CapJazz X: The Day After

First of all, CapJazz knows about this post, and I fully expect to hear feedback from the people there about it.

Second, I had an absolutely nightmarish experience flying home, wherein a flight that’s 2.5 hours on a good day turned into nearly seven, and between not sleeping at all on the last night of the cruise (very choppy waters) and flight issues, I’m sure you can imagine my temperament. So far, I’ve taken a mental health morning – sushi and sake, mani-pedi – to get myself back into gear. I think this is the second night in the past week that I got halfway decent sleep, and I don’t think there’s enough wine in the world to banish that experience from memory.

Now, here’s the nitty-gritty.

I won’t repeat the complaints that people had on board CapJazz this year. I do agree with them, and I will say they were valid. But I have another outlook on it and will dissect a few things here, and how correct I am or am not – y’all tell me.

But here’s the thing: I think CapJazz’s only error in this case was contracting with Norwegian for this year’s (and next year’s) sailing. The frustrations with the reservations, the itinerary changes – that’s much, much more on Norwegian than it’ll ever be on Cap.

Allow me to explain why I think as such.

First things first – this is not Norwegian’s first go at a charter cruise. Sixthman is on Norwegian and while I’m not too into the sort of events that Sixthman has to offer, this does tell you that the cruise line has experience with the process.

Second: the format of the ship is just not conducive to the scale of the production. For those not familiar with the history of the cruise, at Carnival, there’s one enormous theater that can seat close to two thousand people. The theater on the Norwegian ship is 1/3 the size, and the premise of it is multiple shows to accommodate everyone. Not just the early/late as we did before, but more shows. Think 3-5 shows instead of just the two.

I’m sure that on the pre-cruise – it’s standard for charters to pre-cruise to see how the logistics would work out – the cruise line was singing the praises to the skies of streamlining and offering more variety, etc.

The problem with Norwegian is that they were just simply not prepared for the demand.

Here’s the thing. Because Norwegian thrives on variety, you’re going to have multiple venues and a lot of it is “reservation required”. Just like on Carnival, you’d book a spa appointment or a steakhouse meal in advance, similar applies to the Norwegian shows. You have all these fancy screens at every stairwell where you book your stuff. You can book it through your stateroom TV as well. Or a pretty handy app.

Except – demand. You have 3,500+ people trying to book at the same time.

The booking system crashed.

The app wasn’t working.

Nor were the TVs. Everywhere you go, you got “Denied” “Denied” “Denied”.

And of course, they didn’t tell us that the dinner-and-show venues had to be booked elsewhere altogether. People were in line for hours and still ended up getting locked out.

Norwegian just. simply. was. not. ready for this.

CapJazz, in retrospect, may not have known about the restaurant-reservation tables for dinner seating. And of course, when asking questions, one finger pointed at the other.

But honestly, no. It was Norwegian. They just weren’t prepared for the demand that CapJazz brought with it. Sixthman Productions has a smaller, more traditionally designed fleet pledged for its shows, but Cap has a lot more attendees and requires a lot more from its ships. Norwegian probably thought, “Oh, it’s jazz, it’s just like Sixthman, so we can X and Y and have done” – except no. It’s not just like Sixthman. And it is jazz – but the party style of jazz

As a result, tempers frayed, and it showed. Believe me when I say I was just as vociferous as most other people. The balcony cabin I decided to splurge on and book was a saving grace; I am so, so glad that I put out the extra money to have that (tiny) balcony. Sitting outside in the daytime listening to the waves was truly essential to my sanity, especially after the last two years.

In retrospect, looking at the shows I’ve earmarked and the shows I’ve actually attended, I missed a grand total of no more than three shows.

Honestly? That’s no worse than the previous sailings.  In the grand scheme of things, frustrations aside, this turned out to still be the cruise production I have grown to love over the years.

But the reservation thing is for the birds.
In this pic is what I call my “adventure bundle”. These are the keycards from all the cruises I have been on so far. The X on the white card in the back is from the Celebrity Century ship, the All Star cruise by Haven Entertainment, and the only card that’s not from CapJazz. And I was wrong: I said on the ship that the 2016 sailing was my sixth. It’s actually my seventh.

So. Six great years with Cap on Carnival versus one iffy year on Norwegian? Guess what: the stats are still in Cap’s favor. And here’s the other thing: I have yet to ever hear of Capital Jazz Productions not setting things right.

Those of you who have been in attendance with Cap from 2010-2012 probably remember that they used to have the midnight jams in the back lounge. That changed to the theater. Why? Demand and complaint! Ken Ford was put into the back lounge, and the effect was similar. There was a traffic jam on every staircase around the lounge. Again: lessons learned. Bottom line: complaint does work, and I know Cap sets it right.

I don’t work for CapJazz, but I do know this: they will set it right for those of us who were there. How, I don’t know. That remains to be seen. They took a hit, and they are taking the punch and rolling with it. But I know they will get right back up and do something for those of us who were there.

I am booked for next year – and staying with it. Issues aside, this is the only week out of a year where I feel like I can be myself and enjoy seeing people I’d ordinarily not see at all.

But – here’s the one thing I’d like to see happen:

I would like next year to be the last time that CapJazz is on Norwegian.

And if it’s possible at all for this year to be the last time we’re on Norwegian, I would love that.

If there is any chance for a parting of the ways for Cap and Norwegian, I’d like to see that, for sure. Norwegian did not deliver, at all, if they were promising an experience of more variety. No, they couldn’t have predicted that the rezzy system would’ve gone splat, but I got the sense that there was a lot of miscommunication between the staff at Norwegian and the Cap staff as to what the boat was capable of providing, and whether or not that fit in with the expectations that CapJazz had for its production.

Moreover, the main feature of the cruise isn’t the variety. We already know the variety is there. We know it in the months preceding when they tease us with the lineup. We get it – and that’s why all of us keep coming back. But the biggest thing that CapJazz attendees love is accessibility. On Carnival, we knew that we’re lining up only to get the first bite at the good seats. But with Norwegian? We didn’t have that sense of security. We were lining up not knowing if we’d even get in.

And again: it’s not Capital Jazz. Have you, in the past, ever heard of Cap not wanting people to see as much as they can see? Personally, no. And come on, let’s be logical: their work is concerts. It’s in their best interest for people to have plenty of access.

So don’t be too harsh on them. Yes, this year could’ve been better. And next year, I’m sure it will be, because now they – and we – know what does and doesn’t work.

But I would certainly like to not come back to Norwegian past 2017 if I can help it. The cabins are tiny, and the beds feel like bricks. For someone with a questionable L5 disc and insomnia? Not a good mix.

And the lighting techs for the venues at Norwegian need a slap upside the head. Seriously: turn off the fucking blue filters!!! I don’t want to have a mess of photos where everyone looks like a smurf. It’s the same in the big theater too. Turn. The blue. Filters. OFF. It’s not too much to ask.

The music is still tops, and despite this, Capital Jazz Supercruise still remains the charter that I will cruise with.



4 thoughts on “CapJazz X: The Day After

  1. Hmmm. Definitely surprised by your review. Even more surprised at the majority of blame going to NCL. Was my first & last cruise with CJ. Obviously, i cannot be sure but it seems unlikely to me that the planners of this event did not know the capacity of the venues on the getaway. I work in IT & on the planning side of IT. I can safely say that a competent company does a “peak usage” stress test on software. A cruise line or even an event planning company may not know to implement this Or not hire the most reputable/competent IT Consultants to provide the service. All that said, the software failings is a part of life, & if that was the only problem I would not be upset!

    Back to the organizational & communication issues. It was clear from the moment i stepped on the boat with NO CJ staff to guide patrons through the reservation process or even direct us where to go initially since rooms were not ready!!!! It’s not like majority of people had been on the boat previously😐 and thus knew instinctively where to go to do what!

    And back to math, capacity planning. Number of people attending cruise * x% people wanting to attend Y show = approximate number of seats needed +/- x%… or so any planner/mathematician/statistician can calculate to some measure of precision. Just like planes know (+/-) the # of seats to overbook a specific plane to get maximum chance of full flight and lowest number of people unable to get a seat. Seems like a difficult challenge for us non-mathematicians but it’s a know science that reputable and professionals have been using for years. (Mind u my formula is most definitely off because i’m not one of those smart mathematicians 😬).

    Anyway, I say all this to say, I truly believe we were all sold a bill of goods so some management folks at the top could get a fat payday. To believe that CJSC did not know the capacity of the venues nor how they were setup/could be setup at least a year in advance of this cruise is to believe that shuttling 3000 people to a venue in port via 5 to 10 minivans which seat at most 20 without a previously thought out plan was some grand effort in professional event planning. No! that was pure, unadulterated, greedy Executives milking their cow for all the milk it’s got not caring to take care of the people that have been sailing with them for years!

    There was no attempt at planning for an increase of 1000 people cruising a different cruiseline with a completely different setup. Anyone of us could have said a lot more planning and organizing would be necessary to pull off such a feat, successfully. and we arnt even event planners, project managers, professional event organizers. Where was the plan for the event overflow? Day 1, non existent, Day 2, heard through grape vine, Day 3, see small contingent of “bouncers”, Day 4, more organized with signs, line cording materials, etc. Where was the staff help to show cruisers how to reserve shows? Staff to explain Why only some shows on app and others not? This is not an NCL problem, it’s a CJSC problem. If u buy a car and then find out your family and two dogs dont fit comfortably, you gonna blame the dealership or the salesman?

    Like I said, maybe I’m wrong. But the cruiseline doesn’t know the clientele, nor the past experiences, nor do they really care. They sold a boat to CJSC (can get the map of the boat, configuration of venues, capacity, online)….Hell, the boat has been in commission for years,plenty of pictures, videos of the boat online…not to mention, I’d hope they had actually toured the boat physically before contracting for 3 years!

    This was either complete incompetence (which i don’t believe cuz the’ve done this past 10 years) or money grab by the owners/higher ups who didn’t bother to hire the right event planners and do due diligence planning for a supposed 10th year anniversary cruise!

    BTW, where was the acknowledgement of the 10th anniversary? Momentos? t-shirt? Thank u card? piece of chocolate candy????

    I guess to each his own. I enjoyed myself, inspite of the issues, and for the fact that the artists always give their all. Shout out to the staff on the ship who had to deal with all our frustration and angry outbursts…they handled the affair as best as any of us could and they deserve a raise & a vacation! (some of us really got nasty!) but i cannot say this was just a few hiccups in an otherwise great event. Some people saved up money 💰 to go on this cruise that was very difficult. Maybe stretching themselves to enjoy a few days off work…maybe splurging and not able to take time off or save that much money for another year or two! I, for one made the best out of a stinky situation, but others that were maybe less lucky ( I got reservations for 2 shows i wanted to see. 1 i didn’t want to see. And got into to standby to 3 others). Some people were not that lucky, not getting any reservations, unable to stand long periods of time (this is a 40+ crowd), or just downright giving up on the whole thing. I personally feel this is not right, it’s irresponsible, and people deserve something more than “I’m sorry, give us $5000 for next time and we promise it will be better !”.

    The organizers should be ashamed, and I for one will not be a part of CJ anything unless some change in management happens or we are told that the entire management team was killed in a bus accident along with all preparation, details, computer usb sticks, and physical headquarters were destroyed along with them….Yeah, not likely….

    1. You said it yourself: the cruise line doesn’t know the clientele. That is the crux of the issue. Norwegian is a ship line that’s built on the premise of “family time” and variety, but their usual type of clientele does not and has never had that sort of a demand placed on them. Pack a ship with fun features to distract people, and it’s not ever going to come to the point where their resources have to be tested. Their usual peak usage? Not CapJazz peak usage by any means.

      Consider what this charter looks like on paper: jazz, average age of audience is 50+, so what does it translate to? Something ‘quiet’. The reality, as you well know, is quite different. But when you are a cruise line hoping to make a buck on a charter – as I mentioned in a post a year ago, a cruise line that hosts a charter cruise will make money either way, no matter what happens, just because of the way the accounting is structured – you’ll say whatever is possible to the promoter to make them book with you. How much money do you think Holland America has made off the Smooth Jazz Cruise charters over the years? Plenty. Because it’s a win-win for the cruise line to host a big charter. And on paper, this event looks like a pretty easy buck to make.

      Of course, that’s nothing at ALL what CapJazz is all about; it’s a party cruise, and people come to party and enjoy. But – Norwegian did not know that, or if it did, it had its own expectation nonetheless.

      As far as staffing, again, come back to why Norwegian was the chosen venue. Reservations = less need for door staff, or so goes the pitch, in any case. Or the staff could be rerouted to other resources behind the scenes.. The CapJazz staff that I encountered have been rolling with the punches and attempting to make things better as they went, while the Norwegian staff was more like deer in headlights. They weren’t ready, point blank. I think that at no point in Norwegian history, even with Sixthman, did their software expect that demand. That’s, again, a clash of expectation vs. reality.

      You are right about the software tests. That I will grant you. But then again, not to devil’s-advocate this, but how long has their same system been in place, and stress-tested, and stood to it – under the usual parameters of the average demand? This was above average for them – miles above average.

      I’m sure also there’s more to the story of what all happened, but if I ever find that out, then my perspective will change accordingly. So far, what I found out was that it was a perfect storm on all accounts – and it just all exploded on one day.

      From what I gathered as well, Carnival also had its hiccups after the first few sailings, but that’s how it improved – because they learned, very fast, just what happens and what to expect. If you got the email that I got just a few minutes ago from Cap, I should think that they will, in fact, learn from this too.

      I am an accountant by trade. And if you have to compare charter costs and expenses involved in logistics, the 1,000 extra people doesn’t bring you as much revenue as you might think if you consider the structure of this event, as well as what the costs entail. All end revenue is net of expenses, and cost of goods sold is the biggest possible to-do with most promoters, because – and this is true in cases of charter cruise events like this – it has to be paid. up. front. Trust me, the paychecks would probably not have been as fat as you imagine for the management/ownership. In fact, my bet is that they probably took a hell of a loss at the end of it all. Why? Extra performances = higher artist fees. New ship = bigger charter rental expense. Plus: travel costs, logistics, and all affiliated outside services, and staffing expenses. Net result? Definitely not as big as you might think. Nowhere near. I don’t do CapJazz accounting, but I am confident that if I were to glimpse a profit and loss statement for this event, it wouldn’t be a big profit at. all.

      In the grand scheme of things, I did not miss any more or less than I would’ve missed on the Carnival ships. Yes, the reservation thing was a damper. Won’t lie. But in reflection, it really wasn’t that much different.

      And truthfully, the tenth-anniversary acknowledgment? To me, that stuff never mattered less. I don’t care if I don’t get a chocolate on my pillow, but I will care a whole lot if I don’t get into a show I want to see.

      And if this was enough to sour you from coming back – that is your choice and up to you. Me, I’m definitely coming back, because after seven years with them, I already know that they would improve it by the next sailing.
      I also won’t be surprised if in 2018 it reverts back to Carnival.

      1. i respect your point of view. And quite frankly, I truly hope i am wrong and u r right in it was all a horrible mistake along with a perfect storm of bad luck and errors. It’s hard for me to believe it…And I suspect previous cruisers have a much longer relationship with CJ and are more willing to give them a second chance. I’ll be watching for next years sailing to see results. I hope it’s fixed because the artists and jam sessions were so wonderful…

      2. Take the longer term view of things. They were doing this cruise for ten years and you and I both know they didn’t learn this overnight. You give me a competing cruise production and I’ll show you chaos behind the scenes as they figured it all out. If you have a charter cruise that keeps going on without a hitch, you are just waiting on borrowed time until something goes seriously sideways.

        It’s just simple fact that nothing is perfect. And again, longer view. Six good years for me versus one iffy year? Those are still pretty great stats.

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