Interporting? How Convenient?
Written by: Paul Motter
Sometimes the timing of certain decisions in the cruise industry really surprises me. Just as we are beginning to recover from the Concordia accident, which we learned happened largely as a result of a practice called interporting, we hear new announcements from the cruise industry that certain lines plan to increase the number of cruises where interporting takes place.
What is interporting? It is the practice of taking on new passengers in various ports of call along the cruise itinerary. What used to be a singular beginning and ending for all of the passengers on a given cruise itinerary will now be more like a train or hotel where the faces change every couple of days.
For example, a cruise that begins in Barcelona and stops in Marseille and Rome before it is returns to Barcelona will now pick up passengers in Marseille and Rome and keep those passengers onboard until the ship returns to the same port.
This is a very new concept for the mainstream American cruise fleet, although it has been pretty common in Europe for awhile now. Still, I don’t like the idea personally. It is also interesting that the two lines now announcing it are not in the Carnival Corp. family.
Norwegian cruise lines just announced it will start interporting on Norwegian Epic in the 2013 summer season. You will be able to board the ship and Barcelona, Marseille or Rome and stay onboard for seven days. Each passenger will receive a lifeboat drill within a few hours of arrival and before the ship sets sail, according to the new worldwide CLIA policy, which means each passenger will attend one drill and endure the distraction while other passengers have their own drills days later.
Royal Caribbean also announced interporting on its 2,100-passenger Brilliance of the Seas. The ship will embark passengers in Puerto Rico on a series of seven-night Southern Caribbean cruises during the 2012-13 winter season, and also embark and disembark others in Guadeloupe on day four of the cruise. The idea here is to have American and Canadian passengers sailing round trip San Juan and South American cruisers sailing roundtrip from the island of Guadeloupe a few days later.
Actually, I don’t understand exactly why South Americans should prefer Guadeloupe over San Juan since the distance from Caracas to Puerto Rico is about the same as it is to Guadeloupe. Plus, the native language in Puerto Rico is Spanish just as it is in Venezuela, while Guadeloupe is a French-speaking island. They will still have to go through U.S. immigration when the ship hits San Juan, as far as I know, anyway.
So, now we have more ships doing interporting as a regular practice. This means that when you board Brilliance of the Seas in Puerto Rico it will already be inhabited by hundreds of South Americans already half-way though their cruise. Restaurants and spa appointments will already be booked by those onboard before you arrive.
In addition, the South Americans will experience a new influx of passengers in Puerto Rico in the middle of their cruise. And in their case the “English-speaking people” will have already booked up the first half of their cruise with restaurant and spa reservations.
Interporting breaks up the continuity of a cruise. Those cruise rituals we cruisers have come to know and love; the welcome aboard party where new passengers meet the captain and chef, and the farewell celebration towards the end of the cruise will most likely disappear. Otherwise they will become all but meaningless. Embarkation and disembarkation as a procedure will go more quickly with fewer people, but it could also lead to complications for visitors not disembarking in a given port.
I find it interesting that CLIA would make the announcement that muster drill is now mandatory before a ship sets sail to address a problem specifically created by the practice of interporting, only to see cruise lines announce within a few days an increase in the number of cruises where interporting takes place. It seems more logical that the Concordia accident would have compelled the cruise industry to end to the practice.
That’s just the way it is sometimes, but wouldn’t have made sense to at least let the Concordia news die down a little bit before announcing the increase in interporting? I am guessing that the cruise lines have wanted to do this for quite awhile now, but held back due to complications around scheduling muster drills. But now that CLIA has gotten all cruise lines to agree to hold all muster drills the same day they see it as a green light to use interporting as much as they want.
So, who is the winner in any of this? The cruise lines will make more money and it will be more convenient for some people to embark closer to home, but I think it will make the cruise experience far less personal and more like a floating hotel. The biggest losers will definitely be the crewmembers who now have to spend far more time loading and unloading passengers and hosting three life boat drills per cruise.
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