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3 hours ago, KirkNC said:

I am not sure if the Sommeliers will still be onboard.

 

This "new"--at the time--position was created when I sailed on the Noordam from New York.  The woman, who appeared mid-cruise, intimidated the "wine servers" who had been at work.  The change in their demeanor was quite noticeable when she arrived.  

 

She was "wet behind the ears".  She contributed nothing to my cruise experience.  

 

I cannot truthfully say that any of the other "Sommeliers" whom I have experienced on HAL made a difference to my cruise experience.  I have known HAL bartenders who are more wine knowledgeable than the supposed MDR "experts".  A few of the Sommeliers presided over interesting wine tasting sessions as well as the late after of a bite from the PG and a glass of wine.  But, that was a form of "entertainment" as well as make a reservation for the PG as far as I was concerned.  

 

To make one's MDR Steward and/or his/her assistant responsible for wine service is what is done on Princess.  It diminisheds the wine service and impacts the overall dining service of the guest.  

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2 hours ago, Hlitner said:

We have seen a trend, on several other lines, to eliminate most wine stewards.  Why?  We have heard that the change is primarily because of the big increase in drink packages which include wine by the glass.  The wine steward system does not work well with that kind of system.  What we often see is that the waiters and assistant waiters will have lots of open bottles (that are on the wine by the glass program) at their stations so they can easily refill glasses as needed.    We have noticed that HAL has been increasingly running promos including their beverage package so this seems to fit the pattern.

 

Hank

 

All well and good but what about those that don’t want to drink that stuff and want a decent bottle?

Hopefully we too can get service since I would think HAL will get more $$$ from that then the SBP (especially if you already have it) but what do I know?

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Just now, kazu said:

 

All well and good but what about those that don’t want to drink that stuff and want a decent bottle?

Hopefully we too can get service since I would think HAL will get more $$$ from that then the SBP (especially if you already have it) but what do I know?

You raise a good point.  What they did on Celebrity (prior to COVID) is cut back on the number of wine stewards and have the waiters handle all the wines by the glass included in the drink packages.  If a passenger wanted to order a bottle off the wine list there were still some wine stewards in the MDR although you might find yourself waiting a long time for service depending on the demand that evening.   But you need to consider if half the folks in the MDR had drink packages there is no way a few wine stewards could handle the drink by the glass demands.  

 

Even on HAL we have had our issues with wine stewards when they were overworked (on busy nights) and could not get to our table for a long time.  We had situations where our waiters would have served us our starters long before the wine steward ever got us our wine.  Finally, following the lead of a few other tablemates we learned to not even order dinner until after we had talked to the wine steward.  While I certainly appreciate having a good wine steward, on mass market cruise ships there have generally not been enough wine stewards to adequately meet demand.  And now with drink packages becoming very common the only viable solution is to get the waiters involved in serving wines.  I would quickly agree that it is not an ideal solution, but it seems to be the best compromise.   It is just one more factor that has driven DW and I to book more cruises with premium or luxury cruise lines where the more favorable passenger/crew ratio usually solves issues like wine and drink service.

 

Hank

 

Hank

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5 hours ago, kazu said:

So, thinking about this if the wine steward elimination is permanent then most likely the Cellar Master dinner is also a thing of the past?  😔 

 

 

I would,sadly, say so

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Well, if we've been wondering whether HAL is trying to compete down against the bargain mainstream lines or up against the upscale/premium lines, we have our answer.

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I have found that adopting a "wine before food" mantra before ordering from the menu produces faster service from the wine stewards, probably because the staff assigned to my table then "encourage" the stewards so the staff may efficiently serve the table.

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We’ve experienced the same slow service Hank mentioned. We used to order the most $ choice of multi-bottle wine packages but wines we ordered were somehow never available and the promised “very similar” substitutes were inferior. In one case, I took a photo of the label and googled it later - it tasted exactly like its under-$10 price tag. 

 

We enjoyed Club Orange after booking a NS on our last HAL cruise in 2019 partly due the attentive wine steward. We brought a favorite bottle from home one night and he never charged corkage. Even if he had, it would have been less $ than the same wine in HAL’s list.

 

So we’ll bring our own, but that won’t always work well, and certainly isn’t a good solution for some foreign embarkation and long cruises.

 

 

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Posted (edited)
2 hours ago, mame42 said:

I have found that adopting a "wine before food" mantra before ordering from the menu produces faster service from the wine stewards, probably because the staff assigned to my table then "encourage" the stewards so the staff may efficiently serve the table.

It has worked for us for many years.  We quickly inform our waiter on the first night that we will not be ordering any food before our bottle has been opened (we often bring our own) or we have been served a glass by the wine steward.  We have seldom waited more than a few minutes 😉

Edited by taxmantoo
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16 hours ago, kazu said:

So, thinking about this if the wine steward elimination is permanent then most likely the Cellar Master dinner is also a thing of the past?  😔 

 

 

Hi Jacqui, I really think the Cellar Master dinner will continue to be offered on a ad-hoc basis like before as it is a revenue generating activity.  The ships will still have the need for a Cellar Master whether they have wine stewards or not.  Somebody has to be in charge of  maintaining the wine supply on board regardless of who serves it, be it the wine steward, the bar waiter, the bus boy or the captain.  So I believe the Cellar Master, usually the only certified sommelier on board, will continue to host the wine tastings and the Cellar Master dinner.  We all need to go on a cruise soon to go check things out 😉

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So thinking this over...

We have always enjoyed our interaction with the wine stewards and found them to be helpful.

But also there is always a cocktail waiter who comes through the dining room as well.  I guess with more "wine by the glass" orders, this person would take those orders and perhaps bottles and packages, too.  So probably not the dining waitstaff?

 

It's a bummer to see the wine stewards go, but we'll fumble through.  

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1 hour ago, AncientWanderer said:

So thinking this over...

We have always enjoyed our interaction with the wine stewards and found them to be helpful.

But also there is always a cocktail waiter who comes through the dining room as well.  I guess with more "wine by the glass" orders, this person would take those orders and perhaps bottles and packages, too.  So probably not the dining waitstaff?

 

It's a bummer to see the wine stewards go, but we'll fumble through.  

I was told the waitstaff will be serving the wine (I assume all wine).

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We all knew that once cruising started up again there would have to be cutbacks for them to survive.  This won't be the last one we hear about or experience, much less a reason for me to leave HAL.  I will miss the wine stewards too but honestly I feel much worse for them than for me. 

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One thing I would like to point out that I am not sure many understand.  CCL, in order to survive the pandemic, made massive changes to their debt and equity structure.  The additional cost of the debt and equity that they issued to survive means CCL must generate an additional $1.9 BILLION in revenue to break even with 2019 earnings.  This includes the additional debt cost of $1.5 BILLION and the earnings to keep the extra 85 million in shares issued at the 2019 EPS of $4.32/share.  Understand that in 2019 CCL's earnings were $3.0 BILLION so thats and increase of 62%.  Obviously they won't be able to do that which is why the stock is at $23/share and not $50/share but I say all this to demonstrate the enormous pressure to increase revenues.

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10 minutes ago, KirkNC said:

I was told the waitstaff will be serving the wine (I assume all wine).

 

Not sure exactly what this would mean.  I envision a cocktail server taking the order and bringing the bottle; dining waitstaff pouring refills, as they do water.

We shall see.  They will work it out.   I'll drink the wine no matter how it gets to me.

And totally agree with @Cruising-along...the hardship is on those who have lost their jobs.

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As a regular Princess cruiser, I can report that when they eliminated the wine stewards from the dining rooms--and that was quite a few years ago--all wine service and sales responsibilities fell onto the servers.  Interestingly, the specialty restaurants did not have wine stewards.  Rather, the headwaiter would always offer assistance in making a wine choice and, then, would serve the bottle.  When the wine stewards were eliminated from the dining rooms, I noticed that the specialty restaurant headwaiters stopped offering consultation.  More often than not, the servers in the specialty restaurants now perform all the wine service duties.  However, we have encountered a few headwaiters who still enjoy that aspect.  We met a Sardinian by the name of Franco in Sabatini's on the Royal Princess in 2019 whose passion was genuine.

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17 hours ago, Hlitner said:

Even on HAL we have had our issues with wine stewards when they were overworked (on busy nights) and could not get to our table for a long time. 

 

The overworked wine stewards sounds familiar, but the job of a sommelier is to tell me what wine would be nice for the combination of the next course and our budget.  And to open the bottle. We'll get back to you if it is corked. (Which I have haven't experienced in my whole life)

 

HQ may dictate that they want each and every glass to be put in the system, even for a table where everyone bought a very expensive super de luxe beverage card. I guess that's the reason they run back and forth 5 times with the same bottle to the same table. 

 

For us, it's just a nuisance to try to attract the attention of a steward. Just give us a bottle and we'll do the pooring ourselves. No need for us to try to get the attention of a waiter and shifting the conversation to the lack of waiters while we were discussing something more pleasant.

 

Even when dining with people you don't know, the bottle itself is such an easy ice breaker. It's suddenly "our" bottle. Yesterday we had x but this is so much better. I notice your glass is empty, you want some more?  Let me try to get another one, what was the name you said you had yesterday?  

 

All that's needed is the ability to get whole bottles with your card. I'm not buying a $20 or $40 dollar bottle when I already paid for the wine.  

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Posted (edited)

When I buy a wine package on Embarkation Day, I make it a point to specifically state what bottle of that package I want available on the first night's dinner.  Rarely have I found that I am not served by the wine steward in my section soon after I am seated at my table.

 

The very best HAL Wine Steward that I have experienced was a gentleman by the name of Roy, a Filipino.  Kind, always pleasant, knew his wines, and had to suffer a tablemate on a world cruise who often engaged him in long discussions of wine that were of no importance.  

 

There have been Wine Stewards were excellent in their duties who later became excellent bartenders.  Nestor--if you read this--I am speaking of you!  

Edited by rkacruiser
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Along with getting free laundry, the 50% discount on wine-by-the-bottle packages was a major benefit of reaching four-star status. I normally don't need sommelier-type advice, but I do need someone who can bring the requested  bottle to the table quickly, know how to open it, put it in a nearby ice bucket if it's a white or sparkling wine, keep an eye on our glasses to see if they need refilling, and---if we don't finish the whole bottle at that meal---re-cork it and put it away for us to finish the following night. I've always gotten that on HAL, but I'm beginning to have my doubts if we'll ever see a "civilized" wine service on HAL again. A damn shame, and maybe, for my wife and me, a deal-breaker with respect to booking future cruises on HAL.

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21 hours ago, jimdee3636 said:

keep an eye on our glasses to see if they need refilling

 

It seems I've detected a huge cultural difference 🙂 If you are in a restaurant and the bottle is at the table, while your or someone else's glass is empty, are you supposed to wait for a waiter to walk to your table to refill your glass? 

 

I (Dutch) am used to: someone (hopefully not me because my toes can hardly handle the amount of cringe) gets a tiny amount of wine, does the whole smelling, tasting, nodding, pleasantly surprised act, then everyone gets their glasses filled by the waiter. After that, it's up to the table to manage the bottle.

 

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6 minutes ago, AmazedByCruising said:

 

It seems I've detected a huge cultural difference 🙂 If you are in a restaurant and the bottle is at the table, while your or someone else's glass is empty, are you supposed to wait for a waiter to walk to your table to refill your glass? 

 

I (Dutch) am used to: someone (hopefully not me because my toes can hardly handle the amount of cringe) gets a tiny amount of wine, does the whole smelling, tasting, nodding, pleasantly surprised act, then everyone gets their glasses filled by the waiter. After that, it's up to the table to manage the bottle.

 

With a red wine, I will certainly refill glasses on the table without any needed help.I am like @jimdee3636 , just bring it and open it, I am good after that.

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55 minutes ago, aliaschief said:

We have always preferred pouring our own versus being rushed through a fine bottle of wine!

 

If it is a red wine and the bottle is sitting on my table, I have no problem with serving myself.  But, if it is a white wine and the bottle is sitting in an ice bucket that is, most likely, not sitting next to my DR chair, then, I do expect proper service of my wine by the Wine Steward.  And, I expect it to be done without me having to request such service.  

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1 hour ago, rkacruiser said:

 

If it is a red wine and the bottle is sitting on my table, I have no problem with serving myself.  But, if it is a white wine and the bottle is sitting in an ice bucket that is, most likely, not sitting next to my DR chair, then, I do expect proper service of my wine by the Wine Steward.  And, I expect it to be done without me having to request such service.  

Likewise.  It’s rare that I don’t have to ask for them to fill it.

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