A poor restaurant experience reminds The Travel Village’s Phil Nuttall what he’s missing on a cruise holiday – and offers the perfect opportunity to remind customers what they’re missing too

Since lockdown I have felt somewhat at a loose end in my capacity as chair of Clia’s Travel Agent Advisory Panel. How do you bring your peers together for a meeting to discuss effective ways of promoting the benefits of cruise when the industry has in effect gone into hibernation with consumer confidence at an all-time low?

Well, not one for shirking responsibilities and hiding away, I started thinking on Saturday evening as I sat waiting to be seated at a local restaurant for a date night with Mrs Nuttall.

Quite rightly, you are probably sitting (or standing) reading this thinking ‘why has Phil got cruise ships on his mind when he is having dinner with his wife?’.

I will tell you in quite simple terms – the service was crap!

I am sure I now have your attention and hopefully by the end of this letter, you will have something to inspire you to start promoting our amazing cruise industry and also something that will make your customers think twice…read on.

We have been desperate for something tangible to put before customers to make them remember just how good cruise holidays are and the government’s “Eat Out to Help Out” scheme has been the best advert for dining on a cruise ship that you could have wished for. I would go as far as to say, to coin one of my quite appropriate and favourite phrases, it is “Manna from Heaven”.

What? You may ask. Well here’s the meaning of the phrase: “An unexpected benefit or assistance, especially when it comes at the time when it is needed most. The phrase is a reference to the Biblical story of the food that God miraculously provided to the Israelites as they wandered in the wilderness.”

Has there ever been a more appropriate quote for cruisers in the last six months, I doubt it because the standard of service at many restaurants across the world is simply not a patch on the service you experience on board a cruise ship.

Worth repeating

Let’s say that again – the standard of service at many restaurants across the world is simply not a patch on the service you experience on board a cruise ship.

The government’s scheme has highlighted just what we as cruisers have been missing this year and that is PR that you simply cannot buy and should be shouting from the rooftops.

Those who have never cruised will start asking questions and those who are regular cruisers will be sitting up and thinking, “you know what, they’re right” – if they don’t they are in denial. Both Paula and I are now finding ourselves walking in that wilderness searching for that attentive attention to detail service that a cruise ship delivers.

On Saturday evening we were booked to dine at 8.15pm and told to wait upstairs whilst our table was prepared and someone would come and take our drinks order. We were of course forgotten and this set the standard for a very shoddy and unpleasant experience, including being seated on a wet chair. We didn’t receive a drink until 9pm and dinner was not forthcoming until 9.40pm. Beecause they were not attentive or interested in us, they then brought dishes we specifically said we didn’t want (and we are not talking cheap here).

Made to feel special

A dining experience on a cruise ship is in the main, a personal attentive experience where you are made to feel special and the person looking after you can remember eight drinks, eight items on a menu and your names without having to reach for a notepad!

You are not made to feel like you are doing someone a favour by being there and for the next two hours, you are the most important person / people in the restaurant.

You can overlook many things when dining out, but the lack of care and attention to detail in the service industry in general is something that highlights just how good a cruise holiday really is. It is why it is so important we get our ships back doing what they do best in providing attentive service, incredible dining experiences and hopefully now commanding respect for the crew who are amazing human beings with such positive personas that make the cruise industry what it is.

So thank you Rishi Sunak for “Eat Out to Help Out” because it has really highlighted just what we are all missing – in fact, what we are all craving – a great cruise holiday experience with great food and even better service from fabulous people.

Maybe the Foreign office should chip in and join the party with…

Sail Out to Help Out!

Sail out to Help out