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Well, I have to admit that I’ve been lazy this month, and haven’t posted anything for a while. Partly this was because nothing much seemed to be happening in the world of UK cruising. Perhaps people were just enjoying their cruises; or perhaps a few weeks of dry and reasonably bright weather was such a shock that they were stunned into silence. At any rate, I didn’t spot any huge stories of disaster or discontent and this made it hard to find anything to blog about. And of course there was a certain sporting event in London which (rather to my surprise) grabbed my attention for several weeks. But now normal service will be resumed.

There have been a couple of things that I noticed in the last week or so, both from Carnival Cruise Line:

  • ‘Faster to the Fun!’;
  • an all-inclusive drinks package.

Let’s have a brief look at them.

First, Faster to the Fun! This is a scheme whereby, for the payment of a sum of money – I’ve seen $50 mentioned – passengers who are not on the higher tiers of CCL’s loyalty scheme and therefore wouldn’t normally qualify for benefits such as priority embarkation, priority tendering, priority restaurant booking – in fact, lots of priority stuff – can buy these benefits for the duration of their cruise. CCL say that there will be a limit to the number of FttF! packages available per cruise so that they won’t end up in the situation where everybody qualifies for priority, and that this limit will take into account the number of passengers on the cruise who have qualified for the benefits through the loyalty scheme.

My instinctive reaction was to think ‘this is wrong, wrong, wrong!’. Then I realised that I might be reacting a bit like a grumpy old man so I went away and though about it for a while, and as a result of that I’ve reached the conclusion that it’s definitely wrong, wrong, wrong! Part of that, I’m sure, is the innate British attitude that everyone must wait their turn, and queue jumping is just wrong (there’s that word again….); and that was probably the reason for my first reaction. But having thought about it I also feel that this impacts on the whole loyalty scheme thing. High-tier loyalty club members who are enjoying these benefits have had to demonstrate their loyalty to that particular cruise line over and over again; surely, making the same benefits available to someone just because they can flash some cash cheapens the scheme.

Then there’s the drinks package. Basically the idea here is that for a flat payment per person per day, that person can drink as much as they want every day. There are some restrictions as to what they can drink, e.g. in the case of wine it will only include those wines with a maximum per-glass price of $10 or something like that, but they can have as many glasses of qualifying wine as they like.

As I understand it, there are some restrictions:

  • the package has to be for all the days of the cruise; you can’t decide to buy it some days and not on other days;
  • the package is for the named individual only, so you can’t use it to buy a drink for another person. In the case of other lines that have introduced similar deals (e.g. Celebrity) this point has caused some confusion – some buyers seem to have taken the view that they certainly should be able to use it for drinks for other people, and I gather that on occasion there has been some conflict. CCL are therefore taking an interesting approach to the issue: the package is only available if *all* adult passengers in a given cabin buy it, e.g. both members of a couple. That way the question of the person who’s bought the package attempting to use it to buy a drink for their spouse or partner won’t arise – they’ve both got it anyway.

I’ll be honest, this type of package wouldn’t work for me. I like to have a few sober days during a cruise – maybe only a couple or so, I’m not that much of a party-pooper – but if I wouldn’t want to have to drink enough, every day, to make the package value for money over the whole of a typical ex-Southampton 14 night cruise to the Med or the Baltic. In fact, surely there’s a public health issue here? Maybe it all makes a lot more sense in the context of 7 night (or fewer) cruises out of Florida to the Caribbean.

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