Disney Cruise Line Tops All Others In Satisfaction Survey

Disney Cruise LIne
Chris Owen

Ranking cruise lines in a variety of critical areas, Disney Cruise Line came out on top in JD Powers 2013 Cruise Line Satisfaction Report, released today. In spite of recent negative press reports affecting cruise line satisfaction across the board, the survey revealed some surprising trends and priorities. The study also verified some long-held beliefs about cruise travel.

“Many cruise lines in the report have very high levels of passenger satisfaction, well above the report average; however, for more than a year, the overall industry has been dealing with a lot of negative news affecting customer perceptions, expectations and trust,” said Ramez Faza, senior account manager of the global travel and hospitality practice at J.D. Power in a MarineLog report.

Top three cruise lines on a scale of 1000 gave Disney Cruise Line (871) a commanding lead over second place Royal Caribbean International (838) followed by Holland America Line (835). Noted as a big problem for cruise lines, all of which scored high on customer satisfaction, nearly one in five cruise passengers reported having a problem on their sailing.”To raise the bar, the industry must focus on meeting the needs of the nearly 20 percent of passengers who experience a problem with their cruise line experience,” notes Faza. “Cruise lines need to understand the causes of customer dissatisfaction and determine what will motivate them to come back.”

Confirming what many cruise travelers already know, price was rated as the primary reason for choosing a particular cruise line (53 percent), with the average fare paid a reported $1628 per person.

The report of 3,003 cruise travelers in the past 12 months measured cruise line customer satisfaction based on service, stateroom, food, embarkation/debarkation, entertainment, cost, and excursions.

In the February edition of Condé Nast Traveler, Disney Cruise Line also found plenty to be proud of as three of their four ships ranked in the top three places in the large cruise ship category.

Disney Cruise Liner's Floating Water Park

5 Ways To Save On A Cruise Vacation, But Should You?

save on a cruise vacation

People who talk about how to save on a cruise vacation, often compare them to “floating hotels,” a way of thinking that can easily make cruise ships come out ahead financially. Just the all-inclusive nature of a cruise makes sailing popular. We get it. The issue is not which is a better value but how to save on cruises themselves. We understand it’s a good deal, but how do we maximize that value on a cruise vacation?

Buy far in advance- Cruise lines appreciate passengers who book far in advance and say so with lower prices. Passengers gain not only from that attractive pricing but also from a far better selection of cabins when booked a year or more in advance. Some fares are only offered by cruise lines right after releasing a new schedule of sailings or within a certain amount of time before sailing too.

Buy at the last minute- Travelers who are able to just drop everything and go to sea by booking 30 days or less in advance of sailing can find some great bargains too. These passengers need to be flexible not only about when they can sail but about their cabin location as well. By the same coin that makes buying in advance a good idea because of a superior selection of cabins, those who buy at the last minute need to be comfortable in less attractively located real estate.Be loyal- Cruise line packages and benefits for those who have sailed with them previously are considerable and can add up to real savings. Past guests are often the first to be offered special fares or discounts that will be available to the general public later. On board, past guest benefits are considerable, ranging from a welcome-back gift to special parties, wine tastings and other events exclusive to frequent cruisers.

Consider restricted fares but only if you’re sure- Most cruise vacations can be bought far in advance then canceled any time before final payment without penalty. Restricted fares lock in pricing, often at a rate lower than all others but require a non-refundable deposit and no other changes can be made without a hefty fee. This is not the fare for those who might change their minds later but can be the very best value for those with solid plans that are not apt to vary throughout the life of the booking. Traveling with the elderly, those with medical concerns, on a strict budget or even teens who might not think cruising is cool by the time the sailing rolls around, this is a great way to waste travel funds.

Cram as many people as possible into your cabin. It works. Some cruise lines have standard-sized cabins that will accommodate up to five people. Cruise lines base their world on double occupancy (two to a cabin). Solo travelers often pay twice as much but cabins with three, four or five pay far less as cruise lines commonly discount the third or more passengers in a cabin.

That’s good to know if on a really tight budget but begs the question: “Just because we can fit five in a cabin, should we?” In many cases the answer is a resounding “No!” I remember one time as a travel agent when a client called me from their fabulous cruise ship upon boarding then checking out their cabin. This lady was hoppin’ mad at me for allowing them to book four adults in a small, inside cabin, even though I’d warned her about the drawbacks.

Four people in one cabin means four people needing to use the shower and/or restroom at the same time to get ready for dinner. It’s trying to find a place for four people’s luggage, bodies and personal time. Add in that these were four very large people who barely fit in the third and fourth upper bunk bed-like berths and all of the sudden saving that money up front was not nearly as important.

That’s a very common flaw of cruise traveler buying habits too. Up front, there is a lot of concentration on price, much like they might spend on an airline ticket going from point A to point B. The travelers for whom this is a problem just want the rock bottom low price no matter what it means. After they get that price, some of those same people bounce back almost immediately, now concerned about their cabin location, type or even the ship and sailing date.

Those are the lucky ones. They still have time for a reality check to think about what it will be like in that obstructed view balcony cabin that saved them a few bucks. That’s time to consider if the loss of a perfect view for their cruise of a lifetime is worth it. To many, once they think about it, they realize that they would indeed not care for that and change.

Others wait and find out the hard way that their click-to-buy wonder deal was not all that much of a good value. It’s all about taking a realistic view at the price of a cruise, our personal travel budget and how those two can play nice with each other. Getting it right can make for a rich travel experience. Getting it wrong is just a waste of time and travel funds.


[Photo Credit: Chris Owen]

Photo Of The Day: Meet The Princesses

Who is the fairest of them all? It’s a tough question for guests aboard the new Disney Fantasy cruise ship, who spend their days surrounded by dozens of Disney’s famed princesses. Flickr user David Lytle is one of the lucky few to experience the Disney Fantasy first-hand, snapping today’s featured photo of Sleeping Beauty, Cinderella and Snow White as they greeted guests. In addition to characters in costume, the Disney Cruise Line vessel, inaugurated in March, features art nouveau design, European-themed dining and nightlife options, and a 1,800-square-foot water play area with an AquaDuck water coaster.

Does your enchanting travel photo belong here? Upload your favorite shots to the Gadling Group Pool and your image could be selected as our Photo of the Day.

Cruise Lines Court New Yorkers With More Ships, Better Value

New YorkersNew Yorkers and most of the upper east coast of the United States have had few cruise ships to choose from. Traditionally, cruise lines sailed most of their ships from warmer, southern ports, which added the cost of a flight to a cruise vacation package too. Now, cruise lines are positioning more ships from upper east coast ports with a special focus on the New York market. The end result is, and will continue to be, more choices, better pricing and the best value ever to New Yorkers.

Norwegian Cruise Lines‘ new 4,000-passenger ship, Norwegian Breakaway, will sail from her homeport of New York City to the Bahamas, Florida, and the Caribbean for her inaugural winter season in 2013. That adds one more drive-to-the-port option for cruise passengers in the often under-served New York market.

“Norwegian Breakaway is one of the most highly anticipated new ships and has seen great demand for her summer sailings to Bermuda,” Norwegian Cruise Line CEO Kevin Sheehan told TravelDailyNews. “We are also excited to announce that the ship will stop at our newly enhanced private island, Great Stirrup Cay, offering an exclusive beach experience.”

Embarking on seven- to twelve day cruises to the Bahamas and Florida from October 2013 to April 2014, the line is taking in ports including Nassau, Great Stirrup Cay, Orlando and Port Canaveral. Two 12-day Southern Caribbean voyages and two “Weekend Escape” cruises in January 2014 are also scheduled with the 12-day itinerary incorporating visits to San Juan, St Thomas, Philipsburg, Castries, Bridgetown and Basseterre.

As the largest ship to homeport year-round in New York City, Norwegian Breakaway is expected to bring 140,000 additional embarking passengers into New York City over two years creating an estimated $35 million in direct spending.

In another move, Carnival Miracle, once a seasonal ship, started sailing year-round from New York this month, marking the line’s first year-round sailings from that port.

“New York is one of the highest-rated homeports for Fun Ship cruising. Carnival Miracle’s new year-round, eight-day departures offer consumers the best of both worlds – a choice of three attractive year-round Caribbean and Bahamas itinerary options with the opportunity to depart from one of the world’s great cities,” Carnival President and CEO Gerry Cahill told BreakingTravelNews.

Carnival Miracle will offer three different eight-day itineraries that visit popular islands throughout the Caribbean and Bahamas. The itineraries include Eastern Caribbean departures to San Juan, St. Thomas and Grand Turk, offered on a rotating basis April through October with a series of Bahamas sailings featuring stops at the private Bahamian island of Half Moon Cay, Grand Turk and Nassau. November through April, Carnival Miracle sails to the Bahamas along with a stop in Florida with port calls to Port Canaveral (Orlando), Nassau and Freeport.

On board, travelers will also find some new programming with an upscale New York flair.

The Taste Bar is Carnival’s newest casual dining option introduced this month on Carnival Miracle with fleetwide implementation expected to be completed by summer 2013.

The Taste Bar features complimentary bite-size offerings inspired by line’s Fun Ship 2.0 initiative dining venues, along with a signature cocktail tied to that eatery’s particular theme available for purchase for $5.

Sample offerings may include roasted pork tacos; meatballs and hand-whipped ricotta bruchetta; fried malanga (sweet potatoes) filled with ginger-scented pork and lime aioli; grilled ham and provolone cheese melt; and short rib croquettes with chipotle aioli.

Also on Carnival Miracle, the debut of the Punchliner Comedy Club Presented by George Lopez, part of a recently announced partnership with the comedian who serves as the line’s “curator of comedy,” acting as a consultant on the vetting and hiring of both established and up-and-coming comedic talent.

The Punchliner Comedy Club will offer five 35-minute shows on multiple nights during each voyage with at least two comedians performing each night. Two early-evening shows are geared toward a family audience, while the later performances feature R-rated, adults-only comedy.

Carnival Miracle’s year-round schedule of eight-day Caribbean voyages from New York with three different eight-day itineraries are offered:

  • Eastern Caribbean departures to San Juan, St. Thomas and Grand Turk;
  • Bahamas sailings featuring stops at the private Bahamian island of Half Moon Cay, Grand Turk and Nassau
  • Bahamas/Florida cruises with port calls to Port Canaveral (Orlando), Nassau and Freeport.

“The cruise industry continues to be an economic boon for the City, and today’s announcement that the Carnival Miracle will start offering year-round cruises from New York City will do even more to stimulate our economy, bringing additional visitors and generating nearly $13 million in direct spending,” said New York City Economic Development Corporation President Seth W. Pinsky in a release.

Also sailing seasonally from New York, beginning May 25, 2012, Disney Magic will sail 20 cruises from New York with three unique and varied itineraries. No stranger to Disney Ships, here is new Disney Fantasy arriving in New York earlier this year for inaugural festivities before heading south to her new home in Florida.

Disney Fantasy Cruise Ship Docks in NYC

[Flickr photo via Dr.DeNo]

Disney puts their ships where their heart is

Disney puts their ships where their heart is

When new Disney Fantasy comes out next year, Disney Cruise Line will have pretty much doubled their fleet of cruise ships in a very short time. Just like Disney, they have magical plans for each and every day all four ships are sailing. New voyages out of three new ports in 2012 is just the beginning. As America’s master of entertainment prepares to dominate the family cruise business, Disney puts their ships where their heart is.

New York, Seattle and Galveston, Texas will see their first Disney ships next year. The two newest ships, this year’s Disney Dream and upcoming Disney Fantasy will stay close to home, sailing a variety of sailings of varying lengths from bustling Port Canaveral in Florida. We knew that. That is good. Theme-park freaks can still get their fill at Walt Disney World in Florida before or after sailing with a shorter cruise while those with an eye for the sea can enjoy longer itineraries.

That’s great news for Florida but nobody forgot about the west coast…not at this cruise line anyway.
The Disney Wonder is scheduled to continue sailing seven-night Mexican Riviera cruises from the Port of Los Angeles for the majority of the year. (and the entire, cruise-ship abandoned west coast lets out a sign of relief). Now, with the increased fleet size, Disney Wonder will also sail four seven-night Pacific Coast cruises from Los Angeles calling on San Francisco, San Diego and Ensenada, Mexico.

Great big fat good news: Now hear this: The Disney Wonder will offer a special 15-night voyage to Hawaii from Los Angeles, calling on Hilo; Kahului, Maui; Honolulu, Oahu; Nawiliwili, Kauai and Ensenada, Mexico.

I can just hear the wheels turning as guests booked at the new massive new Disney Aulani Resort and Spa try to figure out some way to tack a Disney cruise on the front, back, middle or side of a land vacation.

Flipping back to the east coast for a bit, starting in May 2012, Disney Magic will sail a total of 20 cruises from New York. Included are eight-night cruises to the Bahamas and five-night cruises up the New England coast to Canada.

Disney puts their ships where their heart is

Not sure if a family-style casino-less Disney cruise is for you?

Two-night cruises will be offered to give a taste of the Disney Cruise Line experience over a weekend. I’m betting you come back for seconds. Yes, even in New York.

But that’s not all. The hidden gem in the whole deal is that starting in September 2012, Disney Magic will sail 12 seven-night cruises from the Port of Galveston to the Western Caribbean. That’s huge.


That’s also joining new Carnival Magic (which Gadling will be on in just a few weeks) sailing from Galveston, a first for a new cruise ship, normally brought up in Florida before sent to venture out on its own.
Disney puts their ships where their heart is

But wait, we have another one new to Galveston too. Princess Cruises brings a Love Boat to town with the popular Crown Princess sailing in December 2012 and April 2013.

Galveston hits the jackpot, that’s just all there is to it.

I live in Orlando and if there’s one thing we know here it’s that when Disney does it, they do it right. This roll-out of ships and itineraries, this special deployment, will no doubt turn the cruise industry on it’s ear. All the preparation other lines have done, slapping B-grade animation studios on their ships to prepare for this day will be tested.

You can bet the other lines will have their best foot forward as Disney, quite appropriately, ushers in a new standard in family entertainment at sea. It’s a tall order, even for Disney, but a few simple words come to mind that will clearly define this moment for Disney Cruise Line:

“When your heart is in your dream, no request is too extreme” -Cricket, Jiminy