In an aim for more transparency for travelers, you can now learn all about the crime statistics of major cruise lines, or at least those of the three major lines Royal Caribbean Cruises, Carnival Corporation and Norwegian Cruise Line.
According to the New York Times In Transit Blog, the three lines, which hold almost 80% combined market share, recently released the figures in response to a new Senate bill that would require all cruise lines that land in American ports to report their crime statistics.
Will this new form of transparency help make cruise ships a safer place? Sen. John D. Rockefeller IV of West Virginia who proposed the bill is convinced that it’s only in passing legislation and making cruise ships more accountable that changes will be made.
“It’s notable to see they’re trying, by voluntarily posting some crime data online, but serious gaps still remain in the information they’re making available. I’m convinced the only way we’re going to make a meaningful difference for consumers is by taking legislative action.”
The bill, if passed, would not only require transparency of cruise lines to release such data, but also set up a toll-free hotline for customer complaints.
When cruise ships come to town, civic leaders rejoice. The floating resorts bring with them jobs and tourism dollars that might be otherwise elusive. In May, Baltimore, Maryland, welcomed Royal Caribbean’s Grandeur of the Seas to town with gusto, as the state’s governor named May 13 Royal Caribbean Cruise Day. But the hoopla of that new cruise ship in town was short lived when just days later, the ship caught fire and was pulled out of service for repairs. Still, cruise lines are worth courting for cities and those cities are worth standing behind for cruise lines.
Returning to Baltimore this week, there was no brass band or gubernatorial declaration and the reason for the fire is still under investigation. Affecting three aft decks of the ship, some areas are still not ready for passengers, reports Travel Weekly. But local businesses and media are still excited to see the ship return, sailing from the Port of Baltimore on seven-night sailings to Bermuda and the Bahamas.
If any part of this story sounds familiar, there is good reason. Just last month we heard from governor O’Malley, then lobbying on behalf of Carnival Cruise Lines, looking for a waiver from new environmental rules to keep the cruise ships coming to the city. In 2011, Gadling was first to report cruise line crew members accused of smuggling drugs into the Port of Baltimore. Still, cruise travelers flock to Baltimore, often setting new records for passenger travel on a variety of year-round sailings.
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.
Hong Kong‘s $1 billion Kai Tak cruise terminal is open and processing cruise travelers as anticipated. Located at the site of the former Kai Tak International airport runway, the terminal will eventually source passengers from a pool of 50 million potential middle-class passengers in China. This week though, it’s all about the Americans.
Passengers disembarking Royal Caribbean’s Mariner of the Seas this week found a bit of a different experience than that of other cruise ports around the world. Showcasing some of what China has to offer cruise travelers, Mariner of the Seas offered passengers a kung fu demonstration, a lion dance at Mikiki mall in San Po Kong, shopping, dining and more on planned tours.
Adventure cruise travelers with a desire to go it on their own had a bit different experience, finding transportation options limited. “The terminal is fine, the building is fine but there is no good connection to the city,” passenger Fred Lutjens said in a Standard report that notes a queue of 100 people waiting for a taxi.Kai Tak airport, which closed in 1998 after 70 years of service, was replaced by the current Chek Lap Kok International Airport. Using that valuable and available land efficiently, the $1 billion Kai Tak cruise terminal has the ability to handle passenger vessels as large as two of Royal Caribbean’s Oasis-class cruise ships, the largest in the world.
Cruise lines have worked hard to shake off the idea that they are all the same. What was once thought to be an experience well suited to a big ship full of overweight “travelers” who come to graze on endless buffets night and day has changed. Today, cruise lines offer unique travel opportunities on ships that reflect the tastes of an evolving, diverse traveler.
New ships come loaded with all the latest options that are designed to attract a specific type of traveler, one that appreciates what any given cruise line has to offer. As older ships cycle through dry-dock remodeling, a time when ships are taken out of service to perform routine maintenance not possible while at sea, cruise lines are adding some of the most popular new options.
Royal Caribbean’s Grandeur of the Seas, for example, recently received a $48 million makeover upgrading staterooms with new furniture, carpets, upholstery and flat-screen TVs. The 73,817-ton ship originally went into service in 1996 and was remodeled in 2007. This year’s remodeling also brought ship-wide technological upgrades, new trendy restaurants from newer ships and a poolside LED screen.
The idea is to make older ships competitive with new builds by adding today’s features from much bigger ships that are appropriate and will work well with smaller, older ships.
“If you walked onto Grandeur of the Seas you literally would think she was a brand new ship,” said Lisa Bauer, Royal Caribbean Senior Vice President of Global Sales and Marketing in a Vacation Starter report. “I would put her up against any ship in the fleet in terms of going from a ship that was maybe a little bit more mature in her age to absolutely looking like a brand new ship.”
This whole process is nothing new but some remodels are more extensive than others. Gadling reported similar news on a 12-day dry dock for Norwegian Cruise Line’s aging Norwegian Sun last year in “Old Ships Get Extreme Makeover” as well as another Royal Caribbean ship, Freedom of the Seas that got a stroke of the remodeling brush in “Old Cruise Ships Get New Features.”
Another makeover coming up shortly, this one a 49-day, $155 million project, comes from Carnival Cruise Lines. Remember Carnival’s Funship 2.0 initiative that promised to revive, renew and re-energize the worlds most popular cruise line? That $500 million program is adding new, branded onboard dining and programming elements like Guy’s Burger Joint designed by the Food Network’s Guy Fieri, comedian George Lopez’ Punchliners Comedy Club & Brunch and an assortment of games, music and activities by partnering with names like Hasbro, EA Sports and Miami Heat celebrity DJ Erie.
Now, Carnival will embark on their most extensive makeover ever, spending $155 million to transform 1995’s Carnival Destiny into a ship so different that they will be changing its name to Carnival Sunshine.
When it enters service in April 2013, Carnival Sunshine will have all of the dining, bar and entertainment elements of the Fun Ship 2.0 product enhancement program, along with several new features.
New on Carnival Sunshine will be: 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; and Pizzeria del Capitano, an expansion of the line’s popular Cucina del Capitano family-style Italian restaurant. Here, guests can watch as chefs prepare five different kinds of authentic Italian-style, thin-crusted pies and a full-service Asian restaurant.
It’s all part of being relevant. What worked for cruise lines 10 or 15 years ago does not work today. Today’s cruise travelers are looking for more than worn out Vegas-like entertainment from the 1980s, like a never-ending buffet and men’s hairy chest contest. They may still be a little bit interested in those sort of things, but more often are looking for something new.
They want new, trendy dining options that offer healthy choices along with designer cupcakes. They want to kayak in the pristine waters of a UNESCO world heritage site, go hiking in South America or fly over Alaska’s Mount McKinley. Cruise lines hear that call loud and clear and are delivering all that and more as they sail into a new future of cruising.