MIAMI, FLA — The cruise industry has been suffering its share of setbacks lately and now, it appears, heads are beginning to roll. Micky Arison, CEO of Carnival Corp. since 1979 and son of Carnival co-founder Ted Arison, has been replaced by board member Arnold W. Donald.
Despite the world’s largest cruise company’s Q2 $41 million in profits (a near tripling over earnings for the same period last year), bad publicity from a string of mechanical incidents and fires that left ships stranded at sea crippled the company’s reputation and required more than the healing force of time for a cure.
The most dramatic of the Carnival incidents occurred in February when an engine room fire on the Carnival Triumph left 4,000 passengers stranded at sea for five days coping with toilet back-ups, air conditioning failures and scant electricity.
Cruise Passengers Having Their Say
In recent months, however, there has been a bit of a cruise passenger backlash as would-be cruisers are voting with their wallets and their opinions in an attempt to get the cruise industry to pay attention.
A new poll shows that people’s perception of safety and comfort on cruise vacations may be shifting downward given the tide of events on the high seas over the past few years. The Harris Poll conducted in March found that Quality, Trust and Purchase Intent scores recorded in the week immediately following the Triumph’s return to shore indicated significant drops when compared to scores recorded prior to the incident. The questions were put toward several cruise line companies, not just for Carnival.
“When we first addressed this topic in March, even we were open to the idea that a ‘recency bias’ of sorts might be impacting the results so soon after the Triumph fiasco, creating a low tide for the industry as a whole,” said Harris Poll Insights Vice President Deana Percassi. “But these more recent findings, coupled with reports of heavily discounted pricing on Carnival cruises, indicate that the industry as a whole, as well as the Carnival brand specifically, may still be facing rough seas.”
Roughly half of Americans agreed they were less likely to take a cruise now than they were a year ago, with this sentiment proved stronger among those who have never taken a cruise (56%) than among those who have (43%). Purchase Intent has declined, on average across brands, about 11% from its pre-Triumph incident level, although Carnival was hardest hit: down 20%. Carnival’s Quality score showed the steepest decline among the brands: down 28% following the incident.
Similar to airline passengers, cruise passengers are getting their say in more official ways when it comes to being trapped on non-functioning cruise ships. CLIA recently came up with a Passenger Bill of Rights that was adopted as policy among the trade association’s 26 major cruise companies. And while the policy is not a law of the land or a recent action of Congress, these rights offer guidelines as to what cruise passengers can expect if or when things go wrong.
“The Cruise Industry Passenger Bill of Rights codifies many longstanding practices of CLIA members and goes beyond those to further inform cruise guests of the industry’s commitment to their comfort and care,” said Christine Duffy, president and CEO of CLIA.
INTERNATIONAL CRUISE LINE PASSENGER BILL OF RIGHTS
- The right to disembark a docked ship if essential provisions such as food, water, restroom facilities and access to medical care cannot adequately be provided onboard, subject only to the Master’s concern for passenger safety and security and customs and immigration requirements of the port.
- The right to a full refund for a trip that is canceled due to mechanical failures, or a partial refund for voyages that are terminated early due to those failures.
- The right to have available on board ships operating beyond rivers or coastal waters full-time, professional emergency medical attention, as needed until shore side medical care becomes available.
- The right to timely information updates as to any adjustments in the itinerary of the ship in the event of a mechanical failure or emergency, as well as timely updates of the status of efforts to address mechanical failures.
- The right to a ship crew that is properly trained in emergency and evacuation procedures.
- The right to an emergency power source in the case of a main generator failure.
- The right to transportation to the ship’s scheduled port of disembarkation or the passenger’s home city in the event a cruise is terminated early due to mechanical failures.
- The right to lodging if disembarkation and an overnight stay in an unscheduled port are required when a cruise is terminated early due to mechanical failures.
- The right to have included on each cruise line’s website a toll-free phone line that can be used for questions or information concerning any aspect of shipboard operations.
- The right to have this Cruise Line Passenger Bill of Rights published on each line’s website.
Lark Gould is an author of eight books and a journalist who has been covering the travel indiustry for more than two decades. Join Lark Gould’s circle on Google+ Stay informed about the world of travel: Travel-Intel, a news site for travel Also find out more about Lark Gould’s travels at Larkslist.com
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