By Bob Hoelscher
Published March 28, 2017
Having spent considerable time at sea recently, I’ve had time to give some thought to some “low tech” ideas for improving the cruise industry’s overall guest experience. Here are a half dozen that I’ll particularly recommend.
- Water stations in ships’ buffet areas seem to invariably have posted notices asking guests to not fill their personal water containers there, citing valid health-related concerns. However, I’ve found that this request is frequently ignored, simply because shallow cabin bathroom sinks make it next to impossible to fill these containers there, and there is no other alternative readily available. Therefore, cruise lines should install conspicuous water-bottle-filling machines such as those found at numerous U.S. park sites.
- If a particular vessel does not have enough elevators to accommodate its passenger complement, consequently causing frequent, extended waits at the landings, posting signs requesting that guests not push both the up and down buttons — in a misguided attempt to snag a ride in either direction, thus bogging down the process even further — would be most helpful.
- I was impressed lately to see four soft-serve — and self-serve — ice cream machines located adjacent to the buffet area of the Norwegian Epic. Youngsters of all ages often enjoy snacking on an ice cream cone, and the daylong availability of these machines was obviously extremely popular with the ship’s passengers. Of course, if supplies of the dairy mix and cones needed are not constantly being monitored and refilled, or if the machines are dispensing unfrozen “soup,” the entire effort would be for naught. Happily, the Epic’s crew worked diligently to ensure that this did not happen.
- The very substantial and bulky service carts used by the cabin stewards and stewardesses on most vessels are frequently difficult for guests to navigate around in narrow passageways. Earlier this year, I noted with admiration that the staff of Celebrity Constellation was using much smaller carts that resembled large black suitcases, but of a roughly square shape that could easily be positioned in the doorway of a stateroom being serviced rather than protruding into the hallway.
- The bane of single travelers dining in a ship’s buffet is to leave one’s table to get a second helping, pick up a dessert, or simply refill a beverage, and to return to find the table cleared, and sometimes even to find other guests occupying the space. Consequently, I have developed a small, laminated wallet-size card for placement on the table that alerts service personnel of my situation and prevents this from happening. It is important to note that numerous buffet area staff members on many lines have commented that this is a great idea. Similar cards should be provided to all single guests, since employees have been taught to clear a table as soon as it appears that it has been vacated by its occupant(s).
- Internet access facilities such as lounges or cafes need to have stations available with power outlets for guests who bring their own laptops or notebooks.
I also suggest that designers of new vessels bring back a guest opportunity that seems to be disappearing lately, with the demand for more balcony staterooms and expanded spa facilities. On some cruises I took when I was much younger, I particularly enjoyed nighttime visits to the darkened, forward-facing outdoor observation areas directly above or below older ships’ bridges. There, the intrusion of ambient light was minimized in order to maintain night visibility for the ship’s officers. These viewing areas also allowed travelers to see the night sky, decorated with millions of stars and distant galaxies, moonlight dancing across the waves, and to enjoy gentle ocean breezes as the vessels made their way to the next port of call.