In their bid to promote the interests of cruise ship operators, as well as promoting cruising to a wider public audience, cruise associations require backing from the entire industry. We speak to a number of thought leaders from across the globe to find out what they would like to see cruise lines doing better in order to support their members and to help achieve their cruise industry goals.
Jens Christian Skrede, Cruise Europe: “With 120 members across Europe, itinerary planners have a lot of ports to choose from. That gives them a high degree of flexibility in all areas of Northern & Atlantic Europe. I would like to see more overnight stays in our member ports. More late arrivals and late departures. A destination that might seem crowded during the day can be lovely and relaxed in the evening.”
Stephen Burnett, Executive Director, The Great Lakes Cruising Coalition:
“It comes down to economic growth and the way in which cruise lines and their guests can support these goals. Cruise ships have been compared to floating bank vaults, whereby a ship arrives in port, opens its vault and allows the various local stakeholders to access the visiting treasury by selling shore excursions, entrance fees to local attractions and encouraging purchases in local stores. The community also benefits from a variety of marine expenditures such as fuel, fresh water, the acquisition of local produce and the fees associated with berthing and securing the vessel. Given this economic potential, it might be appropriate for cruise lines to study the economic effect they have on each ports-of-call, to better understand the impact their presence can have on both the port authority and the community in which the port is located. A strong case can also be made for understanding the political culture and structure that governs each community and the differences in how various administrations relate to the cruise industry. At the end of the day, a deeper understanding between cruise lines and ports-of-call can only enhance the future of their mutual business.”
Mayor Dennis O'Keefe, Chair, Cruise Newfoundland and Labrador:The ports of Newfoundland and Labrador, as well as Saint-Pierre-et-Miquelon, are always appreciative of open lines of communication with the cruise companies. The more knowledge we have, the more capable we are of providing the best possible experience for our cruise guests. In the planning phases, it is useful to have suggestions from the lines about what new products they would like to see or, if applicable, gaps in the offering so that we can continuously improve to meet expectations. In the days prior to arrival, it’s helpful to be in touch with crew so we can share current information about what is happening in the community during the ship’s call. In the event that we are able to see the information sheet that is to be handed out onboard, we can often provide feedback, update outdated information or add suggestions so that passengers and crew are up to date on available activities and events. We would also like to see more feedback regarding the port of call in general, from both passengers and company personnel. Seeing the port through our visitors’ eyes would help us to capitalise upon our strengths and remedy our weaknesses as an overall destination.”
Kevin O'Sullivan, Chairman, Cruise New Zealand: “Cruise New Zealand’s members are distributed through the length of our country and each geographic region has something different to offer. A question our members often ask is “How can I tailor my cruise experience to attract more cruise ship guests?” Cruise lines could help our members by providing direct feedback, through Cruise New Zealand, about guest satisfaction for each activity. Onboard surveys are shared and do provide some information, but generally on passenger satisfaction with the destination. More specific feedback could be used to ensure guest experience is improved.”
Angie Redhead, Chair, CruiseBritain: There is an excellent working relationship between ports and service providers, and the cruise lines themselves. Strengthening channels of communication and working together are key to identifying challenges and resolving any issues. With the industry growing at its current pace, areas such as streamlining the berth booking process become even more important. Our ports and destinations benefit from cruise lines working with them in terms of tourism promotion, and some lines such as Princess are already making more positive steps to harness the power of local and regional knowledge and passion.
Claus Bødker, Director, Cruise Baltic: “There is not one single thing, which cruise lines can do more of or do better, but I believe that there are several small things, which all would increase the cruise guest satisfaction if implemented. First, I believe the descriptions of the various port of calls on the itinerary could be significantly improved. Often the information is obsolete, new developments are made, but not communicated. Second, I believe that cruise associations, travel agents and cruise lines should all work together to increase the sales of cruise vacations to first-time cruisers. A new and focused approach to first-time cruisers could benefit us all. Finally, I would like to see speakers/lecturers on cruise ships that are not necessarily ‘highly educated experts’ but instead someone who can more authentically present what it is like to live in a particular port of call.”
Suzanne Thomas, Head, Cruise Wales: “We try to develop a new and exciting excursion offering by working in partnership with many outside stakeholders and we make sure that the local communities are fully involved at all stages of planning for any call. We respond quickly to the latent wants and needs of the various cruise lines, but they need to be give us more feedback on their passenger needs. We always offer FAM visits to our destinations for cruise executives and, while understanding that their time is extremely valuable, there is nothing like personal experience of a FAM visit in order to understand what your passengers’ personal satisfaction rate is likely to be. These visits also give us a chance to discuss the cruise lines recommendations for future developments in infrastructure and destination management.”
Sandra Bratland, Managing Director, Cruise Norway: “Cruise lines are always asking for new tours and more variation and the incoming shore excursions agents and local suppliers are constantly working to develop new tours, improve existing tours and come up with new ideas on products that cruise passengers hopefully will find interesting enough to buy. However, we find that the cruise lines will not include many of the new tours that have been developed. Explanations for this range from ‘prices are too high’ to ‘it is the bread and butter tours that sell’. We also see that some cruise lines are cutting the tours to the bone – omitting content until there is very little left besides just the basics. A sad example of this is the very popular tour on the Flåm Railway where a few cruise lines have chosen to omit the coffee break at Vatnahalsen Hotel at the end of the line. For the hotel this has huge consequences as the income from the sales of waffles and souvenirs to cruise passengers contributes to the hotel being able to staff sufficiently and keep open all year. Another side effect of reducing content may of course be reduced passenger satisfaction. An increasing number of passengers use the internet to book tours through independent companies or directly with the local suppliers. Passengers are looking for better prices, but also for different products. I would therefore really like to see cruise lines taking a chance and including new tours, even if they believe prices are too high.”