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.