Earlier this week, Royal Caribbean revealed its Caribbean plans for 2016-17. What better way to escape (mentally anyway!) the cold weather for a few moments and begin to think about future escapes?! Here we go:

Caribbean, Bermuda, and Canada & New England Adventures from Northeast U.S.

  • Quantum-class Anthem of the Seas will continue year-round sailings from Cape Liberty Cruise Port in Bayonne, N.J., and make its maiden season at Bermuda. Vacationers have a choice of five-night Bermuda or nine-night Bermuda and Caribbean itineraries throughout the summer, and eight- to 12-night Bahamas, Eastern, Western or Southern Caribbean cruises during the winter.
  • Throughout September and October, Anthem of the Seas will sail nine-night Canada and New England cruises from Cape Liberty, and Serenade of the Seas will offer seven-night Canada and New England cruises from Boston, Mass.
  • Grandeur of the Seas will sail five-night Bermuda, nine-night Bermuda and Bahamas, and nine-night Canada and New England cruises throughout the summer. In the winter, the ship will sail nine-night Southeast Coast & Bahamas and 12-night Southern Caribbean cruises.
Artist's rendering of Slides on Harmony of the Sea

Artist’s rendering of Slides on Harmony of the Sea

Everywhere in the Caribbean, from South Florida

  • From Miami, Enchantment of the Seas will sail three- and four-night short Bahamas getaways year-round, while Navigator of the Seas will alternate five-night Bahamas and Mexico with nine-night Aruba, Bonaire, Curacao and Labadee cruises in the winter.
  • Oasis of the Seas and Allure of the Seas will sail a Western Caribbean and two new Eastern Caribbean itineraries in summer 2016, all seven nights in length and departing from Port Everglades in Fort Lauderdale. Allure of the Seas will then be joined by the next groundbreaking, Oasis-class cruise ship Harmony of the Seas to offer a seven-night Eastern and Western Caribbean itinerary for winter 2016-17. Oasis of the Seas, meanwhile, will reposition to its new winter home of Port Canaveral along Florida’s Coast.
  • In the winter, Independence of the Seas will follow a sequence of four- and five-night short Western Caribbean itineraries from Port Everglades, while sister-ship Freedom of the Seas will alternate a six-night Western Caribbean with an eight-night Eastern Caribbean itinerary. For a longer vacation, Serenade of the Seas alternates a 10- and 11-night Southern Caribbean itinerary.

‘Out-of-this-world’ Caribbean Vacations from Florida’s Space Coast

  • Freedom of the Seas will continue alternating seven-night Eastern and Western Caribbean itineraries during the summer 2016, and then reposition to Port Everglades for its new winter season.
  • For the winter 2016-17, Oasis of the Seas will inaugurate Oasis-class adventures from Port Canaveral, alternating a seven-night Eastern and Western Caribbean itinerary. Rhapsody of the Seas will take over three- and four-night Bahamas cruises from Enchantment of the Seas.
  • Vacationers also can choose quick four- and five-night Western Caribbean cruises throughout winter aboard Brilliance of the Seas from Tampa, Fla.
The Liberty of the Seas

The Liberty of the Seas

Mexico and Southern Caribbean from Galveston and Puerto Rico

  • Liberty of the Seas will continue its year-round deployment sailing from Galveston, Texas, offering vacationers a wide selection of seven-night Mexico and Western Caribbean cruises.
  • Vacationers also can choose seven-night, Southern Caribbean itineraries, sailing year-round from San Juan, Puerto Rico, aboard Adventure of the Seas. In the winter, Jewel of the Seas also will home port at San Juan and sail to the Southern Caribbean.

That’s it for now! Remember, we can help you booking your next cruise, including groups, with our partner, Cruises With A Personal Touch, where you’re guaranteed what the name relays! We also assist agents with their marketing, both print and digital, including group cruise websites! Cheers!

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)

NCL Jewel

NCL Begins Port Houston Service

Norwegian Cruise Line returned to the Port of Houston for the first time in more than seven years with the arrival of Norwegian Jewel on Saturday, October 11 at the Bayport Cruise Terminal. This inaugural call marked the beginning of the 2014 fall cruise season for Houston. The Norwegian Jewel will sail 27 Western Caribbean cruises through April 11, 2015.

Oasis of the Seas Upgrades

Royal Caribbean International has announced that the Oasis of the Seas, which completed a 14-day drydock October 14th, has a new look, including “reimagined dining,” high-speed internet, new retail offerings, a new Broadway show, and new suites with exclusive suite dining and a lounge. Royal Caribbean’s Dynamic Dining offers guests more choices and flexibility by offering 20 restaurants, said to be as vast and varied as dining in the world’s most cosmopolitan cities.

Crystal ReCRYSTAL-CRUISES-LOGO1ceives Atlantic Alliance Award

The Atlantic Alliance has given Crystal Cruises its “Triple A – Award” for 2015, which it presented to Crystal in Los Angeles last week. Each year the Atlantic Alliance awards cruise companies that have made a particularly significant contribution to the region with its “Triple A – Award”.

Holland America Adds Pros to Dancing with the Stars at Sea

Holland America Line has added the professional dancers Sharna Burgess and Artem Chigvintsev to the remaining two 2014 Dancing with the Stars: At Seatheme cruises. Both currently performing on the ABC hit show Dancing with the Stars, Burgess and Chigvintsev will join the Westerdam departing Nov. 29 and the Champions Cruise that sets sail Dec. 6. Both cruises sail roundtrip from Fort Lauderdale to the Caribbean.

C-Equinox_090731-2492_bAll Inclusive Packages Offered by Celebrity Cruises

Celebrity Cruises has announced an All-Included Europe Package beginning Monday, Oct. 13. Guests can now fly directly from New York or New Jersey where they can embark on their European vacation. The Celebrity All-Included Europe Package is available for the following prices: $2,999 Oceanview lead rate for seven-night Celebrity Equinox Mediterranean sailings; $3,499 Oceanview lead rate for 12-nights on the Silhouette to the Baltic; and $3,499 Oceanview lead rate for 10- or 11-nights on the Reflection on Mediterranean sailings.

The package is available on seven-to-12-night European cruises ocean view or higher stateroom sailing between April 27 and October 12, 2015 on the three ships with round-trip, non-stop flights from JFK or Newark to Barcelona,  Rome, Amsterdam , Venice, Istanbul, Stockholm and Athens. Onboard amenities include a Classic Beverage Package for two including beer, wine and spirits;  non-alcoholic beverage packages for third and fourth guests; all cruise gratuities;  air and cruise taxes and port fees; and round-trip ground transfers.

Carnival Vista Construction Begins

Carnival Cruise Lines’ celebrated the keel-laying of its newest ship, the 3,954-passenger Carnival Vista, in a ceremony held last week at the Fincantieri shipyard in Monfalcone. The 133,500-ton vessel – the largest “Fun Ship” ever constructed – is set to debut in spring 2016.

Chinese Ports Brace For Immense Growth

By 2020, if estimates are correct, China’s cruise market will make up 4.5 million passengers and $8 billion in local economic impact. With that potential, government-backed ports are working hard to upgrade their infrastructure in time for new tonnage and more ships.

vikingstarViking Ocean Names Captain of Viking Star

Viking Ocean Cruises has announced that Captain Gulleik Svalastog will be at the helm of its first ocean ship – the 930-passenger Viking Star – which will sail its first cruise in April 2015.

Carnival Corp May Start Entry Level Chinese Cruise Line

Carnival Corporation is making moves in China and may add another brand to its portfolio in a Chinese entry-level/mass market cruise product.

Four Home Ports and Quantum in China for Royal Caribbean

Putting the Quantum of the Seas in China will not only attract new Chinese passengers but also promote pre- and post-China visits from international guests, according to Adam Goldstein, president and COO of Royal Caribbean Cruises. Building up in China, Royal Caribbean International will sail the Mariner from Tianjin in 2015, the Quantum from Shanghai, the Legend from Xiamen and the Voyager from Hong Kong, according to Goldstein, speaking today at the China Cruise Shipping Expo hosted by the China Cruise and Yacht Industry Association.

Ruby Princess Helps Set Port Saint John History

Port Saint John welcomed its 1000th cruise call on Oct. 16, while last year marked the 25th anniversary of cruising to Saint John since 1989.

The Rhapsody in Brazil: 2015-2016

Royal Caribbean International has announced that the Rhapsody of the Seas will be deployed in the Brazilian market, sailing from Santos for 2015/2016 season. The Rhapsody will arrive in Santos December 5, 2015 and will be on the South American coast until April 10, 2016.

Ebola Scare on Carnival’s Magic

Late afternoon on Wednesday, Oct. 15, CCL was made aware, by the U.S. CDC, of a guest sailing this week on board Carnival Magic who is a lab supervisor at Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital. This person handled specimens from the patient who died at that hospital earlier in the month. At no point in time has the individual exhibited any symptoms or signs of infection and it has been 19 days since she was in the lab with the testing samples. She was deemed by CDC to be very low risk. At the time of this posting, this hospital worker was cleared of the disease, The Magic returned home, and everyone was cleared to disembark.

Mediterranean Cruise-Land Package by MSC for Divina in 2015

MSC Cruises has announced inclusive air/land/sea vacation package deals for guests sailing on MSC Divina, the line’s largest ship specifically dedicated to North American travelers, while the ship is in the Mediterranean from May 16 through Sept. 19, 2015. Starting at $1,899, the 10-night package includes round-trip airfare to Rome or Barcelona, a seven-night cruise, a two-night post-cruise stay in a four-star hotel, and all transfers needed, including from the airport to the ship, from the ship to the hotel and from the hotel back to the airport.

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

panama

 

 

 

 

Panama Canal Season Begins

The Panama Canal cruise ship season has “officially” begun with the transit of the Coral Princess, on a repositioning voyage from Los Angeles to Ft. Lauderdale. The Panama Canal Authority said it expects approximately 200 cruise ships to transit through the canal during this season that spans from October 2014 to April 2015.

 

Local Banks to Finance Port of Galveston Cruise Terminal Expansion

Three Galveston County community banks have worked together on financing for a $13 million expansion of the Port of Galveston’s Cruise Terminal No. 2. Texas First Bank, HomeTown Bank and Moody National Bank each pitched in for the unique funding package for the expansion of Cruise Terminal No. 2 to accommodate larger vessels and more passengers.Galveston

When completed next spring, Cruise Terminal No. 2 will feature 150,000 square feet of space and have a seating capacity of 1,600 passengers. The port currently handles over one million cruise passengers a year and is the 4th busiest cruise port in the nation–and ranks among the top 20 in the world.

 

Princess Launches 50th Anniversary “Inspiring Stories” Contest

Princess Cruises has announced that it is inviting past guests to join in celebrating its 50th anniversary by participating in an “Inspiring Stories” essay contest, sharing a moving experience that occurred on a Princess cruise vacation. The winner will ride on the line’s first-ever float in The Rose Parade on New Year’s Day in Pasadena.

The author of the winning entry, and up to three guests featured in the story, will be awarded a four-day trip to Pasadena, Calif., to join the cast members of The Love Boat as they “cruise” down the five-and-a-half-mile parade route on January 1, 2015.

 

First Tattoo Theme Cruise Set for April 2015 on Royal Caribbean

The first-ever tattoo-themed North American cruise, Ink or Swim, will sail April 16 – 20, 2015 from Fort Lauderdale to Cozumel, Mexico on Royal Caribbean’s Liberty of the Seas. The first annual cruise will offer guests the exclusive opportunity to sail the high seas while getting ‘fresh ink’ from some of the most in-demand artists in the country, as well attend exclusive Ink or Swim events including onboard Burlesque shows, tattoo contests, complimentary photo shoots and a private beach party in Cozumel.

 

Holland America to Mexico and Hawaii this Coming Season

cruises-hawaii_596x334
Holland America Line is promoting its cruises to Hawaii and Mexico on a variety of itineraries ranging from seven to 18 days from this fall through spring (2015).

 

 

Carnival Announces Spring Live Concerts

Cruising has never sounded so good, according to Carnival Cruise Lines, which today unveiled its new Carnival LIVE Concert Series roster for spring 2015, bringing more of “the best live music to sea from some of most popular and highly requested music acts.” Coming onboard in the first part of next year will be Journey, Rascal Flatts, Little Big Town, Smokey Robinson, and Styx, back by popular demand for the second season, Carnival said.

 

P&O Offers Solar Eclipse and Northern Lights

P&O Cruises is offering an opportunity to witness two natural phenomena in one holiday; to see a total solar eclipse and, with luck, spot the elusive aurora borealis. Exclusively for adults, the Oriana’s will sail 14 nights roundtrip from Southampton on March 17, 2015 to the Faroe Islands and northern Norway.

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

We have some news, with the help of Cruise Industry News, coming out of 2014 Cruise Shipping Miami yesterday:

4th Quantum Class Ship for Royal Caribbean?

RCCI's Quantum Class cruise ship.

RCCI’s Quantum Class cruise ship.

It isn’t a done deal, but it was overheard that a contract for a fourth Quantum-class ship may become reality.
Our thoughts: We like the Quantum-concept, but hopefully Royal Caribbean will find a way to give each sister ship her own identity. The Oasis and the Allure, for instance, are pretty close to being identical twins, versus fraternal twins.

Norwegian Escape Home Port and Hull Art

Norwegian Escape with its hull art to be designed by Guy Harvey. She'll homeport in Miami year-round.

Norwegian Escape with its hull art to be designed by Guy Harvey. She’ll homeport in Miami year-round.

NCL announced the Norwegian Escape will home port year-round in Miami, and that the hull art is to be designed by Guy Harvey.
Our thoughts: One of the nicer, less gaudy works of art for the hull. And, when is NCL going to position a ship in Fort Lauderdale, even if for half the year?  And we thought Carnival took forever on this.

Faster Internet Delayed

A diagram of the O3b satellite.

A diagram of the O3b satellite.

The much hyped O3b satellite internet was destined to launch on the Oasis and Allure of the Seas in late 2013. A bit behind, but still on target to debut aboard, according to a source familiar with the start-up satellite firm. Low-orbiting satellites have been launched and provide more bandwidth and less latency, but are extremely complicated to operate and manage. Royal Caribbean expects to introduce its O3b service later this year.
Our thoughts: Better late than never. High-speed internet is no longer a luxury, but an everyday part of life for many, particularly those with the means to spend money on travel. This should have been done, on all brands, a long time ago.

The Port of Newcastle, Australia

Port of Newcastle, Australia.

Port of Newcastle, Australia.

The Port of Newcastle in Australia is going after itinerary planners with a new stunning coffee table book presenting the port (check it out here). Among top layout and photography, the book presents a number of arguments to bringing a ship to Newcastle – showing off the Australian destination’s features.
Our thoughts: We love new. We love different. In addition to customer service, the two best ways to lure repeat passengers is to provide innovations fleet-wide and exciting, new itineraries.

We have lots of Royal Caribbean 2015 deployment news today, so that you may begin your long range planning. Please find it all listed below, categorized by ship:

Independence_of_the_SeasIndependence of the Seas:

  • April 19 (6-nights) Western Caribbean (Round trip Ft. Lauderdale/Georgetown, Grand Caymen/Falmouth, Jamaica/Labadee, Haiti)
  • April 25 (8-nights) Eastern Caribbean (Round trip Ft. Lauderdale/Philipsburg, St. Maarten/Basseterre, St. Kitts/San Juan, Puerto Rico/Labadee, Haiti)
  • May 3-October 25 (7-nights alternating East/West Caribbean, Round trip from Ft. Lauderdale)
    East: San Juan, Puerto Rico/Philipsburg, St. Maarten/Basseterre, St. Kitts
    West: Labadee, Haiti/Falmouth, Jamaica/Georgetown, Grand Cayman/Cozumel, Mexico
  • November 1 (6-nights) Western Caribbean (Round trip Ft. Lauderdale/Labadee, Haiti/Falmouth, Jamaica/Georgetown, Grand Cayman

oasisOasis of the Seas:

  • June 6-October 31 (7-nights alternating East/West Caribbean, Round trip from Ft. Lauderdale)  (except October 17, 2015)
    East: Nassau, Bahamas/Charlotte Amalie, St. Thomas/Philipsburg, St. Maarten
    West: Labadee, Haiti/Falmouth, Jamaica/Cozumel, Mexico
  • October 21 (3-night Bahamas Getaway round trip from Ft. Lauderdale to Nassau, Bahamas)

Freedom of the Seas:

  • June 7-October 25 (7-nights alternating East/West Caribbean, Round trip from Port Canaveral, FL.)
    East: CocoCay, Bahamas/Charlotte Amalie, St. Thomas/Philipsburg, St. Maarten
    West: Labadee, Haiti/Falmouth, Jamaica/Georgetown, Grand Cayman/Cozumel, Mexico

Grandeur_of_the_SeasGrandeur of the Seas:

  • 5/8; 5/22; 6/5; 6/19; 7/13; 7/17; 7/31; 8/14: (7-night Bermuda fr. Baltimore with 2-nights at King’s Wharf, Bermuda)
  • 5/15; 5/29; 6/12; 6/26; 7/10; 7/24; 8/7; 8/21 (7-night Bahamas fr. Baltimore/Port Canaveral, FL./Nassau, Bahamas/CocoCay, Bahamas)
  • 8/28; 9/11; 9/25; 10/9 (6-night Bermuda fr. Baltimore/Kings Wharf, Bermuda for 2-nights)
  • 9/3; 9/17; 10/1 (8-night Canada & New England fr. Baltimore/Portland, Maine/Bar Harbor, Maine/St. John, New Brunswick-Bay of Fundy/Halifax, Nova Scotia)
  • 10/15 (9-night Canada & New England fr. Baltimore/Portland, Maine/Bar Harbor, Maine/St. John, New Brunswick-Bay of Fundy/Halifax, Nova Scotia/Boston, MA.)

Brilliance of the Seas:

  • 9/18 (9-night Canada & New England fr. Boston, MA/Portland, Maine/Rockland, Maine/Bar Harbor, Maine/Halifax, Nova Scotia/Charlottetown, Prince Edward Island/Sydney, Nova Scotia)
  • 9/27; 10/4; 10/11; 10/18 (7-night Canada & New England fr. Boston, MA/Portland, Maine/Bar Harbor, Maine/St. John, New Brunswick (Bay of Fundy)/Halifax, Nova Scotia)

Serenade of the Seas:

  • 9/15 (10-night Fall Foliage Northbound fr. Cape Liberty, NJ to Quebec City, Quebec (overnight) stopping in Portland, Maine/Bar Harbor, Maine/Halifax, Nova Scotia/Charlottetown, Prince Edward Island/Saguenay, Quebec)
  • 9/25 (12-night Fall Foliage Southbound fr. Quebec City, Quebec (overnight) to Cape Liberty, NJ stopping in Charlottetown, Prince Edward Island/Halifax, Nova Scotia/St. John, New Brunswick (Bay of Fundy)/Bar Harbor, Maine/Rockland, Maine/Portland, Maine)
  • 10/7 (12-night Fall Foliage Northbound fr. Cape Liberty, NJ to Quebec City, Quebec (overnight) stopping in Boston, MA/Portland, Maine/Rockland, Maine/Bar Harbor, Maine/Halifax, Nova Scotia/Charlottetown, Prince Edward Island)
  • 10/19 (14-night Snowbird Migration fr. Quebec City, Quebec (overnight) to Ft. Lauderdale, FL. stopping in Saguenay, Quebec/Charlottetown, Prince Edward Island/Sydney, Nova Scotia/Halifax, Nova Scotia/Bar Harbor, Maine/Portland, Maine/Boston, MA/Charlotte, South Carolina)

Allure of the Seas:

  • 4/18 (12-night Ft. Lauderdale to Barcelona, Spain, with one stop in Malaga, Spain)

With these 7-night Western Mediterranean itineraries, Choose Your Embarkation Port: BARCELONA, SPAIN or ROME (Civitavecchia), ITALY

allure-europe

  • 10/22 (3-night Short Western Mediterranean fr. Rome, to Naples/Capri, Italy, ending in Barcelona, Spain)
  • 10/25 (12-night Ocean Voyage from Barcelona, Spain, one stop in Malaga, Spain, ending in Ft. Lauderdale, Florida)

As always, we can help! Visit our website at CRUISECX.COM.

 

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!

quantum-mammamiaWe hope you all had a wonderful Thanksgiving! During the parade in New York City, Royal Caribbean announced that “Mamma Mia,” the smash hit musical based on the songs of Swedish pop sensation ABBA, will be presented on the Quantum of the Seas, when she debuts in November 2014.  This will be another enticing Cruise Customer Experience to be offered by Royal Caribbean’s ‘Broadway at Sea’ program.

Shows currently presented include “Hairspray” on Oasis of the Seas, “Chicago” on the Allure of the Seas and “Saturday Night Fever” on Liberty of the Seas.  Thus far, all of the shows are included in the cruise fare.

North Star (Sky Tower)

North Star (Sky Tower)

Royal Caribbean International’s Quantum-class cruise ships will feature a unique crane and viewing “gondola,” as previously announced. The North Star will lift guests some 91 meters above sea level to give them panoramic views of the sea and surrounding ports of call.  Royal Caribbean and the crane vendor recently provided additional details about the North Star, and providing an exciting, yet safe, Customer Experience.  Here is the rest of the article.