2020-02-16

Escorted off the ship

Being "escorted off the ship" sounds a tad bad, but this was at the right point, at the end of the cruise, honest...

My mates and I are just back from a cruise (one hell of a holiday, thanks guys), and we stayed in the "Garden Villa" on the Norwegian Gem. It is big suite on the ship. It is often used for celebrities, or Sultans, and the like, but they also auction it to suite guests if not sold. Some times you end up with the likes of us in it!

[A slight aside, I do love how the concierge emailed crew to advise that even though it is three blokes in the Garden Villa, it is not a gay cruise, we have wives - even so people kept asking Mike and Simon if they were a couple, which was amusing]

Anyway, even though not actually celebrities, you do get treated as such, which is both nice, and also slightly embarrassing. I imagine real celebrities are more used to it.

I wanted to tell of one of the perks, which was slightly more embarrassing than we expected. It may be educational for anyone else staying in the Garden Villa on an NCL ship.

You get escorted off the ship!

This means that the concierge waits to the right point for when your bags will be ready (among the first bags off as "priority"), and escorts you from your room (Garden Villa) to the gangway where he/she hands off to an escort to take you off the ship. Just getting the to gangway means going via staff elevators, and past waiting queues of people, and at some points people being stopped and waiting for you to pass before they continue.

Once off the ship this continues, more queues of people and you get ushered past. We are taking to the baggage area, and our bags put on a trolly with a porter, and on we go. All very slick.

Just to be clear, we did not know quite what was going to happen, and were just following instructions from the escort.

Finally we get to immigration control, and a queue for the passport checking desks. This is a well established ship process it seems, and very slick. All the security know what they are doing and were expecting the escort and Garden Villa guests so co-ordinated to move us to the front of the queue.

We get to the border control person, and he is "who are these people, why did they jump the queue?". Our escort says "Garden Villa" which means nothing to him, and he ends up saying "nope, not unless my supervisor agrees" and calls him over. The supervisor just says "let them through and send to secondary screening". We can only assume this is somehow to punish us for jumping the queue, but secondary screening were at a loss as we were not on any lists or anything. They asked if we had any dairy products and basically sent us on with maybe a couple of minutes delay. We are then escorted to a waiting car to take us to the hotel.

[OK, last bit went wrong, and no car, and they went in to headless chicken mode, calling the ship, etc, so we just got in a taxi, which is easy enough in New York, but you get the idea. It was too cold to wait for it to be sorted.]

Now, this whole process is slick. As I say, the ship and port staff know what they are doing, and know about people being escorted, etc.

To be fair to the guy, I can see why the border control person was upset - why should someone be able to effectively pay to go to the front of the line? That said, I thought secondary screening for the hell of it was a tad petty, but what the hell. We were all being quite chilled over it - as to be honest we had imagined all sorts with the Coronavirus scares and ships being refused entry and so on. This was a breeze.

Then it struck me that this "everyone treated equally" is all very well, and laudable, but basically not how a lot of things work in practice. The ship definitely have tiers of guests. So do aircraft, and 1st/upper class get off first. EVERYONE in the queue for immigration control was on "priority disembarkation" which is paying to jump the queue of some 2,000 or so people behind them waiting on the ship, and they effectively paid for that by being in suites. Somehow none of that mattered to him. If he really did feel strongly about everyone treated equally he should have made a stand on that front, and said the people in the cheapest cabins should be coming through first, or at the same time. No, his only beef was that he actually saw that were jumped the queue.

I hind sight, it would have been better, and not really much delay, to have queued with the rest of the priority disembarkation passengers at that point, and we'd have done that if we'd have known what was happening. But we were just doing as we were told by the staff.

Anyway, if you are in the Garden Villa on an NCL ship, this is the sort of thing you can expect, and perhaps decide how far you want it to go, yourself.


I am, of course, interested in views. Should people be able to pay to speed up such tedious processes, or (at the other extreme) should royalty and presidents all have to queue with everyone else in such cases? Should 1st/upper class on planes be scrapped? Where do you draw the lines? Curious?

6 comments:

  1. You can already pay a relatively token fee to fast track through security at airports so it's not that different IMO.

    As a note, security fast track on the way out of Birmingham or Stansted are pointless (security at BHX is fast anyway, and STN is slow whichever queue) but the fast track passports when you get home can be amazing if your flight comes in at the wrong time

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  2. Perhaps he was just annoyed at the competition - the TSA Global Entry program allow you to pay $100 for 5 years of fast track entry and exit at the US border.

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    1. You might be close there - Adrian has paid the ship company money for getting off the ship sooner, but should that entitle him to faster processing in a government facility where he's paid the same $14 fee as every other ESTA holder?

      If the ship staff had ushered the party into McDonalds and asserted they should be served ahead of all the other customers in line since they've paid for premium cabins, I'd expect McDonalds (and the other customers!) to object: why should USCIS be different?

      Come to think of it, does even a first class plane ticket get you ahead of customers who arrived earlier in regular immigration lines? I don't think it did at the last few places I went: business/first got you a faster line for *security*, but not immigration checks: lines get split on nationality/residence, not class of travel.

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    2. I suppose it depends who is responsible for the queue. Further back, ship staff are controlling queues, and obviously they do on the ship. What's the demarkation point. If the ship "legally" controls the queue in to the passport control stations, they can decide who jumps the queue. If that queue is part of passport control, they should not. I guess. It is a somewhat different layout to airports.

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  3. What kind of accommodation did you book prior to the upgrade?

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  4. I don't have a problem with some people paying for a better service. AAISP offers exactly that. Each passenger or traveller can decide which speed of service is of most value to him or her and compared to how he values his own time. A Fortune 500 CEO can't be waiting 60 minutes to disembark an A380 from the last row. That alone just wasted £5,000 of his salary.

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