Not exactly a dream cruise

July 13, 2008|By Los Angeles Times

In May, we took a seven-day cruise to Alaska on the Norwegian Cruise Line Pearl. This was our worst cruising experience. There are numerous restaurants on the ship, but several are specialty restaurants that charge an extra $10 to $20 per person. Also, many activities on the ship began with 15- to 20-minute hard-sell pitches for merchandise or the next cruise. Is this what cruising has come to? We could have had the same experience listening to a time-share pitch.

A cruise ship is an easy way to cover lots of territory, especially in Alaska, but it comes at a price, and we're not just talking about what you paid for your ticket.

We insist on believing that a cruise is all-inclusive. It's not. Think sodas, wine with dinner or cocktails, shore excursions, massages, never mind the fee for the primo dining experiences.

And then there's the tipping.

Further, those pitches you're listening to? They may be subsidizing your cruise line, which has its own set of issues with fuel prices. NCL, among others, recently instituted a fuel surcharge of $9 a person a day for the first and second person in a cabin and $4 for the third or fourth. It even more recently increased the charge to $11 and $5, respectively.

These "complaints, while valid about the effort to generate revenue, are standard within the industry," said Jana Jones, a freelance cruise specialist who reviewed the Pearl for CruiseCritic.com. Cruising "actually has become much, much cheaper than it was five years ago," Jones said. "Cruise lines have to get the revenue somewhere. By selling bingo ... that's where they get it."

So does this mean your complaints are without merit? Of course not. But it may be that your expectations were higher than warranted.

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