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 world of cruise travel, the big story is often about the latest, greatest, biggest cruise ships to be launched and what they have to offer travelers. Those new floating resorts often command the highest fares as cruise travel fans line up to book passage and be one of the first to sail. But while major cruise lines build new ships with the best of what they have to offer, they have not forgotten about their existing fleets. Older ships, relaunched with major updates, can often be one of the best cruise travel values available.
Disney Cruise Line is proud of new Disney Fantasy and Disney Dream, the two new ships that more than doubled their fleet capacity. But Disney Magic, first launched in 1998, is not forgotten. The ship has been kept up to date with periodic dry dock maintenance but after living with new features rolled out with Fantasy and Dream, Disney imagineers have taken another look at Disney Magic. The result of that look is an extensive remodel that will bring a host of new reasons to sail the ship.
Headlining the new features on Disney Magic is The AquaDunk, a 37-foot body slide that starts by taking riders down three decks from Deck 13 to Deck 10 through a translucent tube. That tube extends 20 feet over the side of the ship above the ocean that is over 100 feet below.
We have always been committed to reinvesting in our fleet and continuously making shipboard enhancements that elevate the guest experience,” said Karl L. Holz, president of Disney Cruise Line in an Orlando Sentinel article. Marvel comics is now a part of the Disney family of brands, so the Super Hero icons of Marvel have been introduced on Disney Magic as a new space for children. Marvel’s Avengers Academy will be a big part of Disney’s Oceaneer Club as young crime-fighters are transported to a high-tech command post used by The Avengers for special mission.Dining venues are also getting an update with Animator’s Palate getting all-new, larger high-definition flat-screens for better views of the animation magic that takes place all around. “Drawn to Magic” is a new dinner celebration where the black and white “blank canvas” of the Animator’s Palate turns full color, as Disney and Disney-Pixar characters come to life throughout the dinner event.
Carioca’s is a new restaurant tapping the current cruise industry trend to make public spaces multi-use areas. By day the area (which replaces the current Topsider buffet) is a fun quick lunch venue. By night, the now air-conditioned area is an elegant dinner place.
Disney has also added a bigger, better Spa area with a barber shop and more redesigned areas for adults only. Staterooms will get more room, storage and bathing space too. This new Disney video gives full details of all the re-imagined features to be on board Disney Magic:
Disney Magic will be taken out of service on September 10, 2013, returning with all of the above and more on October 8, 2013. But cruise travelers will not have to wait that long to see the result of Carnival Cruise Line’s new Carnival Sunshine, sailing right now after a $155 million refit.
Formerly launched in 1996 as Carnival Destiny, Carnival Cruise Lines took that popular ship, gutted it, and added back all the best features from all their ships and then some. As the first ship in the Carnival fleet to incorporate all of the dining, bar and entertainment options that are part of Carnival Cruise Line’s refreshing Fun Ship 2.0 enhancement program, this one is far more than a pit stop dry dock overhaul.
WaterWorks, a racing-themed water park featuring the line’s longest water slide
Havana Bar, by day a Cuban coffee and finger foods place and by night a Cuban-themed bar
Shake Spot, which will offer classic milkshakes and floats, as well as tropical fruit shakes and adult shakes and floats
JavaBlue Café, which will have sweet and frothy cappuccinos, lattes, espressos and other caffeinated favorites
Pizzeria del Capitano, an expansion of the line’s popular Cucina del Capitano family-style Italian restaurant
For both Disney and Carnival, the name of the game is being relevant. Much of what worked for cruise lines 10 or 15 years ago does not work today. Today’s cruise travelers are inundated by more ships, with more features every year. But that one new ship for any given line – the one that is the newest, best ship in the fleet – is a small percentage of the line’s capacity and not everyone can sail on it. Reworking older ships to bring relevant features is becoming more of a must-do item all the time and these two ships are great examples of the magic and sunshine that can come as a result.
Walt Disney World is the most visited resort in the world. Other Disney resorts and Disney cruises remain huge destinations worldwide. Yet, a Disney vacation is also maligned by many people.
Believe me, I’ve heard all the negatives: It’s overly programmed; it’s pedestrian; it’s gimmicky; it’s hot and miserable (or cold and miserable, as the case may be).
And as a journalist who covers Disney, I have to admit that many of my trips to “The World” feel a whole lot more like work than vacation, even with my family in tow.
After a marathon couple of weeks trying to cover all the holiday happenings at Disney Parks, I spent the first half of January in Disney burn-out. But I was reminded again last week why I – and many other moms – bring our kids on Disney vacations.
While watching the fireworks at the Magic Kingdom, Tinker Bell took off from Cinderella Castle to make her nightly flight. My 7-year-old daughter, who has seen these same fireworks dozens of times, turned to me, eyes sparkling, and squealed, “Mom, Tinkerbell waved at ME!”
I cannot even express the joy I felt in that moment. I can only say it was worth a million not-so-great moments waiting in line, sweating, and dealing with kids’ meltdowns and obnoxious grown-ups on vacation.
It’s a sentiment Walt Disney Company CEO Bob Iger agreed with when I interviewed him last week on board the Disney Dream.
A father and grandfather himself, Iger has a built-in focus group at home, and it keeps him centered on Disney’s core values.
“Watching through my kids’ eyes reinforces the richest and most valuable quality of Disney – the impact we have on kids and families,” Iger said.
Sure, enjoying a Disney vacation requires a little leap, a little suspension of reality. And no, it doesn’t give you a sense of the place you’ve traveled or a look into the real people who live there.
But I still urge you to try it sometime. And when you do, go with a kid.
Because as far as I’m concerned, Tinker Bell really does fly out of Cinderella Castle every night. And she really did pick my daughter out of the crowd last week and wave specifically at her.