Friday, June 24, 2011

Perspective: Seabourn and Cruise Critic Divas...Not So Perfect Together.

Once again, I admit that like a moth drawn to a flame, I took a look at Cruise Critic to see what the 0.1% of all Seabourn guests are saying.  I did this because the other day one of my clients said, "I was looking on Cruise Critic for the answer and what they were saying just didn't seem right."  Well, what they said wasn't correct....again.

It still puzzles me ("fascinates" would be too kind of a word) why people say things on Cruise Critic that they really don't know the answer to.  You will recall I recently wrote about a person who rather embellished something on Cruise Critic to make himself sound better, but that is not giving bad information or strangely complaining about things...or even speaking in an affirmative "I know" manner when they don't know and their complaints are not about Seabourn's quality of service or cuisine or hardware, but really picky things that are only problematic in the world of "It is all about me."  They are what I now call "Cruise Critic Divas".

Presently there is a thread about how Holland America is apparently managing and directing Seabourn.  The problem with the thread is, of course, that Holland America and Seabourn have gone overboard (sorry) to assure everyone...including their employees...that Seabourn is a separate entity, run by separate executives, with a different philosophy and a different product...even down to its own offices.

And then there is, of course, pretty much only glowing reports on the Seabourn cruise experience since the change in March 2010...right up until the present Maiden Voyage of the Seabourn Quest.

So with that background, I offer what I posted as my response to one of the regular complainers and, in fact, not directly to him, but all of the dozen complainers that poison the well for Seabourn...for purposes that - as I said - frustrate me.  (You will pick up on what the complaints were as you read this):

Please don't take this personally, as it is not intended to be, but it is very interesting that many posts...including some in this thread...are about what a particular person likes; not what actually works or is preferred.

Some Americans love thick juicy steaks, but most find them to be too big and frankly unappetizing when put on their plate. Too much is not a good thing. ([Regent Seven Seas]sort of...and I mean sort of...found that out when it opened its Prime 7 restaurant with huge portions.) The concept for a cruise line, at least Seabourn, is to provide excellent cuisine; not throw thousands of dollars away...offending or not satisfying the vast majority along the way...because say 10 people on a cruise like their steak big and juicy.

I would love the Sky Bar to remain open later...and if there are 20 people (or about 4% of a full ship)...it will. But to keep it open for 4 people (less than 1%) until who knows when isn't really practical and, to some (like me) it could be seen as an opportunity to be unintentionally abusive to the staff...who have to be up early in the morning.

You want the Coffee Bar open after 6PM? Let's just take a moment and consider that (a) after 6PM the vast majority of people are getting ready for cocktails and dinner (not a coffee); (b) from 7:30 - 9:30 pm. the vast majority are actually eating dinner; and (c) after dinner almost everyone either goes back to their suite, to a show or to a lounge. So exactly how many coffees do you think were served after [6PM]?

Also, let's have a reality check here: When the Odyssey came out she was the first Seabourn ship in almost two decades. It was a huge deal. And coupled with that, there were many construction issues that affected the first guests. So between overwhelming the issues with care and kindness and making sure there was great "spin" all stops were taken out. But then reality set in. Just how many of those chocolate whatever were actually selected and, to be sure, they may still be there; just others have selected them before you arrived on your one cruise thereafter.

Now: PERSPECTIVE! Think about what the complaints are? A particular pastry; the thickness of a steak; how late an underutilized coffee bar is to stay open. If these are the things that upset you and make you think that Seabourn...or any other line...is horrifically cutting back, I believe perspective has been totally lost.

As that issue of PERSPECTIVE, do you think it is appropriate for 99.2% of the guests subsidize the wishes of the 4 people that want the Sky Bar or Coffee Bar to stay open longer? (Think increased staffing, wasted unused food offerings, etc.) I know, for example, that Seabourn has recently made the decision to pay more for its entertainment staff so that it can have higher quality shows...and it, well, shows...making many more people's evening more enjoyable.

Oh, and by the way, sticking with the PERSPECTIVE thing, have you compared the cost of the cruise compared to 5-10 years ago? It is actually much lower and while the cruise lines had charged a fuel supplement previously when oil was over $70 a barrel, now when it is about $100 a barrel they reserve the right to, but don't (except Cunard does).

So, in summary, I believe some folks have just lost perspective and, unfortunately, the reality that what they want just might not be what the vast majority of the Seabourn guests want. Seabourn is a business. Because something changes doesn't mean there are "cutbacks" it means there just might be some smart people "crafting" the Seabourn product to better fit the vast majority of the clients.

Now, if the lack of a chocolate pastry is a reason to complain then why don't you take the larger sized Molton Brown bath products that Seabourn now uses, relax and realize that while Seabourn ain't perfect, the issues are actually rather insignificant (IMHO).

There is no question that when you are on a cruise, Seabourn or otherwise, you want what you want.  But then again, there is a limit to what is reasonable even under the most demanding of circumstances. 
 
So for all those on Cruise Critic (or elsewhere) that it is a huge ordeal that they don't have those "little chocolate thingies" you need to ask yourselves:
 
"How much does your cruise fare allow you to be a Cruise Critic Diva?
 
- Does it entitle you to be more of a Diva than when you go to one of the finest restaurants in the world and they changed the menu?
 
- Does it entitle you to be more of a Diva than if you chartered a superyacht for $150,000+ a week and the steak wasn't perfectly to your liking?

 - Does it entitle you to have a staff member dedicated to your personal desire for an espresso, but only in the location that you wish?

Cruise Critic Divas, it is a cruise in a special, but imperfect, luxury ambiance.  Lighten up and enjoy. 

I mean if there is anyone that is going to be critical of a cruise line's performance it is going to be me.  But my criticisms are, hopefully, big picture and focused with perspective. Now:  The cafĂ© in my building just closed last week.  I think I am going on a rent strike!

What do you think?  Join the discussion on The Gold Standard Luxury Travel Forum.