I agree with the comments regarding cruise ship experience slipping. My hope is that this is only going to affect some lines, not all.
Personally, I feel cruise lines should stop trying to court every potential passenger in the market. Each line should cultivate its key demographic, whatever that happens to be. The point here is that each cruise line should have a demographic-specific mission and vision as to its key market then should articulate that to the cruising public so people can choose the best fit for their tastes.
Today's advertising does not do a good enough job of distinguishing the cruise lines. The lower end lines do not come out and honestly articulate "We are dedicated to keeping costs down so you (and your family) have the opportunity to enjoy a cruise vacation. This means you will experience fast food quality meals, longer lines, and less organized activities but if you want more, we have it... you just have to pay more to get it."... or something similar. The higher end lines do not articulate that they offer refined decor, nicer seats, better-appointed cabins, higher food quality, enforced dress codes for dining in the MDR, etc. Maybe that is because they do not really feature that... and that is a problem in an of itself. Truth in advertising versus supporting some mythical concept of what the cruise line is perceived to be. Big difference.
Yeah, I know... it's not a great campaign message, but failing to be more honest and upfront is literally p*ss*ng people off to the point that they will never step foot on another cruise ship again. This approach does little to help the cruise vacation industry in the long term. It is akin to shooting oneself in the foot because those disgruntled passengers take their poor-personal-experience-not-meeting-expectations directly to social media and review sites such as this one. A potential passenger who is on the fence about trying cruises starts reading these poor reviews and it is pretty clear what side of the fence they will probably come down on.
Messaging in ads really needs to be clearer. I am not picking on NCL but "free style cruising" means different things to different people. The campaign that focused on not being forced to eat at certain times was a good start but clear messaging really seems to be lost since that ad went off the air. It really stood out as being different at the time... now it seems all major lines offer a flexible MDR experience. So what is different and better about the NCL free style experience? Honestly, I feel completely free to style my cruise experience in any way I want on any cruise line or ship I sail. NCL offers nothing that distinguishes their "free style" experience. Message lost... potential customer lost as well.
I am sorry you had a negative experience, askeegan and I hope your next voyage is all the you expect it should be regardless of the line you choose.