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Is the Era of Cutbacks Over?

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Since DW and I started cruising seriously in 2011, there have been so many threads on this board and many others that are all 'the sky is falling – cutbacks everywhere' :eek: But now the news on culinary, entertainment and shore excursions tends to be about improvements. Not a return to the old menus [couldn't care less about prime rib and baked Alaska] but an update to 21st century adventuresome food and immersive shore excursions.

 

Celebrity Edge will have a record number of dining options [including a record number of included ones] and all new specialty menus. Also new entertainment [especially in Eden]. And the 'Uniquely Celebrity' shore excursions.

 

HAL is touting their new culinary offerings. Now comes this article about Princess:

https://www.cruisecritic.com/news/news.cfm?ID=8527

with really interesting-sounding shore excursions and new menu items.

 

Could this mean that the decade of cutbacks is coming to a close and mainstream cruise lines will again be competing on quality? Hope springs eternal!

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I don’t think so but one could hope.

 

 

I think the cutbacks and the extreme low quality will continue to get worse before getting better. I think the Hal and Princess articles are just words and passengers will not see the enhancements that they say.

 

 

The food offerings and extremely low quality food on the main lines and bad service should be embarrassing to the cruise lines but they really don’t seem to care as it saves them money.

 

Look at royals new menus. They appear to have reached new lows.

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Since DW and I started cruising seriously in 2011, there have been so many threads on this board and many others that are all 'the sky is falling – cutbacks everywhere' :eek: But now the news on culinary, entertainment and shore excursions tends to be about improvements. Not a return to the old menus [couldn't care less about prime rib and baked Alaska] but an update to 21st century adventuresome food and immersive shore excursions.

 

Celebrity Edge will have a record number of dining options [including a record number of included ones] and all new specialty menus. Also new entertainment [especially in Eden]. And the 'Uniquely Celebrity' shore excursions.

 

HAL is touting their new culinary offerings. Now comes this article about Princess:

https://www.cruisecritic.com/news/news.cfm?ID=8527

with really interesting-sounding shore excursions and new menu items.

 

Could this mean that the decade of cutbacks is coming to a close and mainstream cruise lines will again be competing on quality? Hope springs eternal!

I applaud your optimism and share your hope, but am also afraid the glasses we're both looking through are heavily rose colored. Based on silly changes like the new gray rubber seapass card holders issued in place of the old blue leather, then leatherette ones, and the cheap tote bags that have been given out lately in place of the nice heavy canvas zip top bags to Concierge Class and above, I fear that silly cost cuts are continuing. These changes, although not deal breakers certainly are demonstrations of cost cuts to passengers who are being charged decidedly more than a few years back. The bottles of wine previously awaiting in the cabin chilled to those same classes of cabins, are now only given when requested. The flowers previously in concierge class and above are noticeably absent. Again, not big deals, but little changes showing a cost cutting trend. The menus no longer show five courses, but three. While I know that passengers can order whatever they want, the layout does influence less experienced passengers to order one from each. There is currently a charge for room service that has been recently enacted during overnight hours. The practice of pool butlers offering sorbet cups at the pool on hot days has been noticeably absent as has the practice of the same pool butlers offering iced towels. The stateroom bathrooms in concierge class used to have containers of cotton swabs and cotton balls, but now offer a tiny box holding two of each. Again, not deal breakers by any means, but downgrades nonetheless. There's also been a steady increase in the number and cost of specialty dining venues. What was once 10 years ago $10 is now $50. The cost of cruises on the new Edge for a seven night cruise verandah cabin with a similar itinerary to an S or M class ship is almost twice the price. Factoring that in, the "free venues" on the Edge are far from it. I don't blame X for charging a premium for the privilege of trying their newest ships, but I can't pretend that I think it's the end of the era of cutbacks!

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Since DW and I started cruising seriously in 2011, there have been so many threads on this board and many others that are all 'the sky is falling – cutbacks everywhere' :eek: But now the news on culinary, entertainment and shore excursions tends to be about improvements. Not a return to the old menus [couldn't care less about prime rib and baked Alaska] but an update to 21st century adventuresome food and immersive shore excursions.

 

Celebrity Edge will have a record number of dining options [including a record number of included ones] and all new specialty menus. Also new entertainment [especially in Eden]. And the 'Uniquely Celebrity' shore excursions.

 

HAL is touting their new culinary offerings. Now comes this article about Princess:

https://www.cruisecritic.com/news/news.cfm?ID=8527

with really interesting-sounding shore excursions and new menu items.

 

Could this mean that the decade of cutbacks is coming to a close and mainstream cruise lines will again be competing on quality? Hope springs eternal!

Not really.

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I would speculate that the era of cutbacks is only just beginning.

 

The cutbacks will be done creatively. As a guide, think of how this is done at the grocery store. They shrink a 16 ounce can of soup to 15.5 ounces, while leaving the price unchanged. Then they pull it back to 15 ounces. Then 14.5. Then they introduce a new "jumbo" 16 ounce size at a higher price. You can already see these type of stunts in Celebrity's beverage packages.

 

In a way, it seems like we are going back in time to when people in different classes get totally different experiences. We already see this on Celebrity with different dining options coupled to your stateroom type. Other cruise lines are doing this too. I believe some Norwegian ships have a common area and room type for single travelers. I think Carnival has a common area accessible only to certain family-oriented staterooms. I wouldn't be surprised if right now they are designing new ships with entire ship decks exclusive to particular types of travelers.

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Hope springs eternal!

 

I think that may be all that it is - hope.

 

Having new dining options doesn't mean better food quality in main dining or equivalent. It's just different themes, but doesn't make the food better. And I haven't seen anything on Edge to suggest an improvement (though do like the sound of the Greek restaurant - but that can still be done worse, the same or better than now).

 

The other things you mention are new entertainment - that doesn't mean there haven't been cutbacks either. Have to wait and see on that one. The last you mentioned is shore excursions. That's not so much about "cutbacks" since it's something at extra charge and was never subject to cutbacks anyway. While they may or may not be better, they've always been at a substantial extra cost - and perhaps that cost will increase further?

 

So based on the above, nothing to suggest the era of cutbacks is over. And based on other indicators, it's more likely than not they'll continue.

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I don´t even have the slightest bit of " Hope" that the cut backs will end. I totaly agree with Mighty Mike! The package is a bit nicer wrapped- thats all! With those damn drink packages, among other stuff, began the downfall- well that is a bit big a word- but still!

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X is no longer a premium cruise line- just the same mass mart line with better wrappings- and the girls ( ships) are nice made up!

The X-tra of X is long gone- and as I fear will never come back! They lost bunches of loyal customers - me included- but they don´t care- and why should they- their ships still sail at full capactiy!

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Having read this post I will give you my view of my recent Eclipse sailing, one we have done for many years.

There is not massively anything that glaringly detracts from the enjoyment of the cruise but if you have sailed over a number of years there are certain “that’s unusual”. I will give a few examples, fewer staff around the pool and pool bar, cuts of meat that would not have been near the MDR menu even four years ago. I enjoy a nice malt whiskey and upgraded to the premium package, however not all bars stock the premium whiskey. In the past not a problem the barman would have it next day or even go to another bar and get it. Not this time they are not allowed to stock them.

I also noticed that when folkes were ordering cocktails the spirits used were low cost unbranded cheaper brands.

Another area where X has been clever is that there used to be an assistant steward, (I think that the recommended tip per day was $2.50 not sure). The assistant is no longer, but his recommended tip remains in the total daily recommended amount charged, very creative.

We have two cruises booked however we spent a week in an hotel in Sarasota and the experience has made us perhaps rethink our vacation plans. My brother is trying to persuade us to try Siversea or Seabourne and to be honest that may be the way to go.

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That´s exactly the reason why I switched to Cunard or Holland. My parents use Silver and Seaburn and love it! More expensive but nothing downgraded ( so far) !

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I can only see it getting worse, lots of small changes but also some very big one. The biggest change for us is the standard of food in the MDR on all of the standard cruise lines, not even close to what it used to be. Don’t know if it’s just me but service in that area also seems to have dropped significantly. I think to get back to where it used to be you now need to look at the luxury lines, sadly we are not a couple that can afford that level of cruise line.

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While we cannot dispute anyone's 'claim' of cumulative cutbacks which have been made and downgrades observed by 'long time' cruisers of X, we do not blame you for abandoning the cruise line.

 

Our experience has been very different compared to a few of the other 'mass market' lines, which for us is more enjoyable than those.

 

It is quite possible, that in a few years, we will be following you to bluer waters for a different and greater experience, as it were/is.

 

Thank you for the observations.

 

bon voyage

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I absolutely do NOT believe the era of cutbacks is ending. It continues on and on, in more subtle ways now that more obvious cutbacks are in place. Bartenders tend to grab lower quality booze unless you ask for a brand name, even for premium package. Live entertainment in the early evenings continues to be virtually non-existent (example, on Eclipse now in Ensemble - live music from 5:30-6:15 then nothing until 7:45 - and that is true over the whole ship. So much for a nice pre-dinner music and cocktail experience). Remember that right now Edge is substantially more expensive than cruising on Celebrity's other ships. They can get that now because it is brand new - but will it continue? Or as the newer ships roll out will the prices need to go down a bit in which case cut, cut. cut. Things you mention like new shore excursions are additions for quite a large price.

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I would speculate that the era of cutbacks is only just beginning.

 

The cutbacks will be done creatively. As a guide, think of how this is done at the grocery store. They shrink a 16 ounce can of soup to 15.5 ounces, while leaving the price unchanged. Then they pull it back to 15 ounces. Then 14.5. Then they introduce a new "jumbo" 16 ounce size at a higher price. You can already see these type of stunts in Celebrity's beverage packages.

 

In a way, it seems like we are going back in time to when people in different classes get totally different experiences. We already see this on Celebrity with different dining options coupled to your stateroom type. Other cruise lines are doing this too. I believe some Norwegian ships have a common area and room type for single travelers. I think Carnival has a common area accessible only to certain family-oriented staterooms. I wouldn't be surprised if right now they are designing new ships with entire ship decks exclusive to particular types of travelers.

 

This^^^

 

But, unlike others, I find these "cutbacks" no different than virtually any other industry or product I buy.

 

The grocery store analogy is spot on - plus the prices have increased (compare the price of a standard grocery store rib eye or celery to what you paid 5 years ago.) Restaurant prices are up, and in situations where tip is included, they have gone from 15% to 18% or 20%. What happened to the cheap rooms and buffets in Vegas? House wine in a restaurant -

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Based on silly changes like the new gray rubber seapass card holders issued in place of the old blue leather, then leatherette ones, Didn't like the new version, went into the garbage; have several leatherette from prior cruises so didn't need another. But a leatherette one DID appear a few days into the cruise.

 

and the cheap tote bags that have been given out lately in place of the nice heavy canvas zip top bags to Concierge Class Each of past 5 cruises (and before) have received a canvas zip bag; left the last one in the stateroom.

 

The bottles of wine previously awaiting in the cabin chilled to those same classes of cabins, are now only given when requested. Always received our sparkling wine, but with Bev Pkg don't use it; leave it for the Steward.

 

The flowers previously in concierge class and above are noticeably absent. Always have had flowers, maybe a day or two later, but they do appear.

The practice of pool butlers offering sorbet cups at the pool on hot days has been noticeably absent as has the practice of the same pool butlers offering iced towels. Last cruise, WHEN IT WAS REALLY HOT (near Columbia), butler offered iced towels.

 

What was once 10 years ago $10 is now $50. $$ has definitely affected pricing. In Canada, we really feel the difference, but I expect the cruise line will and should make a profit. Up to us whether to book/pay the price.

I definitely agree with the lower standard of MDR food quality. I'm a little too picky (DH tells me) but only 2 of 11 days was I satisfied with any of the dining selections. Just a way to push us toward Specialty restaurants (worked with me however). But our dining attendants were GREAT and as attentive as I would have wished them to be. Some tell me Reflection may not have the best MDR dining choices and it's different on other X ships. We'll see.

Having said all this, in Concierge and if you've cruised many times, some of these items are redundant. Perhaps they should ask if you want these items before distributing in order to keep costs down.

Edited by oceangoer2

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Since DW and I started cruising seriously in 2011, there have been so many threads on this board and many others that are all 'the sky is falling – cutbacks everywhere' :eek: But now the news on culinary, entertainment and shore excursions tends to be about improvements. Not a return to the old menus [couldn't care less about prime rib and baked Alaska] but an update to 21st century adventuresome food and immersive shore excursions.

 

Celebrity Edge will have a record number of dining options [including a record number of included ones] and all new specialty menus. Also new entertainment [especially in Eden]. And the 'Uniquely Celebrity' shore excursions.

 

HAL is touting their new culinary offerings. Now comes this article about Princess:

https://www.cruisecritic.com/news/news.cfm?ID=8527

with really interesting-sounding shore excursions and new menu items.

 

Could this mean that the decade of cutbacks is coming to a close and mainstream cruise lines will again be competing on quality? Hope springs eternal!

 

Change is constant in any industry and the cruise industry is no different. Cutbacks are part of change. As you point out there are positive changes too (add-ons vs cutbacks) but these boards overwhelmingly focus on the negative most of the time so lots of discussion on cutbacks. Alot of cruisers are uncomfortable with changes - yearn for the old days when everything was just perfect! That is called selective memory.

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The pendulum swings back and forth. Yes prices have risen, as has the economy. I think some people (I as well) got used to the recession pricing of the last years. We still prefer X and just adjust our onboard budget as prices rise. Ultimately it's amazing value for room, board, travel and entertainment.

 

A snapshot from royal Caribbean showed that the average cruiser only nets them about $150 to $200 in profit, if they spend little to nothing on board. With margins like that I'm not surprised they squeeze a bit. As long as the base service remains comfortable and to a quality we prefer, we will return.

 

Sent from my SM-G930W8 using Forums mobile app

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In a former job, we were all called in to a meeting one day and told “We have an exciting opportunity for all of you!” What they meant was that we had all lost our jobs. When I read about the new “enhancements” to be offered, I suspect in my cynical heart that they’re being offered because they will save a lot of money for the cruise lines, and adding to passengers’ enjoyment is just a hoped-for side effect. I will keep my fingers crossed for good changes, though.

 

 

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I applaud your optimism and share your hope, but am also afraid the glasses we're both looking through are heavily rose colored. Based on silly changes like the new gray rubber seapass card holders issued in place of the old blue leather, then leatherette ones, and the cheap tote bags that have been given out lately in place of the nice heavy canvas zip top bags to Concierge Class and above, I fear that silly cost cuts are continuing. These changes, although not deal breakers certainly are demonstrations of cost cuts to passengers who are being charged decidedly more than a few years back. The bottles of wine previously awaiting in the cabin chilled to those same classes of cabins, are now only given when requested. The flowers previously in concierge class and above are noticeably absent. Again, not big deals, but little changes showing a cost cutting trend. The menus no longer show five courses, but three. While I know that passengers can order whatever they want, the layout does influence less experienced passengers to order one from each. There is currently a charge for room service that has been recently enacted during overnight hours. The practice of pool butlers offering sorbet cups at the pool on hot days has been noticeably absent as has the practice of the same pool butlers offering iced towels. The stateroom bathrooms in concierge class used to have containers of cotton swabs and cotton balls, but now offer a tiny box holding two of each. Again, not deal breakers by any means, but downgrades nonetheless. There's also been a steady increase in the number and cost of specialty dining venues. What was once 10 years ago $10 is now $50. The cost of cruises on the new Edge for a seven night cruise verandah cabin with a similar itinerary to an S or M class ship is almost twice the price. Factoring that in, the "free venues" on the Edge are far from it. I don't blame X for charging a premium for the privilege of trying their newest ships, but I can't pretend that I think it's the end of the era of cutbacks!

While I have also noticed the changes you mentioned in your post, and lamented some of them, I have a couple of comments.

 

We did enjoy lengthy five course meals in the MDR (late seating) on our first cruise, but I have seen recent complaints by people who said their three course dinners took too long (they thought service was slow). I wonder if Celebrity reduced the courses in response to passenger feedback.

 

We began cruising in 2006, on a Millennium Mediterranean & Aegean itinerary. We celebrated our anniversary in the beautiful Olympic restaurant. We paid $30 per person. Fast forward to our 2013 Adriatic cruise on Silhouette. We celebrated our anniversary in Murano. We paid $40 per person. In 11 years, the only place I have seen anything like a $10 charge for specialty restaurants was in The Porch and Bistro on 5 in 2013. We paid $5 per person in each of these venues (for lunch). It is true that Celebrity has increased prices (though The Porch price change wouldn’t be a fair comparison because the menu was also changed drastically) but IMO the increases haven’t been dramatic.

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The pendulum swings back and forth. Yes prices have risen, as has the economy. I think some people (I as well) got used to the recession pricing of the last years. We still prefer X and just adjust our onboard budget as prices rise. Ultimately it's amazing value for room, board, travel and entertainment.

/quote]

 

I agree you - cruising is still a great value. I've gotten to the point where I want to do more exotic itineraries and when I look at some of those prices compared to land trips, it's not even close. Personally I'm fine with the food that is served in the MDR - I don't need to make a big deal out of dinner and cruising continues to provide a vacation where I never have to have the "where are we going for dinner?" conversation with my husband, which for me is priceless.

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[sorry got cut off by my browser]

 

House wine in a restaurant - $5 to $8 per glass.

 

When compared over the decades, cruising is (in many ways) cheaper than it was. https://boards.cruisecritic.com/showthread.php?t=1263133

 

Yes, service and food are probably not at the higher standards of yesteryear. But most of those higher prices are generated by optional expenses. You don't HAVE TO get a suite or aqua or concierge class, eat in specialty restaurants, drink alcohol, go on excursions, pay for snacks while you watch a movie, buy stuff in the shops, etc etc etc. Heck, even taking a cruise (or any vacation) is optional. Your money, your choice.

 

All corporations took a hit during the Great Recession - in net income and stock prices. They NEED to increase those stock prices. Any of you that have investments in individual stocks or mutual funds should be cheering when they do.

Edited by jkgourmet

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Having read this post I will give you my view of my recent Eclipse sailing, one we have done for many years.

There is not massively anything that glaringly detracts from the enjoyment of the cruise but if you have sailed over a number of years there are certain “that’s unusual”. I will give a few examples, fewer staff around the pool and pool bar, cuts of meat that would not have been near the MDR menu even four years ago. I enjoy a nice malt whiskey and upgraded to the premium package, however not all bars stock the premium whiskey. In the past not a problem the barman would have it next day or even go to another bar and get it. Not this time they are not allowed to stock them.

I also noticed that when folkes were ordering cocktails the spirits used were low cost unbranded cheaper brands.

Another area where X has been clever is that there used to be an assistant steward, (I think that the recommended tip per day was $2.50 not sure). The assistant is no longer, but his recommended tip remains in the total daily recommended amount charged, very creative.

We have two cruises booked however we spent a week in an hotel in Sarasota and the experience has made us perhaps rethink our vacation plans. My brother is trying to persuade us to try Siversea or Seabourne and to be honest that may be the way to go.

 

This describes my last cruise on Reflection. Some of the cut backs are less noticeable but they are there. The service in the dining room, IMO, is at an all time low. The lacks of an assistant waiter is bad. It has just added more waiting time in the DR. Less entertainment going on in the evening. Take a Compass, mark out all the "up charge" stuff they want you to do, like wine classes, and see what is left - not much.

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The cutbacks will be done creatively. As a guide, think of how this is done at the grocery store. They shrink a 16 ounce can of soup to 15.5 ounces, while leaving the price unchanged. Then they pull it back to 15 ounces. Then 14.5. .

 

My DH and I just had this discussion yesterday as Dannon Yogurt which was originally 8 ounces then 6 ounces is now 5.3 ounces. Really?

 

The age of cutbacks is here to stay unless you want to pay. I'm sure all the new and exciting things on Edge will have an additional cost to them.

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While I have also noticed the changes you mentioned in your post, and lamented some of them, I have a couple of comments.

 

We did enjoy lengthy five course meals in the MDR (late seating) on our first cruise, but I have seen recent complaints by people who said their three course dinners took too long (they thought service was slow). I wonder if Celebrity reduced the courses in response to passenger feedback.

 

We began cruising in 2006, on a Millennium Mediterranean & Aegean itinerary. We celebrated our anniversary in the beautiful Olympic restaurant. We paid $30 per person. Fast forward to our 2013 Adriatic cruise on Silhouette. We celebrated our anniversary in Murano. We paid $40 per person. In 11 years, the only place I have seen anything like a $10 charge for specialty restaurants was in The Porch and Bistro on 5 in 2013. We paid $5 per person in each of these venues (for lunch). It is true that Celebrity has increased prices (though The Porch price change wouldn’t be a fair comparison because the menu was also changed drastically) but IMO the increases haven’t been dramatic.

 

I think the slow service is due to fewer servers covering a larger area. We had a top notch head waiter, Sanyo, on Reflection. He had a few assistants working with him to cover 8, maybe more, tables of various sizes. That man ran the entire time we were there, doing his best to meet the needs of his guests. The menu is represented as three courses and the staff was cut back to save $$. We are not huge eaters, so 3 courses suit our needs - leaves room for that Cafe al Bacio dessert later in the evening.

 

But let's look at Cafe al Bacio. When we first started cruising, they put out lovely tea sandwiches along with the pastries in the afternoon. No more. Al Bacio is always busy, often times you have to wait for a table. Notice they don't do anything to expand the seating capacity there. They are only making $$ on coffee to passengers that don't have the drink packages.

 

Concierge and Aqua class passengers aren't the only ones who have to ask for the things that are supposed to be included in the cabins. We sail veranda cabins - there are no robes, unless you ask for them, soap, shampoo, conditioner is carefully rationed - you have to ask for refills. We bring our own stuff, so it doesn't matter so much to us, but it's still a cutback.

 

I upgraded my bev package to premium last time and won't do it again. Unless you go to the bar and instruct the bartender on how to make your drink, you get the less expensive brands.

 

All that said, we still prefer Celebrity over Princess, the only other line we've sailed. But I foresee a time, when we might start shopping around. We won't be sailing on the Edge any time soon, with those prices.

Edited by Marelaine

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