Norwegian Cruise Line Confirms Margaritaville at Sea Will be a la Carte

Dawn at Margaritaville at sea and waitress Agthea Ragina photo by Dave Jones

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Norwegian Cruise Line has confirmed that Norwegian Escape’s Margaritaville at Sea — a previously complimentary dining venue in partnership with musician Jimmy Buffett — will now operate as a speciality a la carte restaurant, a month after opening.

Margaritaville at Sea has proved a huge hit from the moment the ship debuted in Southampton, U.K. on October 27.

By the time the ship officially launched in Miami on November 9 we reported waiting times of more than an hour — prompting President and CEO of Norwegian Cruise Line Holdings Frank del Rio to hint that a fee would be introduced.

In a press conference onboard Norwegian Escape on November 10, Del Rio said: “for business and crowd-control reasons [introducing a la carte pricing is] always a possibility”.

Vanessa Picariello, Sr. Director, Public Relations at Norwegian Cruise Line confirmed: “The first Margaritaville at Sea aboard Norwegian Escape has proven to be extremely popular. We have listened to our guests’ feedback regarding the overwhelming demand and, in an effort to deliver the highest quality experience, we will be implementing a la carte pricing at the restaurant as of the ship’s November 28 sailing”.

The possibility of a charge first came to light on the Cruise Critic Message Boards when TracyE stated that “while this venue was free on the TA, beginning November 14th, there will be a la carte pricing”.

In a subsequent thread, the decision to charge has angered many members, including Lily815 who complained that “they are changing the rules… again. It is beyond frustrating” and MalervyC who stated that “[Margaritaville at Sea] was a big draw for us to book this cruise”.

Sample prices from the menu (pictured below) include burger and fries at $9.98 and fish tacos at $6.99, excluding an 18% gratuity.

Royal Caribbean: Completion Of Accelerated Share Repurchase

Royal Caribbean Cruises today announced that it has completed the $200 million accelerated share repurchase program announced on October 23, 2015.

Under the terms of the program, the company repurchased a total of 2,103,288 shares of common stock at a price per share of $95.0892.

The repurchase price was determined based on the average of the daily volume-weighted average prices of the stock during the term of the transaction, less a discount.

The ASR transaction was executed as part of an authorization by the company’s Board of Directors to repurchase up to $500 million of common stock.

With the completion of the transaction $300 million remains under the share repurchase authorization.  The company expects to complete the program by year-end 2016.

Why Paris is of concern to the river cruise industry, too

It just so happens that France has been on the rise in the river cruising world. The Seine River and cruises on the Rhone and Saone rivers in the south of France have been gaining popularity in recent years, and last year Bordeaux became a new river cruise region that lines have since jumped on with new capacity.

So, in the wake of the deadly terror attacks in Paris earlier this month, river cruise lines also have a lot to potentially lose if travelers become nervous about upcoming sailings in France — or in the rest of Europe for that matter.

Michelle Baran

Michelle Baran

Having been on an AmaWaterways river cruise on the Rhine River in Strasbourg at the time of the attacks, I spoke with Ama’s executive vice president and co-owner Kristin Karst in their immediate aftermath.

The company had a river vessel sailing the Seine back towards Paris several days after the attacks and decided to disembark passengers in Conflans-Sainte-Honorine, a bit further up the Seine from Paris, given the uncertainty in the capital as events unfolded there. Karst noted that AmaWaterways offers a two-night post-river cruise program in Paris, and gave the guests the option to continue with their plans or fly home.

“We had one very large group [and] they wanted to continue and do the two nights in Paris,” said Karst.

AmaWaterways had two more Rhone cruises this month, on Nov. 19 and Nov. 26, and did have some cancellations on those cruises, for which the line offered a 100% future cruise credit. While the news is concerning, Karst noted that an agent had emailed the company several days after the attacks to open up a group booking request for a cruise in Bordeaux, which she found hopeful.

The Paris attacks come at the tail end of what was a challenging 2015 for travel in Europe between the Charlie Hebdo attacks in Paris at the start of the year, and the migrant crisis that remained in the media spotlight throughout the summer. River cruise lines had the added challenge of low water levels, a nagging problem in Europe since July.

After several years of boom times for the river cruise industry, there is now a large amount of inventory sailing through Europe, and a lot of hype and investment on the line. Like other sectors of the travel industry, the river cruise segment is likely watching closely and hoping this all blows over before the selling season gets under way after the start of the new year. Either way, they’re probably well aware that the Paris attacks will pose some challenges, however short or long-lived.