|By Paul Motter
For decades the standard time for staterooms to be accessible on embarkation day has been 1:30 p.m. But Holland just implemented a new procedure that makes your stateroom ready for you the moment you embark - starting at 11:30 A.M. They have eliminated the wait and the crowds in the Lido Restaurant on embarkation day. Good job!
How did they accomplish this little but important miracle of time compression? If you want to know how you can read it in CruiseMates: Holland America Staterooms Open at 11:30
I have never understood, personally, why so many people want to arrive at the cruise ship as early as possible on embarkation day. But I know many people like to arrive at the terminal at the earliest possible moment - as early as 10:30 in some cases. For the most part this only means standing in a line to wait for the check-in process to start - usually at 11:00. After you checked in you still have to wait for the ship to say it is ready to receive the new passengers - usually about noon. To top it off, once you get onboard the only worthwhile place to go is the Lido Buffet restaurant, toting your carryon luggage with you. There you sit and eat until 1:30 p.m. when they finally give you access to the staterooms.
But Holland America has solved this problem with its new "Stateroom Direct Service" policy. Every Holland America ship now gives every embarking passenger immediate access to their staterooms - as early as 11:30 a.m.
This is quite an accomplishment and Holland America deserves a lot of credit for identifying and eventually solving a very significant inconvenience that has plagued cruise passengers and crewmembers for decades. The only downside to this for Holland America is the inevitability that other cruise lines will soon "copy" (or maybe steal is a better word) their ideas.
More "Time to Cruise" Recommendations
Last week we told you to "book your cruises now." This week we offer added reasons to back that up, especially if your goal is a summer vacation.
I just interviewed Michelle Fee, a co-founder of CruisePlanners - a branded network of travel agent franchises known for excellence in customer support. The high standards of CruisePlanners' agents come from the continuous and extensive support they receive from people at the top like Michelle Fee.
I asked Michelle to give us her take on cruise prices along with the best strategies for booking a cruise at the best value right now.
Michelle says that Europe appears to be one of the biggest bargains this year - mostly because so many cruise lines decided to send more and bigger ships there this year. For example, when Carnival Dream came out in 2010 it only sailed one cruise in Europe before it came to the United States. But this year sister ship Carnival Magic will debut in Italy in May, and remain in Europe for the entire summer season.
In addition, Norwegian Cruise Lines is sending its biggest ship, Norwegian Epic, and Disney is sending Disney Magic to Barcelona for the summer. Anytime a given region has more cabins than it has demand then prices go down. So this is the year to book Europe, but "book early" says Michelle since airfare is likely to go even higher soon.
On the other hand, Alaska has fewer ships this year than it has had for decades - because of the tax dispute of 2010. That was resolved, but not before many cruise lines decided to reduce capacity there for this summer. As a result, there is less supply in Alaska and as ships sell out prices for those cruises are already going up.
Look for our interview with Michelle fee to come online soon at CruiseMates.
You can comment on the Holland America direct staterrom access in our forum: New Holland America Stateroom Access policy.