Carnival Cruise Ship Smoking Bans Ignite Fiery Debate

SmokingCarnivalCruiseShipCarnival Cruise Line is drawing both criticism and praise this week as news about its smoking-area-experiment aboard three ships is making headlines. Well, at least cruise travel headlines. The trial-run on the cruise ships is over but the debate between smokers and non-smokers is raging on.

Carnival took three ships – the Destiny, Freedom, and Glory – and imposed stricter smoking regulations by making several lounges smoke-free where previously smoking was allowed. Included among them, the cigar bar, which has been the focus of much of the debate.

On the surface it may seem silly to ban smoking in a placed named for doing just that. Carnival says it’s reviewing the “guest experience” after the change, but how about taking into account employee health as well? After all, most smoking bans in the U.S. are justified under occupational safety and health laws – not customer satisfaction.

Some may say that cruise lines could simply give employees the option of working there – but as we’ve all experienced on board – “no” is hardly a typical response from a crew member, and I’m guessing their allegiance to their boss is even stronger than it is to Mr. Jones from Alabama who he’ll only know for a week.

Another point worth mentioning is that on these three ships (and a few other Carnival vessels in the Conquest class), the only access to the internet café is through the cigar bar. Also, some entertainment options may only be available bars where smoking is allowed.

I’ve been on several cruises where I wanted to catch the jazz combo and have a drink before dinner, but didn’t want to be eating or watching the evening show and smelling like the Marlboro man. I also avoided the piano bars and casinos following dinner for the same reason.

I hope Carnival is taking more than just guest experience and comments into consideration. They should also look at:

1. Employee Health and Safety
2. Revenue from internet café
3. Revenue from the smoke-free bars

Yes, smokers spend a lot of money in bars – but so do the 80% of others that do not smoke.

I don’t care if you smoke, so long as I don’t have to smell it. I’m fine with having a smoking lounge near the back of the ship with private ventilation – but don’t make employees work in there for hours, don’t make it the only gateway to the internet café, and don’t have entertainment that is exclusive for those who smoke or are willing to put up with it.

Alaska Cruise Dollars Decline after Tax Hike

While politicians are debating tax hikes in Washington D.C., the state of Alaska is learning firsthand what increased taxes can do to your local economy and the businesses that operate there. Preliminary results from the Alaska Department of Revenue show a 20% decline in cruise tourism in May from a year ago following tax increases that caused several cruise lines to drop itineraries to “The Last Frontier.”

The cruise industry typically sets itineraries two years in advance, so it took a little time for Alaska to see the decline after the $46 tax for each visiting cruise passenger was put into place a few years ago. Last year, Royal Caribbean, Norwegian Cruise Line, and Princess all announced plans to pull ships from Alaska once they saw their profit margin sinking under the new taxes.

Carnival’s CEO made a statement last year explaining that cruise lines operate primarily as a business, and if business is better somewhere else (e.g. a ship can make more money in Europe than Alaska) the line won’t hesitate to move a ship.

Earlier this year Alaska changed the law and lowered the tax rate (after much lobbying from local tourist associations and the cruise line industry) – but the effects won’t be seen until at least 2012 since ships have already been scheduled and booked for other itineraries around the world.

Unfortunately for businesses dependent on cruise tourism in Alaska, this could be too little too late. It will take years to recover the business cruise ships were bringing to the region and may force some local businesses to close.

Cruise lines have the luxury of taking their business elsewhere relatively easily by pointing their ships in another direction – land-based companies do not.

Poll after poll will tell you jobs and the economy are the number one concern in America – which is why it’s puzzling to me why a state would impose a policy that encourages business to leave the region – and in most cases the entire country. Lower tourism means fewer businesses and higher unemployment.

Alaska figured it out too late for it to benefit anyone in the next two years – I hope Washington D.C. doesn’t make the same mistakes.

VIA: USA Today – Cruise Log

Carnival Sending Newest, Largest of Ships to Texas Port

Hurricanes have wreaked havoc on cruise ship ports in the last few years. Hurricane Ike demolished Galveston, TX to the tune of 3 Billion dollars in 2008, and New Orleans is still recovering from Katrina in 2005. However, Carnival Cruise Lines is sending the message that these two ports are back on the map, most notably by announcing Galveston as the new home for the Carnival Magic.

The Carnival Magic is part of the cruise line’s Dream Class of ships and is set to debut in Barcelona next May for a few seven to 12-day Mediterranean cruises before making the 16-day trans-Atlantic voyage to its home port of Galveston, Texas in October.
Carnival Magic will have seven-day itineraries to the western Caribbean (Montego Bay, Grand Cayman, Cozumel) and eastern Caribbean (Nassau, Freeport, and Key west).

For shorter voyages, CCL will move the Carnival Triumph to the port of Galveston as well, making it the largest ship to operate a year-round short cruise program from that port.

The two ships currently calling Galveston home, the Carnival Conquest and Carnival Ecstasy, will reposition to New Orleans – bringing Carnivals pre-Katrina cruise levels back to the embattled city.

This news is exciting for those of us outside of Florida, who are far more likely to take a cruise if the port is just a few hours away driving distance – and to have the ships include one of the newest and largest ships from Carnival – that’s not so bad either!

Mechanical Problems Cause Carnival Cruise Headaches

CarnovalLegendSlowMechanical difficulties are causing grief for thousands of Carnival Legend passengers, after the problems caused the 2,124 passenger vessel to arrive late and therefore depart late on this week’s voyage. The Carnival Legend is the same ship that collided with a Royal Caribbean ship a few months ago, but the problems are unrelated.

According to Carnival, the Legend arrived several hours late on Sunday due to a problem with the propulsion system. Many passengers had confirmed flights just hours after they were due back in the Tampa port, causing a lot of headaches as they tried to reschedule missed flights.

The passengers aboard this week’s Legend cruise are also feeling the effects of the delay, as a schedule stop in Grand Cayman was skipped for a short stay in Cozumel Mexico.

News of mechanical problems aboard Carnival’s Legend comes just a month after CCL experienced similar problems with the slightly larger Destiny, which had to be dry-docked for a week to fix the problem. The problems aboard the Carnival Destiny prompted the line to cancel two voyages and modify three others.

Normally the weather is the main factor that cruisers worry about when it comes to disruptions in their trip – whether it be plane delays getting to the port or modified itineraries once on board. Carnival will need to make good with the cruisers that have planned port stops and cruises many months in advance, or they’ll end up in the same PR battle as Toyota is in right now.