Let’s face it, although we say we go on vacation to get away from it all, this is the world in which we live! Here is the press release from Carnival:

The Carnival Dream!

The Carnival Dream!

MIAMI, Sept. 29, 2015 /PRNewswire/ — Carnival Corporation & plc (NYSE/LSE: CCL; NYSE: CUK), the world’s largest travel and leisure company, today announced that it has expanded its innovative hybrid connectivity system to create the cruise industry’s largest Wi-Fi network — and one of the world’s largest satellite mobility networks.

With over 31 advanced satellite systems, the company’s expanded WiFi@Sea connectivity network features the broadest high-bandwidth internet coverage in the industry currently deployed on 30 of its 100 ships — far more than any other cruise line company — with further deployment planned over the next several months. In addition, several of its cruise line brands have introduced new plans and pricing packages that make staying connected on a cruise more convenient and affordable — and are improving the guest experience and increasing the number of guests using Wi-Fi while cruising.

Expected to be extended to nearly 40 percent of the company’s industry-leading fleet across several of its global brands by the end of 2015, the expanded WiFi@Sea service has led to increased guest satisfaction, higher usage rates and greater number of devices connected during voyages. Carnival Corporation’s brands currently using the new features include AIDA Cruises, Carnival Cruise Line and Holland America Line. Building on existing broadband Wi-Fi capabilities already available throughout its fleet of 100 ships, Carnival Corporation is continuing the deployment of its technology solution with plans to expand the new system on the majority of its fleet across its 10 global brands through 2016.

The company’s system represents a first in the cruise industry on this scale — providing the broadest high-speed global coverage across dozens of ships coupled with onboard intelligence to enhance the guest experience — a breakthrough technology innovation for overcoming the challenging circumstances of sailing in the middle of the ocean and still providing fast, reliable and affordable wireless internet access for guests.

Expanding the System

The system is a first-of-its kind solution that integrates a combination of advanced satellite systems, onboard software, networking equipment, land-based antennas and Wi-Fi from port connections. The technology is expected to change how millions of travelers stay in touch during their cruise and generate even greater interest in cruise vacations, especially among tech-savvy millennials and people of all ages who want to stay in touch, research destinations or share their vacation experiences via social media.

With the continued rollout of the enhanced connectivity system across the fleet, guests will be able to access the websites, social networks and apps most important to them at speeds up to 10 times faster than those previously available on the company’s ships.

“As we continue to enhance our WiFi@Sea system, we implement technologies, packages and overall approaches that will create the best experience and value for our guests wherever their cruise vacation takes them,” said Reza Rasoulian, vice president of global connectivity and shipboard technology operations at Carnival Corporation. “We optimize all of our service layers continuously to ensure a great connectivity experience. With this approach, we are giving our guests faster internet speeds without constraining the time they can be online through our packages, which has led to more people than ever using their devices to connect while on our ships and a steady improvement in guest satisfaction ratings as the new plans and pricing are rolled out.”

New Packages and Pricing Structure

With the new pricing models, Wi-Fi packages are based on the types of services guests will be using throughout their trip versus the previous system of charging for the amount of time they will be online. For example, guests who are only interested in using Wi-Fi to post to their social networks can purchase a basic package for a lower fee.

This change gives guests the freedom they prefer for unlimited use of the specific internet services and applications they are interested in without the worry of time constraints — an important offering for a good number of guests who are looking to stay connected, especially as the industry works to increase interest in and demand for cruising across all demographics, especially among younger guests.

Specific package offerings and pricing structures vary by brand, but in all cases the company is working to create more value and a better overall connectivity experience.

System Enhancements Focus on the Guest Experience

Carnival Cruise Line, the company’s largest brand with 24 ships and its 25(th) ship, Carnival Vista, coming in spring of 2016, announced in August it has enhanced internet access including new social media packages. The packages are now available on 19 of its 24 ships with plans for fleet-wide implementation by the first quarter of 2016. In June, the company’s AIDA Cruises brand announced new flat-rate social media and internet packages, along with bandwidth upgrades that have been installed on seven ships, and will be fully deployed on each of the brand’s 10 ships by November 2015.

Added Rasoulian: “We know that each of our guests is looking for something different when they cruise, whether that is being completely or partially unplugged from the internet or staying plugged in. For those who want to stay connected with their life back home or research the next destination on their trip, we are offering faster, more reliable and more affordable options to give our guests what they are looking for.”

The improved onboard connectivity experience will also help crew members across Carnival Corporation’s 10 brands keep in touch with their family and friends at home during the extended amounts of time they spend at sea. This is an important component of each crew member’s quality of life and has a positive impact on helping them maintain their passion for consistently providing exceptional service for guests during the voyage.

About Carnival Corporation & plc

Carnival Corporation & plc is the largest cruise company in the world, with a portfolio of 10 cruise brands in North America, Europe, Australia and Asia, comprised of Carnival Cruise Line, Holland America Line, Princess Cruises, Seabourn, AIDA Cruises, Costa Cruises, Cunard, P&O Cruises (Australia), P&O Cruises (UK) and Fathom.

Together, these brands will operate 100 ships in 2015 totaling 219,000 lower berths with 17 new ships scheduled to be delivered between 2016 and 2022. Carnival Corporation & plc also operates Holland America Princess Alaska Tours, the leading tour companies in Alaska and the Canadian Yukon. Traded on both the New York and London Stock Exchanges, Carnival Corporation & plc is the only group in the world to be included in both the S&P 500 and the FTSE 100 indices.

Additional information can be found on www.carnival.com, www.hollandamerica.com, www.princess.com, www.seabourn.com, www.aida.de, www.costacruise.com, www.cunard.com, www.pocruises.com.au, www.pocruises.com and www.fathom.org.

Red Frog Pub

Red Frog Pub

Ice Cream Parlor

Ice Cream Parlor

Seafood Shack

Seafood Shack

Family Harbor example

Family Harbor example

Vista Atrium

Vista Atrium

Carnival Vista

Carnival Vista

SkyRide

SkyRide

Bullet points from today’s Carnival event:

Upon launch in May 2016, Vista will sail a variety of 8 and 10-day sailings from Athens and Barcelona

 

She will also sail a 12-day voyage out of Barcelona

 

After the Euro-summer season, Vista will sail a 13-day voyage into New York City

 

After NYC sailing, she will settle into her new home port, announcement coming later

 

Features to include:
-The first IMAX at sea
-Red Frog Brewery now brewing on board
-Expanded Havana Bar area (now with pool and Havana Cabanas)
-New cabin class called “Family Harbor”, accommodating up to five
-Serenity Deck to have a chopped salad station
-A full ice cream parlor
-Dining on Deck 5 to have indoor and outdoor seating
-The atrium will have a center feature, with LED lighting, that changes colors throughout the day
-The largest Waterworks in the fleet and the largest waterslide at sea (455-feet long)
-A Skyride that goes around Lido Deck

Nieuw Amsterdam

Nieuw Amsterdam

Holland America Adds Six Dancing with the Stars Theme Cruises

Holland America Line will continue the “Dancing with the Stars: At Sea” program in 2015/2016. For the third year, the collaboration brings the excitement of ABC’s hit show “Dancing with the Stars” to all of the ships in the Holland America Line fleet. The program will culminate with the annual Champions Cruise competition on ms Nieuw Amsterdam’s Jan. 10, 2016, western Caribbean voyage.

The 2015 schedule will continue to feature “Dancing with the Stars: At Sea” programming on all sailings in addition to six special “Dancing with the Stars” theme cruises highlighting the show’s professional dancers and celebrities. In 2013 and 2014 select theme cruises featured professional dancers Tristan MacManus, Kym Johnson, Sharna Burgess, Emma Slater, Lacey Schwimmer, Chelsie Hightower, Mark Ballas and Derek Hough, along with television personality Carson Kressley, singer Joey Fatone, actress Sabrina Bryan and Olympic gymnast Shawn Johnson.

Disney Announces Early 2016 Deployment

Disney Cruise Line introduces two popular Caribbean destinations — Tortola, British Virgin Islands and Martinique — into the lineup of favorite tropical itineraries for early 2016. The return to the homeport of San Juan, Puerto Rico brings a new itinerary that includes Martinique.

From the warm Caribbean culture of Tortola, capital of the British Virgin Islands, to the exquisite French island of Martinique, these destinations provide Disney Cruise Line guests the chance to relax on pristine beaches, discover natural wonders and indulge in local shopping and cuisine.

Celebrity Adds River Packages to Cruise Offering

Celebrity Cruises has introduced European river-and-ocean cruise vacation packages.

Unique to the cruise industry and only available on Celebrity Cruises, these one-of-a-kind Celebrity Explorations combine immersive Amras Cruises river journeys with guest-favorite modern luxury ocean sailings.

“Our guests want to continue seeing more of the world with Celebrity, and we are dedicated to providing them with the most destination-rich vacations,” said Michael Bayley, President and CEO, Celebrity Cruises. “By introducing these river-and-ocean cruise packages, travelers can immerse themselves in Europe more so than ever before, with the ease of choosing a vacation package exclusively created by Celebrity.”

The 11 new river-and-ocean cruise packages offer guests the opportunity to explore Europe far and wide by way of four well-known rivers – the Danube, Rhine, Rhône and Seine – and then by sea onboard a breathtaking Celebrity cruise around the Mediterranean, Scandinavia, Russia, Turkey and other destinations.

MSC and Lego Partner for Lego Experience at Sea

MSC Cruises and the LEGO Group have joined forces to bring children and families the ultimate LEGO Experience at sea, including LEGO designed playrooms and entertainment options. More.

AOL Launches Laughs on Deck With Carnival and George Lopez

On October 30, AOL announced the launch of “Laughs on Deck,” a new branded series in partnership with Carnival Cruise Lines starring George Lopez who serves as the cruise line’s curator of comedy. The first two episodes of the new AOL series are now available, with four additional episodes slated to go live in the coming weeks. “Laughs on Deck” marks an expansion of Carnival Cruise Lines’ current relationship with AOL, having signed on as the brand sponsor for AOL Original “Laugh Lessons with Kevin Nealon.”

grand-holiday

Grand Holiday to CMV

Iberocruceros’ Grand Holiday is set for a new life at Cruise & Maritime Voyages. The ship was launched as the Holiday for Carnival Cruise Lines in 1985 and today Cruise & Maritime Voyages announced that the Grand Holiday will be joining its fleet in Spring 2015 as the Magellan. Statement from CMV:

British based Cruise Operator, Cruise & Maritime Voyages (CMV), is pleased to announce the addition of Grand Holiday from Costa Crociere to the CMV fleet, commencing ex-UK operations under the CMV livery in spring 2015.

Carnival Corporation Unveils Hybrid Wireless Network at Sea

Carnival Corporation & plc today unveiled the cruise industry’s first-of-its-kind hybrid wireless network – an enhanced high-speed service to eventually be rolled out to all 101 of its ships on all nine of its brands.

This technology innovation is expected to revolutionize how millions of its passengers stay in touch during their cruise and generate even greater interest in cruise vacations.

Carnival Corporation’s backbone connectivity network, known as WiFi@Sea™, will integrate a unique combination of strategically located land-based antennas installed along cruise routes, Wi-Fi from a port connection and advanced satellites, forming an innovative network that is a first in the cruise industry on this scale. The “smart hybrid” network is designed to provide passengers and crew with faster and more stable internet access throughout their voyage – a feature becoming increasingly important to travelers of all ages looking to stay connected and share their experiences through social media.

Once completed, the integrated network will seamlessly switch among its various technology solutions to give passengers the highest available bandwidth capacity and strength of signal. The network will be capable of providing Internet connectivity speeds that can be roughly 10 times faster than those previously offered on Carnival Corporation’s ships – ultimately expected to provide passengers with the best possible connectivity in the cruise industry. More.

Princess Partners with Discovery for Onboard Activities

Princess Cruise and Discovery Consumer Products announced their collaboration to create Discovery At Sea, interactive onboard activities and shore excursions. The new Discovery At Sea cruise vacations will feature themed tours, science activities, hands-on programs and games based on Discovery’s breadth of brands and programming. Debuting on Princess Cruises’ ships in early 2015, the interactive experiences are designed to bring to life the nature, wildlife and history of the regions guests are sailing. More.

Costa Victoria to the Rescue in South China Sea

Last Monday morning, while sailing from Hong Kong to Sanya Hainan Island, Costa Victoria rescued the crewmembers of a burning fishing boat spotted in the Southern Chinese Sea.

Holland America in Partnership with Marine Conservation Institute

As part of its “Our Marvelous Oceans” partnership with Marine Conservation Institute, Holland America Line has created a new program that highlights and educates guests and crew about marine protected areas around the world. Developed with the team at Marine Conservation Institute, the program will educate guests and crew through on-board presentations by shipboard personnel. Topics will cover what a marine protected area is and how to visit one without causing harm to the habitat and wildlife. This information can be enhanced through participation in featured shore excursions.

Port Tampa Bay Welcomes Norwegian Sun for Winter Season

Port Tampa Bay officials welcomed the Norwegian Cruise Line ship Norwegian Sun to Tampa during a plaque exchange ceremony Sunday, November 2, commemorating the ship’s inaugural call in Tampa, as well as the start of the busy 2014-2015 winter cruise season.

Carnival Corporation Will Increase Fleet Capacity by Nearly 10 Percent through 2016

Carnival Corporation & plc announced it will increase fleet capacity by nearly 10 percent from 2014 through 2016, fueled largely by the addition of four new ships across four brands in less than 18 months. More.

love-boat-cast-regal-princess-naming-lg

 

Regal Princess Launched in Star-Studded Ceremony

Princess Cruises, the cruise line made famous as the backdrop of the iconic Love Boat television series, christened its new Regal Princess with a tribute to the show as all six of the original cast members served as the ship’s godparents, and were joined by 25 of the show’s past guest stars.

The star-studded Love Boat themed festivities, which also launched the line’s 50th anniversary, celebrated the role the show played in Princess Cruises’ five-decades-long history.

All six Love Boat cast members – Gavin MacLeod (Captain Stubing), Fred Grandy (Gopher, the chief purser), Ted Lange (Isaac, the bartender), Bernie Kopell (Doc, the ship’s doctor), Lauren Tewes (cruise director, Julie) and Jill Whelan (Vicki, the captain’s daughter) – pulled a lever that first sent a record-breaking fifty champagne bottles smashing against the ship’s hull as a nod to the company’s anniversary celebration, followed by the breaking of a giant Nebuchadnezzar-size 51st bottle signifying Princess Cruises’ continued future success. More.

Carnival Gift Cards Now Available In More Than 9,000 Retail Locations

Carnival Cruise Lines’ gift card program – a prepaid card that can be used as payment toward a “Fun Ship” vacation or a variety of shipboard purchases – is now available in more than 9,000 retail outlets throughout the U.S. This marks the first time that a cruise line-specific gift card has been made available at retail establishments ashore. More.

PORT EVERGLADES 2015 CRUISE GUIDE AND NEW CRUISE APP

Port Everglades is making it easier and more convenient for cruise guests to plan their next ocean-bound vacation with an online version of the Cruise Guide (CLICK HERE) and a new, user-friendly cruise app for mobile devices such as iPhones and iPads (CLICK HERE).

CARNIVAL & DALLAS COWBOYS TAILGATE TAKEOVER

On Sunday, October 19th, Carnival Cruise Lines, the Official Cruise Line of the Dallas Cowboys, held its first-ever Tailgate Takeover at AT&T Stadium with an appearance by Chef Guy Fieri – whose Guy’s Burger Joints are on several of the line’s “Fun Ships” – as well as a pre-game concert by country music superstars Rascal Flatts.

MIAMI’S OLDEST BAR TO GET NEW HOME ON NCL ESCAPE

In celebration of Norwegian Escape’s one year to launch milestone, Norwegian Cruise Line today announced that Miami’s oldest and most legendary bar, Tobacco Road, will find a new home aboard the line’s newest and largest vessel.

The acclaimed establishment, which was issued Miami’s very first liquor license, is closing its original location this week after 102 years in business. In an effort to preserve the tradition of this iconic Miami landmark, Tobacco Road and Norwegian Cruise Line partnered to bring the Tobacco Road experience onboard Norwegian Escape, which will begin sailing from Miami in November 2015.

COSTA DIADEMA PRESENTED

On October 25, the Costa Diadema was officially presented at Fincantieri shipyard in Marghera (Venice), to Costa Cruises’ CEO, Michael Thamm and Fincantieri’s CEO, Giuseppe Bono. The ship will then set sail from Marghera on October 30 and will reach Trieste, from which her “Vernissage Cruise” will start on November 1.

ROYAL CARIBBEAN LAUNCHES TERMINAL IN NEW JERSERY, FOR QUANTUM

On October 24th, Royal Caribbean and the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey dedicated the new cruise terminal at a small gathering at Cape Liberty Cruise Port, which will be the home for Quantum of the Seas starting on November 10.

(News compiled from cruise company press releases, Cruise Industry News and Tourism Boards)

Here is a brief recap of headlines from the cruise industry, for the past week:

Princess Mobile App

Regal Princess guests will have the opportunity to connect with their fellow cruisers with the debut of Princess@Sea Messenger, a free mobile messenger feature offering guests an easy way to share updates and make plans during their cruise vacation.

The Princess@Sea Messenger is integrated in the complimentary Princess@Sea mobile app, accessed via a smartphone or tablet browser. It debuts on Regal Princess in November and will be rolled out to all cruise ships in the entire fleet by the end of 2015.

Norwegian Escape Goodies

She'll be here before you know it!

She’ll be here before you know it!

Norwegian Cruise Line announced last week that Norwegian Escape will incorporate The Waterfront and 678 Ocean Place.

This concept includes an oceanfront boardwalk lined with restaurants, bars and shops, combined with three expansive, flowing decks of dining, bars, entertainment, gaming and more.  The Waterfront and 678 Ocean Place have taken cruising to new heights and offer an unparalleled experience with a unique connection to the ocean.  Norwegian Escape is currently under construction and is scheduled for delivery in October 2015.

Cruise Ship Arrivals to Puerto Vallarta Increase by 43 Percent

The Puerto Vallarta Tourism Board announced that the Pacific seaport city of Puerto Vallarta will see 118 cruises call on its shores this year, 43% over 2013 when 81 cruises called the port.

Puerto Vallarta!

Puerto Vallarta!

Puerto Vallarta will welcome 52 cruises from September through December of this year, which added to the 64 already touched Vallarta waters will reach a total of 116, 81 more than the received arrivals last year.

A total of 141 cruises have already confirmed stations to Puerto Vallarta for 2015, including Carnival will call on the destination throughout the year with the Coral Princess being the first on September 26. Carnival represents 34% of arrivals; Princess 20%; Norwegian 19% and Holland American 16%.

Royal Asian Cruises, New Cruise Line, Set to Start Service from Sri Lanka

Royal Asian Cruises has signed an agreement with the Board of Investment in Sri Lanka to launch a luxury cruise line in Sri Lanka.

Royal Asian Cruises [RAC], which currently has offices in the US and in India, will invest US$200 million over the years in the Sri Lankan venture. It will also acquire and operate two vessels over the course of 2016.

Carnival Miracle to Start Year-Round Mexican Riviera Program Next Week

Carnival Miracle departed Saturday, Oct. 4 from Long Beach, Calif., on the first voyage of a new year-round cruise program to the Mexican Riviera.  The ship will be the first to call at Cabo San Lucas on October 6 following Hurricane Odile and will be loaded with relief supplies provided by Carnival for local residents.

Carnival Miracle’s new year-round Mexican Riviera program will encompass three different week-long itineraries, including a new three-port, seven-day cruise featuring Puerto Vallarta, Mazatlan and Cabo San Lucas.

Carnival Corp. Releases Results of Multi-Year Fuel Conservation Program

Carnival Corporation & plc the world’s largest cruise company, released the results of its multi-year Fleet Fuel Conservation Program that by the end of 2014 will have saved more than one billion gallons of fuel and reduced fleet carbon emissions by 12 billion kilograms over a seven year period.

By the end of 2014, Carnival Corporation’s Fleet Fuel Conservation Program will have improved the fleet’s overall fuel efficiency by 24 percent compared to 2007, while saving approximately $2.5 billion in fuel costs, the company’s single biggest expense. Carnival Corporation announced the results of its fuel conservation efforts in conjunction with a National Press Club event celebrating world tourism today in Washington, D.C.

Carnival to Create New ‘Spin U’ DJ Academy For Teens

Carnival Cruise Lines has teamed up with DJ IRIE – the official DJ of Carnival and the Miami HEAT – to create Spin U, a new shipboard DJ academy exclusively for teens ages 15-17.

carnival

Queen Mary 2 to Bring Home a Very Special Cargo

When Cunard Line’s Queen Mary 2 arrives in Southampton on Wednesday October 8, she will bring home a very special cargo item – the final sandbag to make the journey from the First World War cemeteries in Belgium, containing soil from those cemeteries to create a Flanders Field Memorial Garden.

Four Carnival Ships Earn Perfect 100 Health Inspection Scores in Past Month

Four Carnival Cruise Lines ships have earned perfect 100 scores on their most recent public health inspections this past month.

Carnival Liberty, Carnival Magic and Carnival Triumph each scored 100 on their respective United States Public Health (U.S.P.H.) inspections, while Carnival Splendor earned a perfect score during its inspection by Health Canada.  This marks the 12th time a Carnival ship has earned a perfect health inspection score this year.

Princess Delivers Relief Supplies to Cabo San Lucas

Star Princess called on Cabo San Lucas this past Saturday, Oct. 4, for the first time following Hurricane Odile and brought needed relief supplies to area residents impacted by the storm. The Princess cruise ship delivered pallets of bottled water, milk and paper products, among other supplies.

(News compiled from cruise company press releases, Cruise Industry News and Tourism Boards)

Cruise Lines International Association (C.L.I.A.) reports that the Cruise Industry is going to invest $8 billion on 24 new cruise ships through 2015! C.L.I.A. noted that its global fleet is now comprised of 410 ships, up from 393 one year ago, and the introduction of 24 additional ships will meet growing demand. This $8 billion capital investment will add capacity for another 37,546 passengers. By the way, if you count river cruising, the number goes up to 49 new ships between now and the end of 2015 (note: several river cruise ships will be removed from service).

Click for larger view.

Click graphic for larger view.

The Busiest Ports

Most of the world’s busiest ports remain in the Caribbean Sea, which were featured on more than a third of all global itineraries last year. The Mediterranean (19% of the market) and Northern Europe (12% of the market) were not far behind. Australia, with 22% growth, and Asia, with 32% growth, are catching up.

Where Are You Coming From?

C.L.I.A. also reports that 55% of all cruise passengers (last year) were from North America. International source markets demonstrated accelerated demand for cruising, and with a staggering 185% growth over the past five years, Scandinavia has seen the largest increase in interest, followed by Australia (130%), Brazil (85%) and Germany (80%).

 

The view from aboard the Allure of the Seas as she departs from Port Everglades, in Ft. Lauderdale, FL.

The view from aboard the Allure of the Seas as she departs from Port Everglades, in Ft. Lauderdale, FL.

The Cruise Customer Experience includes so many factors: research, the booking process, on-board experience, flight (getting to the port) and much more. But, what about the time leading up to your next cruise, the period from the time you make deposits (or final payments) to the time you begin your trek to the port? Sure, there’s dieting (maybe?), shopping, researching ports of call and excursions, online check-in, but, what if you could get a bit of a cruise fix in between times of the actual cruise?

If you live near a port city, you can actually visit port inlets and view the cruise ships as they depart for their journeys. You can view them as they arrive, too, but that is typically before the sun comes up! There is also YouTube, of course, where thousands of cruise videos can be found. Videos ranging from corporate marketing pieces to those created by passengers and crew.

Then, there’s my favorite…Live Webcams, particularly cams providing live, moving video. Below I have provided links to several active webcams. The PortCams are particularly interesting, as they are in HD and provide Live Video, great for cruise ship fans and boating/yachting buffs alike. Enjoy!

PORT WEBCAMS

CRUISE SHIP WEBCAMS

Note: With some of the Cruise Line links above, you will have to choose the ship first, then, if the ship has a Cam, click on the Cam link.  Once again, Enjoy!!

Atrium on the Sovereign of the Seas

Atrium on the Sovereign of the Seas

The largest ships in 1992 were the Sovereign-class (Royal Caribbean) and Norwegian Cruise Line’s SS Norway (after its expansion refit), and they were in the mid to upper 70,000-ton range. Today, smaller main-stream cruise ships are said to be in the 115,000-ton range and the largest (right now) is the Allure of the Seas at 225,282. That’s about seven (7) Titanics. It seems the industry is going through what airlines already went through; cram as many people into the structure as possible, and hope the passenger experience will not suffer.

The gradual trend towards mass market mega-ships got me thinking about how much thought went into the service aspect, and whether the decision-makers (of the cruise lines) realize the difference between Customer Experience and Customer Service. The ‘service’ is part of the ‘experience,’ a piece of it. Adding all of these new amenities, like obstacle courses, alternative dining venues, bowling alleys, surfing and skydiving simulations, lookout points, mainstream partnerships (for name brand food and product on board) and more (I know I left out a bunch) are wonderful. They ADD to the experience. With the exception of perhaps Disney, are the cruise companies staying on top of the customer care aspect of the Customer Experience?

I am divided on this question. I still think that cruise ship service is like pizza, meaning that even when it is sub-par, it is still pretty damn good.

A Eurodam Cabana

A Eurodam Cabana

My best personal example was a cruise on Holland America’s Eurodam, when she was new. I expected typical Holland America service, but while the cruise was still a cruise (the pizza!), the service was sub-par for Holland America, and it detracted from the overall experience. Items in the buffet ran out BEFORE they replaced them, and this happened more than once. I am not a complainer, but this was Holland America! We also paid for the private cabana for the week, another new amenity added by Holland America on the Eurodam. It seems management did not train the staff, as we were supposed to have iPods with headphones, chocolate covered strawberries, fruit bowls, bottled water and champagne everyday. We, and parties around us, had to inform the staff what we paid for; they either forgot or did not know, and I tend to believe the latter, since it was consistent.

PRE-PAID GRATUITIES and SERVICE
Pre-paid Gratuities, are you a fan? It sure is convenient, but the first time I became aware of it, as a Customer Experience guy, I said to myself, “Now, they don’t have to work for it.” Couple this with the concept of Anytime Dining (or any variation of a name based on Cruise Line), and you have an equation for (potential) lesser service. Sure, you can request the same waiter, but then it is no longer Anytime Dining, because there may be a wait to get seated with your server of choice! Have you ever tried going to the Purser’s Desk on the last day of the cruise to remove the auto-gratuities? Those lines will make you want to jump overboard! I also realize you do not have to choose Anytime Dining on most cruise lines, but the pre-paid gratuities are still part of the service equation.

Service on cruises is still above average in this author’s opinion. But, it is the personalized service to which I’m referring. Cruises used to be known for personalized service, and while you can still get it today, you will pay significantly more for it. NCL and MSC have specific “ship within a ship” programs in place. You can also pay to cruise on a more upscale line, such as Seabourn, for smaller ships and elite services.

ARE THE LATEST AMENITIES A DISTRACTION FROM CHANGES WITH SERVICE?

Bumper cars will be on Quantum of the Seas.

Bumper cars will be on Quantum of the Seas.

It seems that the current resort-styled cruise ships, loaded with mainstream corporate partnerships, will be the norm for some time to come. Several people have written to me stating that they feel the new concepts are not only adding to the experience, but also serve as a distraction from the lack of personalized service in other areas. The mentality that if passengers have such a great experience in certain areas, they/we will (hopefully) forget about experiences that no longer exist to their former heights. This might be true, and it seems to be working.

Even with all of the negative press lately, people are cruising in record numbers as ships continue to get larger, with all kinds of entertainment options and activities. With all of these “distractions”, we overlook that our staterooms aren’t finished when we return from breakfast; that we have different servers during dinner each night, and our regular “wants” aren’t there before we arrive; that empty bottles and glasses linger around the pool areas and hallways longer; that mints on our pillows have disappeared.

FINAL THOUGHTS
Toyota or Lexus…Carnival or Holland America? What do I mean? In the past most of the mass market lines were all pretty similar with regards to offerings. You can still find cruises that are more service-focused in nature. Today, you pick and choose your ship based on what you are looking for in a cruise. If you want a family-friendly cruise, with lots to do regardless of age, you may choose Royal Caribbean. If it’s all about the kids, perhaps Disney. Want a more subdued cruise experience, sail with Celebrity or Holland America.

This may seem like a rant, but it isn’t meant to be. I do feel that there are certain aspects of the Customer Experience that are overlooked, purposely, because of economics. In mass market cruising it is a reality; many lines have positioned themselves to be more entertainment oriented (sit, watch and enjoy) as well as activity oriented (we are a part of the action: bowling; surfing; zip lining, obstacle courses, etc.). This ALLOWS the cruise lines to be less service oriented (depending on the brand). But, this is not a bad thing. We now have several options. And, cruise vacations, now more than ever, can be as boring or as exciting as you choose for them to be.

So, do the CEOs of cruise lines actually care about the customer? I like to think they do…and if they do, it sure is a different philosophy than what cruising was in the mid 90’s and earlier!

The MSC Divina

The MSC Divina

Best of Italy…MSC Cruises has announced a series of exclusive partnerships with popular Italian brands for the Divina’s upcoming Caribbean season.

The cruise line has partnered with Segafredo Zanetti, an Italian gourmet coffee brand, and will serving espressos to foamed cappuccinos. Coffee and chocolate menus also include a variety of specialist coffees and chocolate drinks.

Another partnership is with Nutella and its hazelnut spread, with a Nutella Corner aboard the ship by the main pool. All embarking families will receive a special Nutella welcome kit inviting them to come and discover the Nutella corner and a Nutella & Go pack for every child, a snack consisting of Nutella and Italian bread sticks. In the mini and junior clubs will be soft Nutella jar-shaped seats and toy containers.   Read the rest of the story here

 

Guy's  Burger Joint on Carnival.

Guy’s Burger Joint on Carnival.

Guy Fieri sails on Carnival…Guy Fieri and his family take to the sea for fun, adventure  and killer food aboard the Carnival Breeze in a new television special, Guy’s Family Cruise, premiering on Food Network Monday, October 28 at 9 p.m. ET (8 p.m. CT).

Guy’s Family Cruise follows the Fieris during their Caribbean adventure – making stops in Miami, the Bahamas, Turks & Caicos Islands, and Jamaica aboard Carnival Cruise Lines’ largest and newest ship, Carnival Breeze.  Read the rest here

Sapphire Princess photo: princess.com

Sapphire Princess
photo: princess.com

Today Carnival Corporation & plc announced it is introducing its Princess Cruises brand to China in 2014, naming Shanghai as home port for Sapphire Princess during a four-month season expected to carry 70,000 passengers.

The new round-trip cruises, which begin next May, will bring a brand-new premium cruise experience to the rapidly growing China vacation market. Princess will offer the quality and comfort sought by discerning Chinese travelers, delivered by the largest premium cruise line in the world.

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