NCL PhD@Sea Cruise, Debarkation Day

Okay, first off, of all the upsides of Freestyle, and there are many, like a dozen dining choices, and open dress codes (wear a tux if you want, wear jeans if you want), the one I like best is Freestyle debarking.

Basically, if you want to carry your own luggage, you can get off as soon as they clear Customs. I saw people leaving at 7:45 this morning, and we didn't touch the pier until 7. Otherwise, you can go to the lobby the night before, and pick up luggage tags that correspond to the time YOU want to get off the ship. Those cruise lines that tell you when to get off are fighting a very perverse but basic fact of human nature...it's just a fact that all the people you ask to get off first want to hang out and relax by the pool, and all the people you put last are dying to beat the traffic home. Therefore, approximately 100% of the passengers get off the ship angry.

By letting people pick their own time, all that is avoided. Plus, they don't ask anyone to clear their stateroom until 9am, and EVERY public room is open, including the buffet and a main dining room for breakfast. Again, people who would choose to sit out by the pool, if they had a choice, will sit there and fume if they are ordered to do so. And by accomodating each individuals desired debark time, it all goes much faster. They manage to clear the entire vessel by 10 and start boarding the next bunch just after 11 (based on my embark last week, which was actually delayed a little from the norm).

So, I got tags for 9:05. At 8:20 I went to the dining room (the buffet was the usual last morning mess of people), and, apparently only a dozen of us heard the part where the dining room was open. So I had a leisurely breakfast, went up to the room at 10 minutes til 9, grabbed my little bag, and went down to the cigar bar for a quick smoke...sure enough, at 9:08, my color was called, I got in line with about 6 others, walked off the ship, down to the terminal, grabbed my bags, spent less than 5 minutes getting past Customs, and out the front door, to my car, by 9:20, and 20 minutes later I was on the 110 Freeway headed home. Seriously, ONE HOUR from the time I left the cabin, til I was on the freeway...that just doesn't seem to happen on any other cruise line, and I really like it. And I think it really helps NCL's customer satisfaction...the fact is, by the end of the cruise, most people have forgotten what Embarkation Day was like, but if they have had a good last couple days, and an easy, breezy debark, they are feeling pretty good about the whole cruise.

So, a few final housekeeping notes: To the guy who left his new Ray-Bans by the pool on Fiesta night, THANKS!!!, and I promise to take good care of them. To all the staff and crew of the Norwegian Star, THANKS for a great week. Service was, without exception, excellent, especially the Cruise Directors Staff, who were all wonderful folks (special note to Maria: Va multimesc, am avut un mare timp, si uitati-va inainti vi intilni din nou)(she doesn't believe I speak a little bit of Romanian), and the Senior Management that took time out for our class, and really gave us the benefit of their years of experience, not to mention a real personal conversation that you just can't get at a Captain's Cocktail party or some such...the difference between meeting the Captain or Hotel Director of a ship, and hanging out for an hour asking questions is huge, and would have made the whole week worthwhile by itself.

To the folks at NCL and CLIA who made this whole thing possible, THANKS...I think you made a good decision investing a little money in some real training, and I think you will see a dividend for yourselves, and your agents.

And, finally, to my classmates - nice meeting you all, and I hope our paths cross again.

OH, and you may all address me as "Dr." now. :-}

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