Wildly varying cruise fares irksome

ITN received from a reader a copy of a letter he sent to Norwegian Cruise Line, parent company of Orient Lines, as follows.

We have recently returned from spending, out of the last 2½ years, our 39th week aboard an Orient Lines ship.

The 21 days we spent aboard the Marco Polo on this latest trip made for an almost perfect cruise experience. From the moment we boarded the ship on April 7, ’03, in Nassau, Bahamas, to our disembarkation in Civitavecchia, Italy, including a 3-night stay in Rome, the vast majority of staff not only were friendly but insisted on making us feel at home.

The head of the ship, Captain Nenad Mogic, was by far the friendliest and most attentive captain we have encountered in our 81 cruises over the last 24 years. We were extremely impressed at his constant presence among the passengers and with the effervescent ease with which he handled himself.

Your cruise director on the ship, Nolan Dean, did a superb job, handling every situation with excellence,

We are very aware that, with so many staff acquaintances on board from our previous sailings, we were given some preferential treatment and attention. We have always found this to be true with Orient Lines, aboard both the Marco Polo and Crown Odyssey, and we do not take it lightly.

Behind the purser’s desk, Roslyn Wilson and Natasha Manwe each did an excellent job.

The shore excursion department (John, with assistance from Michele) was a pleasure to deal with. It was the best so far out of all our experiences with Orient Lines.

Our room steward, Enrico, was excellent and went way above the call of duty to more than satisfy us.

Our waiter, Ariel, with the assistance of Andress, made dining a joy. We also really liked the attentive attitude of Mario (the soup man) in Raffles.

The entertainment on board was generally very good. The pianist Stacy in the Marco Polo Lounge is very talented. The shows were entertaining and we were very impressed with the dancers as well as with the comedy of Michael Goddard.

Last, but not least, we would like to discuss the reason we probably will never sail with Norwegian Cruise Line again.

We are not novices at sailing. We have certainly had our share of upgrades and special attention from Orient Lines and we appreciate all that has been offered to us by your staff.

We are aware that it is very likely that no two couples pay the same price for the same cabin, regardless of cruise length or amenities. Yet it is highly insulting to find out — after having booked the cheapest cabin on the ship at a total cost to us of $3,035, including port charges and gratuities, receiving a 2-cabin upgrade and then, for an additional $500, upgrading to a deluxe outside cabin — that there were fellow passengers in the same-grade cabin, with all the same features, who had paid less than $1,200 total.

From the moment we boarded in Nassau we were constantly confronted with the price differences paid by various passengers, in particular the British. They bragged constantly about being on for the two weeks from Nassau to Barcelona for approximately $1,000 including airfare. When we got to Barcelona, where some 500 people disembarked and 500 new passengers embarked, we learned that many of these passengers were on for the five days for £35 (near $58) per day! Does it not make sense, then, that we would be upset?

We know for a fact that a passenger from Arizona, who had booked only the cruise from Nassau to Barcelona, inquired about staying on until Rome and was told that the fare would be $1,200 for the five days. We do not understand this mind-set.

Again, we thank you for an exceptional cruise experience aboard your wonderful Marco Polo and we regret that it may be our last experience with either Norwegian Cruise Line or Orient Lines.

Venice, FL

ITN sent copies of the above letter to Norwegian Cruise Line/Orient Lines (7665 Corporate Center Dr., Miami, FL 33126) and received no reply. ITN’s Cruises Editor, Bill Bennett, points out that most cruise lines vary their prices according to demand and the season and that, since each empty berth on board a ship is a loss, the goal is to fill as many berths as possible.