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Cruise Ship Design - On Board Revenue - Passenger Lawsuits

by Mark Tre' - "The Cruise Examiner"

Since the introduction of what some have called the "brutalistic-looking" Norwegian Epic and the "yacht-like" Le Boréal at almost the same time there has been a lot of commentary on cruise ship appearance, upon which we will comment today. Also a quick look at how the lines have started trying to make more money during the recession, when ticket prices dropped. And a look back at a passenger lawsuit launched launched three quarters of a centruy ago after the weather on a 58-day "Grand Pacific" cruise didn't please some of its customers.


Cruise Ship Design - Does This Stern Make Me Look Fat?

Some people used to think that Norwegian Cruise Line had some of the better-looking cruise ships around, that is until they cast their eyes on the Norwegian Epic, with its big lump of blue castle above the bridge. Starting with the Meyer-built Star ships that were transferred to NCL, their ships were long and had good lines that were pleasing on the eye. Some have commented more recently however that they have been getting a little boxy at the stern as more cabins are added to increase capacity (and profitability).

Equally, many have always maintained that Royal Caribbean International were the traditionalists who because of their real Norwegian background, had the most ship-like ships around, until the Oasis of the Seas set sail. But just what can a designer do about size? Many maintain the "Brilliance" class may be the best-looking cruise ships around these days, although they are exceeded in size by the "Voyager," "Independence" and "Oasis" classes.

Princess on the other hand has been more derided for their basket funnels, some even with hair curlers in them (actually gas turbines), and the beak bows of the "Grand" class ships. However, even here it appears that the next pair of Princess ships will be rather more attractive, harking back in some ways to the original Renzo Piano-designed Crown and Regal Princess, both now moved into the P&O Australia fleet. A line going in the opposite direction perhaps.

Over at Carnival Cruise Lines, we have the Destiny class and the Vista class ships, all with their "whale tail" funnels that seem to have been adapted originally from the s.s. France, but with much more flair. Originally, the wings had to be removed from Carnival ships that were sold and one even ended up with the yellow "paint pot" funnel when it went to Costa. Costa, sister line to Carnival, uses the same designs for their ships but with those yellow paint pots up top that clearly differentiates its ships from Carnival's, even if they may be very similar. Today, two of the Carnival whale tail ships have also made it to the fleet of subsidiary Iberocruceros in Spain.

Celebrity Cruises, on the other hand, has always sought the input of yacht architects for its ships, from the original Horizon and Zenith, both now with Pullmantur, to the latest "Solstice" class ships. While the "Milleniums" were quite clunky, especially when they first came out in blue, the latest "Solstice" class ships have their followers, especially now that they have revived the idea of having two funnels in a row instead of side by side as on Epic and Oasis.

Lastly, we have Holland America Line, with their blue hulls and odd reversed funnels on their latest ships, which have sprung from a separate evolution of Carnival's Vista class platform. Just like the NCL ships, HAL ships are getting boxier at the stern as more cabins are added until they are flush and no more space is left. And Cunard Line, with its evolved QE2-like funnel and the new Queen Elizabeth (which resembles the Nieuw Amsterdam externally) and Queen Victoria. Even here, the Queen Elizabeth, to be christened in a month's time by the Queen at Southampton, is boxier than the Queen Victoria as the stern.

What all this is leading to is whether readers of The Cruise Examiner would be interested in responding to a poll for the best-looking ships by cruise line.
Answers on an e-mail please to "The Examiner".


Cruise Lines Looking to Make More Money

As cruise fares have dropped because of the most recent recession cruise lines have been looking for more ways to make more money, and many are succeeding now, not only in doing this but also in beginning to get fares back up again.

While Douglas Ward brings up some of these, such as charging for shore shuttles and charging for water in his latest "Berlitz Complete Guide to Cruising," some others have been brought in much more quietly, in the fine print of cruise lines' terms and conditions. What are we talking about? Increased deposit requirements are one example of this, together with the lengthening of terms of final payment.

Where a deposit with some cruise lines might have been £100 per person, for example, it is now 10% of the total fare amount, or if it was 10% it is now 15%. Admittedly, however, some lines have also used reduced depoist to attract business.

Where final payment used to be required 56 to 60 days before sailing, in many cases tpday this has now advanced to 90 days or even 120 days before departure, giving cruise lines the cash earlier. On the other hand, several lines extend reductions of 5% or 10% to those who pay in full. While the line gets the cash earlier the client gets a pretty good deal in many cases compared to what they can make in the bank.

And interestingly, Dan Hanrahan, ceo of Celebrity Cruises, revealed in a recent interview that 30% of Celebrity's revenue now comes from onboard spending. If that much is generated by Celebrity, how much must be generated by a line like Norwegian Cruise Line, with almost a dozen extra tariff restaurants on its larger ships that can cost up to $30 per person extra per meal.

Elsewhere, Cunard has decided not to have a Todd English aboard its new Queen Elizabeth but to run its own Verandah Grill. Extra tariff restaurants are an area that has grown as quickly as increased casino size and the spread of shopping areas into mini malls as a source of extra revenue.

Traditional areas of onboard revenue generation have included bars and the casino, followed by art auctions. But now shipboard shops and malls abound and passengers pay extra for larger and larger spas, photographs and internet and communications services, not to mention bingo cards and chain by the inch. To these have been added bridge and engine room tours, culinary workshops and wine tasting sessions, newspapers on some ships, pay per view movies, yoga classes, etc, all of which used to be included in the cruise fare. And shore excursions typically add a 100% mark-up now.
On top of which, many of the mass market lines will not allow alcohol to be brought on board, and if it is, will confiscate it until the end of the voyage, ensuring that you buy their drinks and no one elses, and drinks at hotel prices too as the concept of duty free drinks on board has totally disappeared.

The funniest part of this movement is how, in a bit of "Ninteen Eight-Four" newspeak, one cruise line now calls its on board revenue manager the "vice-president of passenger experience."

Suits by Cruise Passengers

The news this week that sixteen passengers, some of whom were injured when a glacier calved near the expedition vessel Alexei Maryshev have joined in a seven-figure claim against Discover the World, the UK tour operator that had chartered the Oceanwide Expeditions vessel for a cruise around Spitsbergen. Injuries included a punctured lung, fractured ribs and a fractured shoulder blade for one passenger and a fractured skull for another, suffered when the glacier calved into the sea and some ice even landed on the ship's forward decks. The accusation of course is that the ship was too close to the glacier.

Perhaps this one is more serious than some claims against cruise lines that are made by frivolous passengers disappointed that they missed a port of call because of a storm, or for spurious claims that the line was "endangering passengers" by sailing through rough weather. After all, what does one expect when one goes to sea?

But such claims are nothing new. Seventy-four years ago, on September 2, 1936, the "Chicago Tribune" announced that five passengers who had taken a 58-day "Grand Pacific" cruise in the Canadian National liner Prince David, on charter to National Tours of New York, were suing for $126,500 in damages for "their dreams being shattered" by nausea.
This was National Tours' 157th cruise and had covered 17,425 miles, leaving New York on July 2 for calls at Havana, Panama, Puerto Caldera, Manzanillo, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Vancouver, Ketchikan, Wrangell, Taku Glacier, Juneau, Skagway, Sitka, Prince Rupert, Honolulu, Hilo, San Diego, Mazatlan, Acapulco and the Panama Canal to New York again. Today $126,500 would be worth about $2,000,000.

As they say in French, "Plus ça change, plus c'est la même chose," or the more things change the more they stay the same!

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