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View Poll Results: What aspect of cruising has recently suffered?
The condition of the ships 1 5.56%
The quality of food 11 61.11%
The destinations 3 16.67%
the attitude of the crew & staff 3 16.67%
Pre-cruise customer service - booking process 0 0%
Voters: 18. You may not vote on this poll

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Old January 1st, 2012, 04:03 PM
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Default What has gotten worse in cruising in the last three years?

Okay - let's be honest. The economy is terrible and the cruise lines cannot get the fares they would like to be getting and sell cruises. They can only "weather the storm" for so long before they have to make cutbacks.

They are not building (many) new ships, althoug they are still spending pretty significant amounts on changes and upgrades to older vessels.

But in the last three years what has suffered the most in the cruise industry in general?
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Old January 1st, 2012, 04:12 PM
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All I can see is a gradual slow decline in standards, little things like a course missing from dinner, cheese there but you have to ask..that sort of thing, no sorbets, no Captains welcome party on short cruises, no free pens in the cabin, raised prices in the spa...this sort of thing. With the prices of cruises getting cheaper there are people on ships who do not usually choose this sort of holiday & perhaps are less sensitive to the traditions & social niceties involved.
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Old January 1st, 2012, 04:33 PM
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It's difficult to nail down an item or two, but in general we are getting an inferior product than we did 10 or 15 years ago.

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Old January 1st, 2012, 04:36 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Manuel View Post
It's difficult to nail down an item or two, but in general we are getting an inferior product than we did 10 or 15 years ago.

TM
It's just a gradual bit by bit decline, just little things.
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Old January 1st, 2012, 06:11 PM
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Pound for Pound / Dollar for Dollar. I have no doubt that we are still getting far more than we did when we started cruising, unfortunately the demandof economics means that we all want for cheaper goods, and as cruiselines are a business, they must make a profit to keep the shareholders happy.

What I would dearly like to see in your options Paul is the decline in passenger attitudes towards the staff, crew and fellow passengers.

Alan.
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Old January 1st, 2012, 06:30 PM
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[QUOTE
What I would dearly like to see in your options Paul is the decline in passenger attitudes towards the staff, crew and fellow passengers.
Alan.[/QUOTE]
I suppose you are right about attitudes, I did hint at that in my post.
Also true is that we probably get more than we think we do, years ago I bet the menus were less exotic & cabin facilities more basic. We almost booked a cruise on the much vaunted Canberra until we found it was shared bathrooms.
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Old January 1st, 2012, 07:43 PM
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I have found the food to be as good if not better than a few years ago. Where I think things have gone downhill is the number of passengers that are being dropped off in each port whether Caribbean or Med or Baltic or elsewhere around the world. Thus, I responded "destinations."
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Old January 1st, 2012, 08:26 PM
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I have been thinking about the food...I imagine it is better than years ago, but it doesn't seem as good as it was when I first cruised, maybe we just expect more. To be honest what ordinary working person has 5/6 course waiter served dinners in the sort of surroundings we have got used to...& maybe we have just got used to it?
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Old January 1st, 2012, 09:42 PM
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I had to go with food. Overall the quality, selection and preparation standards of food in the main dining room and buffet are lower than they were ten years ago.

I loved when the alternative restaurants were introduced and for a period of time the MDR food remained the same but it then began to decline.

From Celebrity to Carnival the menus have become smaller and "dumbed down". More comfort food options are being added and higher quality seafood and meats are becoming a thing of the past. You will not see a true New York or Sirloin on the menu. You now receive a "flat iron steak" but the little lobster tails are still served in order to make people think they are getting a "special" meal. Personally I'll take a Mahi Mahi with a turnip puree over a frozen 3 - 4 oz. warm water lobster tail.

The quality has moved to the alternative restaurants and sometimes they don't deliver but usually do. Now if you want the experience you had ten years ago you pay extra for it.

I couldn't choose destinations. Homeland cruising gives more people the opportunity to cruise without flying but the ports are the same as they always were and more seven day cruises are nothing more than a stop in Orlando, The Bahamas and the cruise line's private island. However, cruise lines have expanded to new markets and their are more European, Asian and Australian itineraries with many having overnight stops. This was something once exclusive to the Luxury Lines and a few of the longer Premium Line itineraries.

Cruising is still good and if you hadn't experienced "The Good Old Days" you won't notice the difference. I'll continue to take advantage of the new itineraries and continue to cruise. That is until the first "Cracker Barrel" franchise appears on a cruise ship.

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Old January 1st, 2012, 09:48 PM
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I selected the attitude of the crew and staff. Not because most of the staff are not still very friendly and do their jobs well, but it seems they are being stretched to do "more with less" and that is taking it's toll on the service these hard working souls are able to provide.
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Old January 1st, 2012, 10:37 PM
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I have not cruised that much but I see no negatives in present day cruising .
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Old January 2nd, 2012, 12:26 AM
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Default Port Everglades

What I have noticed the most in the past 3 years is leaving Port Everglades on the weekends after a cruise. With the number & size of the ships customs is all backed up, difficult getting a cab and FLL is a nightmare.

O F C'er
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Old January 2nd, 2012, 06:47 AM
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The most significant change we have experienced over the last seven years is the decline in personalized service from the room stewards. This is a direct result of each steward being responsible for more rooms, so he doesn’t have time to be aware of each guest’s preferences and schedule.

On our first HAL cruise, our steward took care of 12 rooms. On our latest HAL cruise, the steward and an assistant had 32 rooms! (It's true that this is only 16 rooms per man, but the the assistant was a trainee who spoke little English, so they worked together on all the rooms.)
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Old January 2nd, 2012, 09:18 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by green_rd View Post
I selected the attitude of the crew and staff. Not because most of the staff are not still very friendly and do their jobs well, but it seems they are being stretched to do "more with less" and that is taking it's toll on the service these hard working souls are able to provide.
DITTO! Frankly, I don't know how they keep the attitude that they have. I know if my employer doubled the work load for me,,,,I'd probably have a much worse attitude than these guys and gals have. Overall, they still do an amazing job!

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Old January 2nd, 2012, 09:52 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Marc View Post
I have found the food to be as good if not better than a few years ago. Where I think things have gone downhill is the number of passengers that are being dropped off in each port whether Caribbean or Med or Baltic or elsewhere around the world. Thus, I responded "destinations."
I have only cruised in the last 2 years but I agree with Marc.

The number of vessels in relatively small ports like Santorini or Dubrovnik must impact on the quality experience.

As I rarely eat more than 2 courses at dinner, food quality is a minor issue for me.

Annie
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Old January 2nd, 2012, 12:32 PM
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Quote:
What I would dearly like to see in your options Paul is the decline in passenger attitudes towards the staff, crew and fellow passengers.
If I am reading this correctly it seems you are telling me you see a greater amount of unkind, disrespectful attitude by passengers twowards the staff.

Can you please expand on this idea - this is a new topic to me, not one that I have seen mentioned before.
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Old January 2nd, 2012, 01:51 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Paul Motter View Post
If I am reading this correctly it seems you are telling me you see a greater amount of unkind, disrespectful attitude by passengers twowards the staff.

Can you please expand on this idea - this is a new topic to me, not one that I have seen mentioned before.
Good morning Paul, and a Happy New year to you. Yes you are reading my comments axactly right, and it maybe just a British 'problem'. When we first started cruising in the 1980's everyone seemed to appreciate that the crew were working very hard, over very long hours, and away from their freidns and family for very long periods of time - certainly conditions that very few of us would be willing/able to put up with.
Recently we have seen
.. people turn up late for their meals (set dining times) and demand service, the Maitre D' having little option but to accpet this behavio(u)r.
.. pax clicking their fingers to get waiter's attention.
.. pax pushing their way into lifts before the occupants have had a chance to leave.
.. self service turning into a bun fight brawl
.. the loss of the words Please & Thankyou (my pet hates)
.. motorised wheel chair users driving dangerously & even hitting people
.. personal hygiene
.. diving into their meals instead of waiting for the other table companions to be served

I'm sure there are a lot more examples, but I better stop or I will fill up all of your server's space ;o)

Alan
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Old January 2nd, 2012, 02:06 PM
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Hmmm....

I don't know if this is a "British" thing or not. I tend to think "not."

I think the recent downturn in the economy has a led a lot of people to behave somewhat differently than they did before. I think you would see some of the same behavior on mostly American ships, too.

But the Brits also have a unique "problem" in that Brits are not used to being required to tip for service. Many cruise lines imposed mandatory service charges because many Brits did not tip and I am guessing some Brits now feel like "well, obviously I am now forced to pay for the service, so I am going to get my money's worth."

While service used to be viewed as more of a courtesy in the eyes of Brits, now on cruise ships it has become a commodity - something that they pre-paid for and now expect to see a return on their investment.

What do you think of that theory?
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Old January 2nd, 2012, 03:19 PM
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Nobody is forced to tip on UK ships but some object to being told who to tip & how much, it's just a service charge after all so I don't see a problem with it.
I posted a link to a UK thread relating to P&O introducing auto tips not compulsory ones
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Old January 2nd, 2012, 03:21 PM
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In general, I think that we are missing the boat on this thread....so to speak. I remember having a cabin so small that my roommates and I had to literally leave the cabin in rotation in order to get dressed. I remember another cruise where I was wishing for a jar of peanit butter because the food was so bad. Etc. So, while no doubt some things have gone downhill, many others have improved. For me, the biggest negative trend is the monster ships. Too many people in ports and just too big overall.
Also, our last 2 cruises, one on Carnival, one on NCL, the MDR food was so good that we never ate at the "pay extra" places at all.
Okay, call me Pollyanna, but I am happy with most of the changes so far.
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Old January 2nd, 2012, 03:35 PM
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I don't think we are missing the boat - cruises are really cheap now, so the "value proposition" is still there, but being realistic the cruise lines are in a position where they can't charge as much as they would like to charge, and they can't even re-invoke the fuel surcharges that today's oil prices certainly would justify.

As I said - any company can "weather the storm" for a year or so, but when you have a protracted economic downturn that stays as bad as this one has for three and a half years now with no real signs of recovery then every company has to find new ways to structure cost/return on equity.

Someone mentioned room stewards cleaning twice as many rooms. And now that the tips are paid to the cruise line instead of the crew directly we have no guarantee the crew is reaping the benefits of that change.

Food is one area where cruise lines can cut costs easily, so are itineraries, drink prices and shore excursions are another.

This is just the reality of the economy - and it is also happening with resorts, hotels, airlines, etc.
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Old January 2nd, 2012, 03:38 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by johnthed0g View Post
Nobody is forced to tip on UK ships but some object to being told who to tip & how much, it's just a service charge after all so I don't see a problem with it.
I posted a link to a UK thread relating to P&O introducing auto tips not compulsory ones
I can't really keep up with every cruise line's policies. I thought NCL made tips into mandatory service charges, however - worldwide. I could be wrong, though.
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Old January 2nd, 2012, 03:54 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by kandajones View Post
Good morning Paul, and a Happy New year to you. Yes you are reading my comments axactly right, and it maybe just a British 'problem'. When we first started cruising in the 1980's everyone seemed to appreciate that the crew were working very hard, over very long hours, and away from their freidns and family for very long periods of time - certainly conditions that very few of us would be willing/able to put up with.
Recently we have seen
.. people turn up late for their meals (set dining times) and demand service, the Maitre D' having little option but to accpet this behavio(u)r.
.. pax clicking their fingers to get waiter's attention.
.. pax pushing their way into lifts before the occupants have had a chance to leave.
.. self service turning into a bun fight brawl
.. the loss of the words Please & Thankyou (my pet hates)
.. motorised wheel chair users driving dangerously & even hitting people
.. personal hygiene
.. diving into their meals instead of waiting for the other table companions to be served

I'm sure there are a lot more examples, but I better stop or I will fill up all of your server's space ;o)

Alan
Alan, I have believed that any ship would be great if I could choose all my fellow passengers. I have seen a little of what you report even on a luxury line; it is not pretty.
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Old January 2nd, 2012, 03:58 PM
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Paul neither can I! maybe they did....
This would be nice....
cruise cost-xxxx

service - x

taxes etc - xx


Total XXXXXX
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Old January 2nd, 2012, 04:21 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Marc View Post
Alan, I have believed that any ship would be great if I could choose all my fellow passengers.
Maybe we should launch the SS Cruisemates !!

Am sorry that we can't make this year's European CM cruise, hopefully we'll have more luck next year (oh no I'm wishing for 2013 already :eek

Alan
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Old January 3rd, 2012, 11:39 AM
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I have managed cruise ships fo rthe past 32 years.
Since 2000, the decline in the quality of cruise passengers has been shocking.
The cruise lines are responsible for this development. In our efforts to sell every single cabin on every larger and larger ship, the heavy discounting has resulted in many new and undesirable passengers sailing with us. Many of these people cannot really afford to be on a cruise, but the cruise lines have made the base prices so low that it appears affordable to nearly everyone.

The results:
Poorly dressed passengers, causing endless debates about dress codes
Poorly behaved passengers, causing endless debates about enforcement of company policies.
Passengers with very low expectations, allowing cruise lines to get away with cutting quality and services.
Passengers with no prior travel experience, allowing cruise line staff to cut corners on services with few complaints.
Passengers who cannot afford to purchase anything on the ship, resulting in lower profits for the cruise line, resulting in higher prices for those who can afford to purchase something.
Passengers who will not or cannot afford to tip, resulting in much lower earnings for cruise line employees.
Lower earnings results in higher service staff turnover. Their replacements are lower quality and lower skilled.
Lower skilled service staff result in more complaints and lower tips/earnings, resulting in even higher staff turnover with even lower skilled staff replacing them.
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Old January 3rd, 2012, 12:07 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Bruce Chafkin1 View Post
I have managed cruise ships fo rthe past 32 years.
Since 2000, the decline in the quality of cruise passengers has been shocking.
The cruise lines are responsible for this development. In our efforts to sell every single cabin on every larger and larger ship, the heavy discounting has resulted in many new and undesirable passengers sailing with us. Many of these people cannot really afford to be on a cruise, but the cruise lines have made the base prices so low that it appears affordable to nearly everyone.

The results:
Poorly dressed passengers, causing endless debates about dress codes
Poorly behaved passengers, causing endless debates about enforcement of company policies.
Passengers with very low expectations, allowing cruise lines to get away with cutting quality and services.
Passengers with no prior travel experience, allowing cruise line staff to cut corners on services with few complaints.
Passengers who cannot afford to purchase anything on the ship, resulting in lower profits for the cruise line, resulting in higher prices for those who can afford to purchase something.
Passengers who will not or cannot afford to tip, resulting in much lower earnings for cruise line employees.
Lower earnings results in higher service staff turnover. Their replacements are lower quality and lower skilled.
Lower skilled service staff result in more complaints and lower tips/earnings, resulting in even higher staff turnover with even lower skilled staff replacing them.
Absolutely correct...

For better AND worse that is the state of cruising now.
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Old January 3rd, 2012, 01:46 PM
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Bruce - that is a very thought provoking argument - and I don't disagree with you although it sounds a bit elitist. Still, the truth is that when you go on cruise ships you tend to see things you never saw before (in terms of who is on the cruise) - you see people who look like they shop at TJ Maxx, and eat at McDonalds.

But what is even more firghtening is that the NEW generation of ships is going to appeal even more to these people.

I wrote a piece awhile back that said Project Sunshine, NCL Breakawy and the new Princess ships would be more crowded than previous ships. (I noted Sunshine had 4000 guests in 144,000 sq ft while Freedom has 3600 guests in 160,000 sq ft.)

But what I did not realize is that if you look at four of the new ships coming out in 2011 - Disney Fantasy, Carnival Breeze, Costa Fascinosa and MSC Divina you are already talking about ships with Passenger Space ratios hovering around 30.

The future is already here - these new ships are packed with people, very crowded. The future is already here.

Cruising has changed. What used to be a genteel way to see the world has become a floating amusement park in many cases. Arthur Frommer has been right.

Now the good news - you can still find those older, genteel ships; The S-class on Holland America (PSR 43), or even the Solstice class of Celebrity has a PSR of 40.

I think what we are going to see son is the emergence of a wider separation between mainstream and premium cruise lines - with Princess slipping down the scale towards mainstream with its new ships (3600 people in 141,000 tons, but at full capacity probably closer to 4200 people for a PSR of 33)
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Old January 3rd, 2012, 02:02 PM
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I wanted post a bit from an article I ran in 2007 by Bruce Nierenberg (founder of Big Red Boat & Premier Cruises). Ithas a section called "challenging the cruise industry"

Challenging the cruise industry
Though they are supposed to be fun, vacation choices are actually one of the most personal and difficult decisions for consumers. It's a simple decision for a lot of people -- "drive to Aunt Mary's," for example. But these days, most people want more from their limited vacation time. They crave experiences that are unique and memorable.

A vacation becomes a challenge when it requires a great deal of planning, especially a family vacation. So it is no coincidence that cruising has become so popular. Its success is largely due to its ability to provide a risk-free vacation. There is always something for everyone to do on a ship, so you don't have to battle boredom. You don't have to seek out a different restaurant every night. (Although if you want to try something different for dinner, that option is now available to you on most ships.) The itinerary is already laid out for you once you choose a cruise, and rarely subject to change on a whim. Even the "what clothes to bring" decision is made in the guidelines from the cruise line.

This formula for successful vacations has resulted in the construction of many new mega-liners, giving the consumer a broad selection of vessels going to the most popular ports at affordable prices.

Yes, the smaller, more intimate vessels have been disappearing from the same routes during the past 10 years, but those who prefer a smaller ship can still find them on lesser-traveled itineraries, and the fact that there are small ships on order shows that is growing for this type of experience.
The cruise industry still provides one of the best values per dollar spent, and the ships themselves are quite impressive in style, design and structure. But something is missing today that was a key driving influence in the industry's growth from the 1970s into the 90s.

What is missing in today's cruise market?
The industry is driven today by size, volume, numbers, and stock values. Given this growing emphasis on size and profitability, the major cruise lines have become consumed with the physical structure of the ship. These lines seem to think that if you surround customers with an eye-dazzling environment, they won't notice what has gone missing - a commitment to "vacation experience product development."

True, the public spaces and cabins on today's ships are modern, well thought out and beautiful. But does that alone create an outstanding travel experience? Not when every cruise ship has the same formula. Why are they all flogging the same basic premise -- beautiful ships at the expense of a personalized onboard experience that differentiates one ship from another?

While the focus has grown exponentially on creating more dazzling ships (known as "hardware" in the business), almost nothing has been done lately to improve the "software." For example, stage shows are now presented in multi-million dollar theaters with lasers and pyrotechnics. But when was the last time a cruise line announced it was seeking better talent for its shows? Celebrity's experiment with Cirque Du Soleil is one exception: Why didn't it work out?

What can the cruise lines do?
Premier Cruises did not have the most beautiful ships, but there are people who will tell you how much they miss the "Big Red Boats." Why? Each ship had its own personality, and we created experiences for the passengers, not just an onboard environment. With our beach parties and emphasis on onboard personalities, we provided a total immersion in the cruise experience that is missing from many cruise ships today. Kids were really welcome for the first time.

Many of today's shipboard experiences simply duplicate what a person can do at home. We have ships with rock-climbing walls, bowling alleys, miniature golf, etc. But are those unique in any way except for the fact that they are on a ship? No: You can find most of those things at the local mall, so you are back to the car trip to Aunt Mary's.

Now, there are exceptions. I admire what NCL is doing in Hawaii, combining port-intensive itineraries with a night-time sail-by of a live volcano and the Napali Coastline. Add in NCL's Freestyle Cruising and you have a unique product. It is too bad for NCL that the Hawaii market is proving so difficult to manage on a fiscal basis.

I admire what Carnival did with the mega-ship Carnival Conquest -- basing it in New Orleans and giving it a distinctive Creole and French theme onboard. Even the stage shows were on-theme. It is too bad Katrina caused them to move the ship to a different home port.

I also admire the investments being made in places like the Turks & Caicos, and some projects on the Yucatan coast, where new port experiences are being developed.

Ports of call
Speaking of ports, the examples I cited above are the exception. In most cases a cruise vacation consists of two distinct and mostly unrelated elements: the ship and the ports. Ironically, the lines the do the best jobs of tying them together are the ones that change itineraries the most - the luxury lines. But how about more varied port development and building onboard ship experiences based on those specific itineraries?

Dropping several thousand passengers in a typical Caribbean port is not a good thing. Having it done by three to five mega-ships at one time is no fun for the passenger at all. They sell a lot of tours and a few local ground operators get very wealthy, but is it a good experience for the customer? Hardly. The ports on most cruises have become almost incidental, a secondary consideration to the ship itself. What happens after the cruiser has seen the ship, and the same ports, time after time?

There are dozens of 2000+ passenger ships all on eastern/western/southern Caribbean itineraries, mostly seven days long, mostly visiting the same ports they have for 30 years. There have been a few port development projects in Mexico and the lower Bahamas, but I always get the feeling that it's because the lines have to do it, not because they want to.

It took several larger companies 20+ years to realize that cruising to less populated out-islands and remote locations is a good thing. Most did not want to spend the time or the money to develop these destinations.

They are changing, but very slowly. The mainstream cruise operators have many people dedicated to making sure the port experiences they offer work well and are profitable. But do any of them have staff dedicated to developing new destinations and experiences without restriction? These people should use pure innovation to invent new land-based cruise offerings, and then check profitability. If one in 10 new concepts proved feasible and profitable, we would be ahead of the game.

Onboard activity and entertainment
There are lots more public rooms and lounges on the big new ships, but the experience is still basically the same as it has been for many years. How about coming up with new entertainment concepts, throwing the Baby Boomers a bone and playing to their appreciation for the new and different. Someone is going to do this and make a lot of money.

NCL is trying with its "Freestyle" dining concept, and I applaud them for that. But it needs more development and a commitment to all the opportunities of a "casual environment" onboard -- not just where you eat and when. When is the last time someone said they chose a particular cruise for its onboard entertainment? If a cruise line rethought this activity rather than just following the pack, it could gain a significant advantage over the competition.

I mentioned that a closer tie between the ship and the itinerary would be a good thing, as it gives people a reason to try different ships based on itinerary alone. Onboard enrichment lectures based on the destinations never fail to please, but the lack of them is pervasive. Most cruisers see a port shopping talk for what it really is: paid commercials for specific stores on the next island. And what about art auctions? What does shopping for a limited-edition print have to do with a vacation in the Caribbean? While they rope in a few takers for these art shows on every cruise, how many cruisers are they turning off with them? And by the way, would somebody please make it illegal to sell gold necklace chains by the inch on cruise ships??

Let's get out of line!
Here is another challenge to the industry: Get people out of lines! You shouldn't have to wait on line to buy a tour, go to dinner, get on a tender, get a towel, or for any other purpose if you claim to be a high-quality resort offering. Once again, this boils down to the people on the ship creating the experience.

Continue taking the ships to the people
Even before the horrors of 9/11, I saw the marketing advantage of allowing more people to cruise without having to get on an airplane. This was the driving reason I opened the ports of Houston and Port Canaveral to mainstream cruising. Customers were always telling me that one of the deterrents to cruising was that they preferred not to fly. Today's world has made this only more relevant: What else can we do to help the consumer get onboard without getting in the air? This is even more of a concern to family travelers -- not so much for security, but because of cost and convenience.

As one who has been in the cruise business since 1973, I appreciate what the past teaches us. But in the case of the cruise industry, I'm not yearning for the old ships, the old way of doing things, not at all. I think the new ships with their technological superiority is fantastic. They will only get better (and more environmentally sensitive). What I do miss is the commitment to innovation in the non-hardware aspects of cruising.

We need to spend more time thinking outside the box, challenging ourselves to be unique and provocative -- not just in the way the ships look and how big they are, but in the memorable, unique, and provocative experiences we offer.
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Old January 3rd, 2012, 02:21 PM
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Originally Posted by Paul Motter View Post
Bruce - that is a very thought provoking argument - and I don't disagree with you although it sounds a bit elitist. Still, the truth is that when you go on cruise ships you tend to see things you never saw before (in terms of who is on the cruise) - you see people who look like they shop at TJ Maxx, and eat at McDonald's.
I do agree with Bruce. There is a lowering of standards and many of today's cruisers want to dress and act however they want. I don't find it elitist. It is basically a statement of fact.

I'm sorry but Paul, your statement regarding TJ Maxx and McDonald's sounds elitist.

I think we have all seen people who shop at TJ Maxx and have eaten at McDonald's. I know a large number of them and all would be model cruisers with any cruise line from Luxury to Mainstream.

Take care,
Mike
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