NCL: No Ship, No Pride
NCL has fought to have the Passenger Services Act more strictly enforced with respect to its Hawaiian routes. They claim that low-cost foreign-flagged ships are putting them out of business. I am not sure which of the cruise lines that visits Hawaii is considered low-cost, so can’t really comment on their accusations. Surely HAL and Princess can’t be considered low-cost.
Some of these old maritime laws protected the shipping industry in the US. As far as the PSA, it seems to apply to the transport of passengers from one point to another. Those laws apparently applied to ferries and it makes sense that we don’t want foreign flagged ships to infringe on the passenger ship business. But, how many people go on cruises and use them as a ferry?
Take for example the ships that are part of the Alaska Ferry System. Of course those should be US flagged ships. They provide transportation, unlike cruise ships, which although they move, aren’t really used to get from point A to point B. They are large recreational vehicles that offer an experience to passengers, not transportation per se.
Proponents of these laws say that they take away US jobs and contribute nothing to the economy. So, as an example, does that mean that the foreign flagged ships that sail from LA to the Hawaii Islands have no effect on the economy or local jobs? Who provides dock services to these ships? How do the passengers get to LA? Do they stay in hotels, eat the food, rent cars, visit attractions? I am not convinced.
It seems time to re-evaluate this antiquated law. How hard is it to separate cruise lines from cargo vessels and the laws that apply to them? Ok, end of being political.
NCL recently decided to pull the Pride of Aloha from the Hawaiian waters supposedly because these foreign-flagged ships offered too much competition. What do those passengers who had reservations beyond the May withdrawal date do?
The following is from the NCL website:
Guests booked on Pride of Aloha
For guests booked on Pride of Aloha from May 11, 2008 and beyond, NCL is holding space and will offer the same cruise fare as they currently have paid on their Pride of Aloha cruise if they would like to transfer to the same week on Pride of America, departing one day earlier. In addition:
-Guests will receive a $100 per person on-board credit (up to $200 per stateroom).
-For guests who made their air and/or hotel arrangements through NCL, NCL will protect the rates they currently have paid and cover any air or hotel change fees.
-For guests who purchased their own air, NCL will protect up to the first $100 per person of any increase in air costs and cover up to $75 per person in air change fees.
-For guests who made independent hotel arrangements, NCL will cover any hotel change fees up to $25 per person.
Guests may book any other NCL cruise and receive a $100 per person on-board credit (up to $200 per stateroom) if they rebook by March 7, 2008. In addition, NCL will cover up to $75 per person in air change fees and up to $25 per person in hotel change fees. Guests may cancel their cruise and receive a full refund if NCL is notified by March 7, 2008. In addition, NCL will cover up to $75 per person in air change fees and up to $25 per person in hotel change fees. After March 7, 2008 cancellation fees will apply in accordance with NCL’s cancellation policy.
On our NCL Star cruise, we booked a future cruise onboard, planning on taking a Hawaii cruise. We found the cruise that visited Fanning Island intriguing. That is not an option though and it looks like the only option that we would have would be on the Pride of America. Better start looking at other itineraries. At least, we got an onboard credit and a reduced deposit. So much for planning ahead.
Foreign flagged ships are staffed with low cost crew….remember US Flagged-ships must abide by US employment laws. Labor costs on ships such as HAL, Princess are in fact crewed with people from developing countries. With that aside the real reason NCL America has not suceeded is due on mismanagment from both the Miami and Honolulu offices. This organization is a pure joke. They can’t blame it on the Hawaiian Cruise Market: it’s booming. NCL has the best itineraries. Also Apollo’s billion dollar takeover bid stipulated the capital investment would not be made available to the Hawaii operation and Star would be accountable for all debt…NCL America will be long gone before an enforcement of PSA…
You are absolutely correct about the lower labor costs and other lower costs for the cruise lines that are not registered under the US flag. It appears that NCL blames its failures on the competition rather than itself. I haven’t personally sailed on NCLA in Hawaii, but have heard all sorts of negative feedback about the product. A couple who sailed with them in Hawaii said that their cabin was not made up once during the entire week of their sailing, even after repeated requests.
It was mentioned in that press release about the adjustments to their fleet that all Freestyle 2.0 improvements would be completed fleetwide by mid-May. Some of us wondered exactly when these would be completed as before they just indicated that everything would be updated by Summer 2008. Now, they will have no excuses.