Invergordon, and the Swimming Mall

31 May

Today is my second visit to the Scottish town of Invergordon. As you recall from its last blog entry, Invergordon is a beautiful flower among Scotland’s already astonishing greenery, and it is difficult to imagine how any humanoid may develop negative thoughts when visiting landscapes like this one. But even today the passengers aboard our swimming five-star hotel develop issues that they need to discuss with their friendly neighbourhood cruise photographer. Since I lack the poetic skills to adequately describe Invergordon’s visual pleasure, I will take the opportunity to talk about passenger problems. As I mentioned yesterday, I feel for our guests, and that empathy is one aspect that keeps me going.

yellow fields in Invergordon, Scotland

Invergordon, to me, is the best place to be. But even this view can’t distract all passengers from complaining away.

The predominant issue that passengers complain about, by far, is the price of the photos. Approximately €20 per photo sounds like a lot of money, especially with today’s ready availability of high-quality cameras. When we shoot photos on deck, or on excursion, the lighting conditions are usually so uncontrollable that even the latest generation of smart phones could reproduce the quality of our pictures to about 70%. That is certainly good enough for a visual memory of a cruise trip around Norway, so people rather shoot themselves, yet still complain about our price policies. However, outside of our regular promotion sales we can’t really do anything about this issue, so I will just move on to the next subject instead.

Cruise Photography with portable lights

Everything is shiny aboard the ABC RypMeOff. But apart from visual standards guests also have needs of  serb´vice and civility, and ABC Cruises does not meet those easily.

People can book certain cruise packages that already come with a few free photo prints. In particular, members of the Yacht Club pay at least 50% extra, and in return get access to their own restaurant, and other premium items. The package also includes a free photo, and every day elite passengers complain about the policies behind that photo. The fine print says that elitists can have one picture for free, one that was taken at the Captain’s Dinner. That policy has been in place for a decade, and still passengers come up to the counter, and argue about it. Granted, some of them did not read the fine print, and are consequentially perturbed by our rejection. But if this really is your twentieth cruise, you should actually know the rules, and stop bothering us with your request for items that you already know are not included in your package. Our seasoned counter clerk frequently complains about the aura of entitlement that seems to engulf our high-paying costumers, and I can’t say I blame her.

On the other hand, when you pay €5000 for a return trip to Norway, you rightfully expect to not argue over the deeper meaning of the phrase “free photo”. I know that rich people often feel entitled to more than their unfair share, but is it really too much to ask for the company to fulfill their promises without bickering over fine print? Even though club members likely have enough money to pay for a barrage of photos, they are potentially not in the mood to spend it, especially if the counter clerk tells them that they misread their order form. Handing out one free photo to every rich man aboard would cost us literally nothing, because we print all the pictures anyway, and repeaters WILL NOT BUY any photos from us. After the twentieth cruise those portraits are just documenting the aging process, and our passengers genuinely don’t feel the need to pay for that. Our rich guests either take their free photo, or none at all. And the more of the latter they get, the grumpier they become, and the less likely they are to return to this company.

Invergordon via MSC 2-31

Not even death is free, but do we really have to put a price tag on EVERYTHING?

Other passengers are just annoyed with ABC’s very exclusive definition of “all inclusive”. Many guests have the foresight to book food and beverage packages with their cruise, and are then surprised that only one out of eight restaurants caters to their package, while the beverage menu consists to 80% of items that they are asked to pay for. That’s like going to an all-you-can-eat buffet at an international restaurant, and being told you could only take food from the Macedonian table. You still get a filling meal, but you do wonder why other guests have a selection that is ten times as big as yours. People go on cruises, among other reasons, to feel a little special, only to then find out that they are still very much excluded from the life that they paid for.

And when you do eat at the free buffet, where almost every food item is glazed with butter, you are left to wonder why the beverage menu is so restricted, and the pizza is nearly always hand-warm or cooler. Or why the restaurant manager sends you to the reception to validate you beverage package, while the receptionist sends you to the restaurant manager to do the same. Some people also wonder why we have a “cruise manager” aboard who informs us six times a day about additional opportunities to spend money, but who refuses to employ the speaker system when the ship is trailed by a group of whales. You know, the kind of sight that you actually booked that cruise for.

While our Italian masters insist that guest satisfaction be our highest goal, the actual management of this ship is geared towards extracting the maximum amount of money from our guests. The ABC RypMeOff does not feel so much as the swimming hotel that ABC Cruises is trying to sell us. It’s more like a swimming mall, and vendors are hawking luxury items at every corner. It is an exhausting experience, both for the guests and their wallets, and not even the sight of beautiful Scotland can distract from this industrialisation of vacation. If you have seen Invergordon, you know that is a troublesome statement. If you haven’t, click here to view one of the most beautiful sceneries on earth.

And if you have a business that caters to humans, make it about the people, not about the money. Because the money does not re-book you; a happy guest just might.

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