroom shipboard credit* for MSC Divina Caribbean sailings between April 12-Oct. 11, 2014.  Rates as low as $549 per person!

Norwegian Cruise Lines

Up to $250 onboard credit* fleetwide, up to $500 onboard credit* for CruiseTours in Europe, Hawaii and Alaska, BONUS onboard credit* for all Norwegian Getaway sailings currently open for sale.

Princess

Onboard value booklet per person, worth up to $325.  Plus reduced deposit on select cruises.

Royal Caribbean

Book a 7-night Caribbean cruise, and get up to $100 to spend onboard*!  Booking window is Oct. 20-25, for sailings in June, July, and August 2014.

Windstar

Special sale rates on select sailings, plus a $100 shipboard credit* per cabin.

Special offer from Starwood

Enhance your cruise with a pre- or post-stay at a Starwood resort or hotel!  You can extend your vacation with great rates and complimentary breakfast!  Add one, two, or three nights before or after your cruise!  Over 180 Starwood properties worldwide are available with this special offer, during National Cruise Vacation week!  Ask your agent for details!

*Where it is allowed by the individual cruise line, onboard credits that are included in specials are in addition to the onboard credit you normally receive when booking with Travel on a Dream!  (See http://travelonadream.com/loyalty.html )

Please visit www.travelonadream.com for a quote today!

My Awesome Bar Program

The Carnival Victory has been testing a new program this month.  What do you think?

For $42.95 per person, per day, plus 15% gratuity, you will get unlimited beer, wine and mixed drinks priced under $10.  You can also get a 25% discount on drinks priced over $10 (individual drinks only, not packages).  The package must be purchased for all adults in a cabin so there is no sharing of the package.

So for just under $50 a day, per adult, you don’t have to worry about spending too much at the bars.  Other cruise lines, like Celebrity and Royal Caribbean, already have unlimited drink packages as well.  Celebrity offers a number of packages starting at $14 per night for a Classic Non-Alcoholic Package up to $54 per night for a Premium Package (plus 15% gratuity), but do not have a restriction that all adults in the cabin must purchase.  Royal Caribbean offers three packages on just a few ships and are comparable.

I personally have a problem with the soda packages when I am on a cruise line that offers this as I rarely drink enough to make the package worthwhile.  I certainly cannot see myself having at least six alcoholic drinks per day, every day on a cruise (on our last cruise, drinks we had were approximately $9 each).  To make the package beneficial, that’s what I would need to do.

What are your thoughts on this?

Should You Be Able To Buy Access?

This week, Carnival Cruise Lines announced a new program where you can buy access to fewer lines and priority access.  This program called Faster to the Fun, allows you to pay approximately $50 per cabin to get priority security, check-in, express boarding, first access to stateroom and Guest Services, express luggage, priority dining reservations, priority tender and debarkation choices.  I posted this on our Facebook wall and got quite a response.  The responses got me thinking.

Some of our friends said that is wasn’t fair to the higher levels of the priority clubs that get these perks already (though admittedly, they get many other perks plus some of these are new perks).  I would think that if the price was reasonable, some of those who wouldn’t normally get the access would say it should be offered for a fee but those who would get the access already would say it wasn’t fair to them.  But this goes much further.  Let’s only look at travel options.

Let’s look at airlines.  Some people spend a considerable amount more to purchase a first class ticket from the start.  Others have enough frequent flier miles to upgrade for a reduced amount to the same first class ticket.  Yet others are willing to pay a fee to get that same first class seat.  This has happened for a very long time.  The person who pays initially for the first class ticket knows what they want and are going to get it at any cost.  The frequent flyer flies that airline on a regular basis and as a perk they are offered upgrades and free flights to reward their loyalty.  But what about the person who is flying the lowest cost travel each time and purchases the upgrade.  Should they be allowed to do so?  And if you say no, should the airlines fly with empty first class seats?

To a much smaller degree, even the Early Bird check in for Southwest is an example of this.  Normally, you have to go online 24 hours prior to your flight to get your boarding number, but they offer a service where you don’t have to go online.  You pay $10 per person and they get your boarding number for you.  Yes, you don’t get the first numbers, but you do get in the first grouping.  When I’m on a cruise, I don’t want to rely on the internet access to be sure I get a good boarding number.

I do realize this is different since they are purchasing an actual location, not a service, but it is very similar.  Car rental companies are the same way.  You can rent frequently and earn perks with some of the companies, and you can also purchase memberships into their elite group, allowing you to bypass counters and go directly to your car.  Some of these programs will also give you discount codes.  By using a specific credit card, I have free access to an elite group that normally would require a set number of rentals to be accepted.  I get the same access, only because of the credit card that I am using.  In a way, the program is limited.  I will get a courtesy upgrade if one is available.  If I am renting from a smaller location, there may not be an upgrade available to a member who earned membership in that elite group if I get there first and get the upgrade.  Is this fair?

Next we will move on to the cruise lines.  If select levels of previous cruisers are automatically given some perks, is it fair that the same perks could be offered to those in a lower level for a fee?  Or should the perks offered for a fee only be available to everyone for a fee, with maybe a reduced fee for those in the upper loyalty levels?  I know some guests will book a certain way, just to earn credits quicker.  For example, I have clients that will book a junior suite on Royal Caribbean because that will earn them double credit to get to a higher loyalty level.  On Celebrity, booking a concierge room may not be that much more than a balcony stateroom, but will also give you more credits.

People want better access, better perks, better experiences and there are people that are willing to pay for this access.  If the access, perks and experiences are still just as good for the elite loyalty club members, is it acceptable that these companies offer some extras for a fee?  I wouldn’t want to see someone pay to get all of the access the higher levels get (pay to become a “loyal” customer), but I don’t have a problem with paying to get select perks.

 

Is Customer Service Important To You?

It is to me!  There is a Honda commercial on television where the “other” car dealer is saying how reliable their warranty is and the customer says “It sounds like its the warranty that’s reliable, not the car”.  I feel the same way about a lot of things.  I don’t want a computer that has a great warranty if it means the computer is going to break weekly, even if they fix it quickly.  I don’t want the computer to break down, period!  I don’t want to have to complain about service I am receiving (or not receiving) from a company on their Facebook wall or a discussion forum to get them to respond to my needs.  If I have a problem, I expect it to be handled quickly and effectively, but I also don’t want to have the problems in the first place.

When we decided to cruise on Carnival Cruise Line, I did so with a cautious but open mind.  I really didn’t think a Carnival Cruise was for me.  Don’t get me wrong, I think they are a good line for many people.  I have some clients that love Carnival and I don’t think any differently of them because of this.

On the first morning onboard, I was reminded why I had low expectations of Carnival.  I attempted to log in to the internet and found it was misreporting my package.  I tried several times, restarting my machine and clearing cookies and cache, to no avail.  There was no information on the flyer about who to contact, other than during business hours, so I called Guest Services.  I used the preprogrammed button on the phone.

There were five choices on the first menu.  First was to hang up and push a different button.  The other four were options to select.  I selected “2” for onboard services.  Next was a menu with at least six choices, none that fit.  Option “0” was to go to the main menu.  Frustrated with all the options and menus, I listened longer and option “9” was to talk to someone.  I explained the problem and was told the computer manager would be at his desk at 9:00 am, in two hours.  I explained the error, said that the system likely just needed refreshing (based on my IT husband’s assessment) and was told that I should just purchase a new package.  I refused to do that as I didn’t believe that it would solve the problem.  She offered nothing else.

What bothered me was not the non-functioning internet, but rather the way Guest Services handled it.  As someone who is in Customer Service, I never want to say “there’s nothing that can be done” as a first response, especially when clearly there is something that could be done.  Tell me you’ll contact the manager and let him know, even though it might take time to get the system running again.  Do something!

We had a mostly enjoyable day and later that night we ended up talking to the cruise director as it was elegant night and he was chatting with many guests.  He asked how our cruise was going and I told him honestly.  He was apologetic and understood where I was coming from.  He sent a note to our cabin a night or two later, thanking us and wishing us an enjoyable cruise.  I thought it was nice.  It certainly helped us feel better and enjoy the cruise more.

We kept an open mind and things seemed to get better.  We enjoyed all the trivia.  There was always a lot of trivia, but it seemed like not much else was going on.  On port days, nothing happened.  An hour or two before all aboard, trivia started.  We did go to a few shows.  The main theater times were 8:30 and 10:30.  It was tough to stay up so late.

We did have a few other small issues, but had a good time with our shore excursions and meeting other guests.  What happened next was not Carnival’s fault.  Every night our neighbors across the hall would come in at midnight and talk loud outside our room.  Finally, I had enough.  I opened the door and asked that they take it inside.  I went back to sleep, only to wake up at 2:40 am by the phone.  No one was there.  I hung up and it immediately rang again.  After the third time, I called Guest Services (by this time I saw in the FunTimes that we could dial “7777” to get right to a person in Guest Services).  The agent said she would alert security and they would trace the calls, but to call again if it continued.  Unfortunately, taking the phone off the hook would not work as for security reasons, the phones would ring even if off the hook.  The next call happened a few minutes later.  I called again and while I was dialing I heard other phones nearby ringing.  The agent said security was alerted and she got other complaints.  They would trace who did it.

We went back to Guest Services the next afternoon to see what happened.  We weren’t asked for our name or cabin number and were told measures were now in place if it happened again that night.  They didn’t have measures in place before this, a trace needed to be set up, etc.  I may not know how each cruise line handles it, but I do know that they log all calls, all uses of key cards and videotape many if not all public areas.  I accepted the explanation, knowing it would just frustrate me more to argue.  Personally, I think it was a mistake the ship made with their system of automated calls and they didn’t want to tell us.  This was the final confirmation I needed to realize that Carnival just isn’t up to my expectations.

Customer Service is very important to me and this just didn’t measure up.  My full review of our Carnival cruise will be in a separate blog.  We did have a good time overall, it just isn’t a cruise line we will go back to in the near future.

Do Loyalty Clubs Matter?

In the last couple months, we have heard about changes to the repeat cruiser programs on a number of  cruise lines, the most recent rumor is for Carnival Cruise Line.  It seems as though there are more people cruising again and again that the cruise lines are actually reducing what it is offering to repeat cruisers or making you cruise even more to get the same things you got before. Some are adding classifications and counting your credits a different way.

I have heard that a lot of people are up in arms about these changes.  On Cruise Critic, some of the changes to be proposed by Carnival Cruise Line has resulted in some angry people.

My question is does this really affect who you are going to cruise with next?  Do you look for the best loyalty program or the best cruise line?  Will you have a tendency to not remain loyal to just one cruise line and start cruising many others as a result?  Does this matter to you?

Basically, I’m wondering is it more important to get free perks or more important to have a great experience, great service, a great cruise?  Personally, I don’t like seeing the changes that reduce the benefits unless they are coupled with reduced fares as well.  Will that change my loyalty?  Possibly, but not because of the reduction of perks.  The reduction of perks will make me look at other cruise lines and see why I am not cruising them.  I have been on five different cruise lines, soon to be six.  That is what has changed my mind about which cruise line is the best, not the perks offered to me.  I always look for the best value for my dollar – not necessarily the best price.  Price is important, but if I’m getting a cheap cruise that I’m not happy with, it is a waste of my money, time, vacation…  I would rather spend a little more (or get a little less) if I’m going to have the best experience possible.

Where do you stand on this?

On the Road Again

Ok, we won’t actually be “on the road” again, but we are planning another adventure and wanted to share it with all of you.  While I believe you can be successful selling a product that you are unfamiliar with, I think you can be a much better consultant if you are familiar with the product.

Over the years we have taken cruises on a variety of cruise lines – Disney Cruise Line, Royal Caribbean International, Celebrity Cruises, Norwegian Cruise Line and Princess Cruises.  I feel that when you cruise a different line, you can learn the differences about the lines better than by taking classes and webinars.  As much as I prefer Celebrity Cruises and Disney Cruise Line, I know they aren’t for everyone.  Knowing what the others are like, I can better assist my clients to select a cruise that is right for them.

With this in mind, we have booked a new cruise – this time on Carnival Cruise Line.  We will be sailing this summer on the Carnival Dream on an Exotic Western Caribbean sailing.  This cruise will take us to Cozumel, Belize, Isla Roatan and Costa Maya.

Here are some photos from John Heald’s Blog of the ship.

We plan to explore the ship more on our day in Cozumel since we have been to Cozumel a few times.  In Belize and Isla Roatan, we will be snorkeling, of course!

That leaves Costa Maya.  We aren’t especially interested in the shore excursions offered by Carnival so are looking to do something on our own.  For those of you who have been there, what do you recommend?