New Ships; And Why Smart Cruisers Might Want to Avoid Their Inaugural Seasons
Written by: Kuki
Within the past year there’s been a bit of a boom in new ships setting out for their first voyage. Over the past several years there’s been a big change in the methods the cruise lines use to build interest prior to sailing, and then follow up to receive maximum media coverage.
One the biggest changes, and one I think presents some the opportunities for a lot of misinformation to reach the cruising public’s eye, is the two or three day “inaugural sailings” the cruise lines do often for media and travel agents only. From their perspective, the “short sailing system” seems to be effective, and it costs less to invite all these people on complimentary two or three day trips, rather than full length cruises.
Over a decade ago, when I first started writing for CruiseMates, every “press trip” was at least a full duration sailing of the new ship’s itinerary. On a full sailing those onboard at least had a chance to see if the ship functioned properly in full operational mode. Full sailings also gave the opportunity for those onboard to see if any blemishes in the systems arose, or issues with the physical plant, how the ship handled traffic flow, etc.
With the present system, of 2 or 3 night “media sailings“, and its inherent “time is short” mind set, it seems the cruise lines can quite easily “control” what they want you to see, experience, and report on while you’re onboard.
Indeed, the good writers, will find time to escape the activities they’re directed to, to examine other areas of the ship. But they are still restricted, simply because of the short time they have onboard.
I think it’s quite laughable when some outlets try to write an actual “review” of a ship, after a two night sailing. When I set out to a review a ship, I don’t even begin to think of the totality of a review until at least the 6th or 7th day. In my view… how can you review a ship, when you haven’t really yet experienced the full cruise.
Other media outlets exist that will only accept the broadest outlines of the most positive things about a ship from the writer’s who are assigned. Perhaps it’s not always because they want to keep their relationships with the cruise lines on a steady keel; in some cases it may just be lack of space.
In the case of the company I write for, CruiseMates.com, since I began this job over a decade ago, I have never been told what to write; never been instructed to only talk about the positives, and never been told my job might be at risk if I didn’t keep my reporting positive. My instructions, from the beginning werer to write it exactly as I see it.
In fact, I’m very proud of the fact that my modus operandi has always been to try and describe and share the cruise experience that my readers are most likely to encounter if they were to sail the same ship.
Normally, I turn down any offers to do these two or three night media inaugural cruises for all the reasons described earlier in this blog. Yet, for several reasons I went, and recently returned from a 4 night inaugural sailing of Holland America’s new ship, The Nieuw Amsterdam.
I loved the ship’s interior design work, and many of its public rooms. I think this ship will soon sail satisfying even the most critical Holland America passenger.
But, as it true on most new ships leaving the shipyard, there are “new ship glitches”, both in mechanical issues, and in physical and organizations issues in the delivery of the well known high service standards of Holland America. It’s not that this is a Holland America problem. It’s just that my recent experience, and reminder, was on a Holland America ship. In the majority of cases, with new ships there are issues that are discovered only after the ships have been sailing with near full passenger loads for a period of time. Certainly they can’t be remedied until they are discovered.
As a result I am always surprised cruise line loyalists will often even pay a premium to be the first paying passengers on an inaugural voyage.
Yes- there are some nice things about being amongst the first on a new ship
- the first to sleep in that new bed
- the first to use the new fluffy towels and linens
- the first to use the new cutlery, etc., etc.
- being present at the christening ceremonies, and some “special” inaugural events and small gifts
… or in my case, I was the first customer in the Nieuw Amsterdam’s casino J
Yet, to my mind, the fact that you’re much more likely to encounter “new ship glitches”, such as new equipment malfunctioning, service issues, etc. takes me back to a philosophy I formed a decade ago, after sailing on the 2nd ever sailing of a new ship… If you’re a paying customer, don’t sail a new ship before allowing a fairly substantial shakedown period, to allow for them to get it right.
Delay, to allow them to have all systems running as they are meant to, before spending your vacation dollars!! (My guideline is approximately 3 months post inaugural).
In my opinion, the cruise lines would be wise to invite their longest most loyal customers on their new inaugural sailingss, at bargain basement prices; essentially telling them in advance that they are the test subjects to see what they’ve done right, and to tolerate any “new ship glitches”, as part of their “job” as passenger.
However, if you just “have to” be on one of the first sailings for the excitement, and paying full fare for the priviledge, know what it is you are buying, and don’t be lining up at the Guest Relations Desk to voice your complaints…. You made the choice!
So.. The question is… Do you LOVE to sail on inaugural cruises, or do you, as I do, prefer to wait until the ship is sailing in smooth seas (operationally)?
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Posted: July 13th, 2010 under Kuki.