Norwegian Cruise Line Faces Social Media Backlash Over New Beverage Ban
PHOTO: Pride of America. (photo courtesy of Norwegian Cruise Line)
Norwegian Cruise Line had to have expected some negative press over its more recent rule change, but the intensity of the anger directed at the company has to have been a proverbial cold splash of water for executives.
Recently, the cruise line enacted a beverage ban for cruise ships which will take effect on July 15. The ban restricts what liquids can come onboard the company’s cruise ships to only those which are essential for medical purposes — medicine and sealed water to be used for baby formula. There is also a loophole for bottles of wine as long as guests pay a corkage fee.
No bottled water, no soda, no beer or liquor…
Norwegian Cruise Line says the change is to expedite security lines that can get bogged down by screening liquids, but fans have taken to social media and the Internet to charge the company with simply trying to pad its bottom line.
One user on CruiseCritic.com, “pokerpro5” wondered aloud if this might be the cruise line’s attempt to push out value customers who don’t buy enough onboard goods and services. Others complained about the high cost of bottled water onboard the ships — previously not a problem as many stockpiled their own — and requested price comparisons between buying separate drinks vs. Norwegian Cruise Line’s “Unlimited Beverage Package.”
The thread is currently up to 83 pages and over 1,500 posts as of the time of this writing.
Complaints could also be found easily on social media sites like Twitter. User “@Skyrod,” a travel agent, called the move a huge step backward. Another travel agent, user “@Bill_Kincaid” said that he had booked over 1,600 cruises with the company but wouldn’t book another until the ban was reversed. Numerous customers complained at the short time period between the announcement and implementation of the policy, even going so far as to demand refunds.
Cruise travelers who absolutely refuse to abide by Norwegian's new policy can take solace that Carnival, Princess and Holland America all allow water, soda and other non-alcoholic beverages on board ships. Royal Caribbean has a similar policy to Norwegian’s already in place.
This is more than just a consumer backlash against higher fees and costs. Water is an essential building block for life. Tap water on a cruise ship is heavily chlorinated and cruises often go to places where drinking water is at best, unreliable and at worst, deadly. Having a stash of safe drinking water not only makes a cruise more comfortable, but safer as well.
It’s also a matter of choice for many who may not enjoy the beverage options aboard Norwegian Cruise Lines. Some have argued that the company shouldn’t enforce the ban because they carry Pepsi over the Coke that so many prefer. Others have argued on nutritional grounds that the beverages they had brought on board in the past were healthier (or at least cheaper healthy options) than what the ships had available.
Perhaps there is some light at the end of the tunnel, however.
Another CruiceCritic.com user, “Cincicruisers” described an interaction with a Norwegian Cruise Line representative who actually agreed on the exorbitant price of water onboard the ships and noted that complaints are being sent to company executives — even holding out hope that the company has changed policies in the past due to just this kind of consumer backlash.
If the ban is truly needed for security purposes, perhaps other measures could be taken to speed up the screening process that don't place the onus squarely on the consumer. If the ban is to stay in place, however, it is clear that both pricing and availability of beverages on the cruise ships needs to be adjusted in a major, guest-friendly way.
More by Michael Schottey
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