Cruise Ship Causes Brain Pain?

We always think of cruising as painless… but a post at Neuromarketing, titled Princess Puts Pain into Cruising, suggests that a lot of “nickel and dime” charges on cruise ships (in this case, the Crown Princess) may actually light up the brain’s pain center.

One of the kinds of pain we talk about here at Neuromarketing is the “pain of paying” or “buying pain” – brain scans show that shelling out cash can activate the pain centers in the brain. (See The Pain of Buying.) Cruising generally excels at minimizing this kind of pain, too – once the cruise has been paid for (often many months before the actual cruise), almost everything is included. Elegant dinners, sumptuous buffets, Broadway-style entertainment, and much more is “free” on board the ship. For customers who feel the pain of paying more acutely than others, cruising is about as pain-free as you can get. Want more lobster? It’s free. Care to watch a recently-released movie after the performance by a concert pianist, and then hang out at the disco until dawn? It’s all free. Cruise lines further minimize paying pain by ensuring that their passengers pay for nothing with cash – one’s “cruise card” is a combination room key and shipboard credit card that one can use to buy anything on the ship. (In almost every case, an automatic service charge obviates the need to calculate a tip or even look at the amount one signed for – a great way to further minimize buying pain.)

… The Crown Princess, though, seemed to be packed with opportunities to spend a little extra. Brewed coffee, free in most areas of the ship, cost $1 in the coffee shop. And while many food items in the International Café were free, a couple of scoops of gelato would set you back all of $1.50. Tapas were available in the evening for an additional charge. Orange juice was free at breakfast, but ordering fresh-squeezed juice in another venue cost $2.75. If you wanted to spend four hours in a relaxing pool area called the Sanctuary, your cruise card would be billed $10. To eat at the Crown Grill steakhouse, a specialty dining venue, a $25 charge applied. And, if you were audacious enough to order lobster, a further $9 fee would be assessed.

The post concludes that constantly charging cruisers for items that might normally be included in the cruise price has an impact beyond the minimal value of these charges. Even though most of the cruise passengers spend many thousands of dollars per year on travel and would hardly miss the extra dollar or two, by assessing these small charges Princess ratchets up their “buying pain.”

The Neuromarketing post suggests that a very small increase in the total cruise price and elimination of most of the tiny charges would be preferable from a customer satisfaction standpoint. I tend to agree. I found that well-traveled passengers – some with twenty or more past cruises – kept talking about being nickel-and-dimed. These passengers could clearly afford the few dollars involved, but were still irritated by the charges. Let’s hope we see a reversal of this trend and a return to “all-inclusive” cruise prices.

Family Booted from RCCL Cruise Ship – in Pajamas!

The Cortes family of Orange County, Florida, found their cruise aboard Royal Caribbean’s Majesty of the Seas anything but fun and relaxing. When the family’s baby became ill with vomiting and diarrhea, they say RCCL security gave them 10 minutes to get off the ship in Nassau. Some family members were told there wasn’t time to change out of their pajamas, so that’s how they were put ashore.

“We had to find our way to the U.S. Embassy. All of this on foot. A family of five in this town we knew nothing about,” Cortes said.

The embassy issued them emergency passports for $455. They spent another $650 on plane tickets back to Florida. The emergency room bill was $600. All together, the Cortes family spent more than $3,000 on their disastrous vacation and they want a refund.

“I don’t want this to happen to another family,” Cortes said.

Royal Caribbean told Eyewitness News late Friday they were concerned because the child is so young and they didn’t want to take any chances. The company said they will give the family a credit to use on another Royal Caribbean trip, but they will not reimburse them for the passports and plane tickets because they didn’t pay for trip insurance. [From WFTV.com – Family Says Cruise Ship Kicked Them Off Boat Because Child Was Sick.]

Perhaps there is more to the story than this – it’s hard to imagine a cruise line treating its passengers so shabbily, and then even refusing to cover reasonable expenses. This is one of those situations where the cruise ship company will end up spending a lot more on public relations (and, probably, lawyers) than they would have spent to satisfy the disgruntled customer.

Eurodam Video Tour

The Eurodam is Holland America Line’s next cruise ship to launch, and it’s now available to be “toured” with the magic of web video.

The Eurodam’s maiden voyage will be July 16, 2008, sailing from Copenhagen. It is being built by Fincantieri and will accommodate 2100 passengers. For full specs and posts about the construction process, check out the Eurodam blog.

Considering the ship is still months from its launch date, this video tour is the next best thing to being there. By selecting various links, one can “tour” some of the ship’s dining areas, see its art collection, and much more. As good as this is, though, it’s not quite a substitute for a real cruise. 🙂

Cruise Ship Passengers Stuck in Paradise

The MV Van Gogh, a small cruise ship owned by the Dutch firm Cruise Club and carrying 400+ passengers, has been impounded by authorities in the Madeira Islands due to a financial dispute.

Association of British Travel Agents spokeswoman Frances Tuke said the tourists were of mixed age groups, but that most were retired.

“They’ve come to the end of their cruise, and the ship has been impounded in Madeira because there’s a financial dispute,” Tuke told the AP.

Lusa reported that the ship’s operator allegedly had outstanding debts with suppliers. The report did not provide details and port officials did not answer calls after office hours Wednesday. [MSNBC]

All in all, it seems like there could be worse places to be stuck for a few extra days than the Madeira Islands. The operator will almost certainly get things sorted out, and it seems unlikely that the passengers will end up suffering financially.

Cruise Ship Emissions Targeted

The EPA has been asked to regulate emissions from cruise ships, freighters, and other ocean-going vessels. According to an AP article,

Marine vessels are responsible for nearly 3 percent of the world’s greenhouse gases — equal to the amount generated by all cars in the U.S. — and ship emissions are projected to grow by more than 70 percent by 2020 as global trade expands, according to the petitions.

The Supreme Court determined earlier this year that greenhouse gases like CO2, which many believe are responsible for global warming, could be regulated by the EPA. Exactly how this might work for foreign-flag vessels operating outside US waters isn’t clear, but it seems the EPA wants to establish a uniform standard with other countries where cruise ships and other vessels dock.

Like Some Ice With That?

Ice on cruise ships is usually a good thing, at least when it’s in a cocktail or underneath some jumbo shrimp. According to Arctic cruise Britons hurt as ice falls on ship, though, ice falling from a nearby glacier is no laughing matter. Eighteen passengers on an Arctic sightseeing ship, the Alexey Maryshev, were injured when ice fell from a glacier and landed on the ship.

A local authority investigation has been launched amid concern the captain of the boat could have been sailing too close to the edge of glacier at the time.

Ya think? It’s nice that the ship captain works to get his passengers great photo ops, but getting conked on the head by falling ice sounds just a bit TOO close.

Will Bloggers Crash Cruise Ship Internet?

Cruise blogger John Heald, cruise director on the Carnival Freedom, had a great idea: a cruise for bloggers. (The Freedom will sail from Miami on January 19, 2008, stop at Ocho Rios, Jamaica; George Town, Grand Cayman; and Cozumel,Mexico, returning to Miami on January 26.) We wonder if Heald knows what he’s in for. Does he have a clue as to what even a few hundred heavy Internet users will do to the ship’s connection? The Freedom has WiFi throughout the ship according to its specs, but we’re wondering more about the available bandwidth. Ships rely on satellite connectivity while at sea (and oddly, even while in port in our limited experience), and these connections are rarely noted for their bandwidth or consistency.

Our last cruise ship Internet experience wasn’t spectacular. On board the Golden Princess late last year (also part of the Carnival corporate family), we found that connectivity was available only in the ship’s computer cluster and via WiFi in a small lounge area. (Reportedly, Carnival was scheduled to install ship-wide WiFi on all ships by the end of 2006; I guess we were too early, or that didn’t apply to Princess.) I was a daily user, and encountered many of the same hardy user group in the Atrium lounge each day. The connection quality ranged from really slow on a good day to completely unusable on a couple of days. It was expensive, too, being billed on an time-used basis. Super slow speeds and high per-minute charges aren’t a great combination.

To add insult to injury, Princess cruisers with five or more cruises get “free Internet” as a perk – for some bizarre reason, though, the “free” part only applied if you were using one of the ship’s computers. Any power user will bring a laptop, and thus even some of the long-time cruisers ended up paying the high hourly rates.

Back to the Bloggers Cruise – it seems likely that a few hundred (or potentially many hundreds if the idea takes off) of web-savvy bloggers all firing up their laptops at once might stress the Freedom’s connectivity in a way that it hasn’t been in the past. (We’ve seen this happen at land-based hotels the first time they host a webaster conference, though now laptops are so pervasive among business travelers that a webmaster surge is probably only a modest increase over normal. A cruise ship is a different story, though.)

Carnival needs to take steps to ensure great connectivity on this cruise – imagine the negative PR for the cruise line if hundreds of bloggers return to Miami frustrated and angry, ready to hit the first WiFi hotspot they find to complain about slow, costly, or unreliable Internet on the cruise that was designed for them. Waiving Internet charges on that trip would help matters too, and responding quickly to tech issues will be essential.

Enough pessimism – good luck to the Bloggers Cruise and those Web pundits brave enough to unplug their broadband cable for a week in the sun!

Hawaii Cruise Cutback

Norwegian Cruise Lines is moving a cruise ship from Hawaii to Europe. The Pride of Hawaii will start showing its pride on the other side of the globe when it leaves Hawaii in late January. Pride must be a limited commodity, as the ship will be renamed Norwegian Jade. The ship will have a casino added, and will replace the current tropical flowers hull artwork with a new design.

Two other NCL cruise ships, Pride of Aloha and Pride of America, will remain in Hawaii. NCL saw 2006 revenue jump from $1.6 billion to $2 billion, but the cruise line swung from a $16 million profit to a $130 million loss. Clearly, the line hopes that they’ll be able to improve the profitability of their Hawaiian operation by cutting back on capacity in the market.

The Pride of Hawaii’s stay in that state was quite short – the cruise ship only moved there last summer. (From the Seattle Times.)

Proposed Cruise Ship is Largest Ever

Princess Kayuga

 

The Princess Kaguya is a cruise ship with a mission. Rather than just serving as a floating hotel for tourists, the organization proposing to build this mega-ship hopes that it will be an attraction in the ports that it visits and serve as a floating center of cultural exchange. The ship itself will be 505 meters long – that’s 1657 feet long. Or, in other terms, about five and a half football fields or almost a third of a mile long. The ship would hold a staggering 8,400 passengers while at sea, and could accommodate 10,000 visitors while in port.

Here, we are aiming to make real the dreams of those charmed by the sea by building an “International Urban Cruise Ship”. There are quite a few international cruise ships traveling around the world, and none are open to the local people of the cities they visit. The ship becomes nothing more than the scenery from the harbor. The ship we are planning will be fully available to the people it visits at each port of call, functioning as an international cultural exchange.

The people at each port city will be able to enjoy all the facilities on the ship and the latest and greatest equipment that the ship brings in to each port. The ship will become a part, an extension of the port city where it arrives at the moment it docks in at the harbor. All facilities including hotels, shopping malls, sport arena and various events at the multi-purpose hall on board will become a part of the city, available to the passengers and locals alike.

The cultural exchange which takes place at each port of call all over the world will help to build an international network of people and ideas, which is the core concept of our “Princess Kaguya” project.

The developers of this concept even claim to have filed an international patent for the idea of operating a ship in this manner, and in particular holding events on board the ship. We’re not patent experts, but somehow the idea of arriving in a port and having the locals come on board doesn’t seem quite original enough to earn a patent… but we’ll see.

It seems that the logistics of moving that many cruise passengers and local visitors on and off would be time consuming and, at ports without the ability to dock a ship of this magnitude, even more difficult and time consuming. The tender operation to move eight or ten thousand people back and forth would be comparable to the Normandy invasion. (Well, that might be a bit of an exaggeration, but it would dwarf the scale of today’s largest tender operations.)

The ship would have three separate hotels, including some areas designated for permanent residents.

We don’t know what the odds are of this ship getting built, but if if does, it will be one impressive cruise ship!