Beyond the marketing pitches

By Tom Stieghorst
*InsightSometimes the reasons people cruise can’t be found in any catalog or sales brochure. The passenger who took 33 consecutive cruises aboard the Carnival Elation earlier this year is an extreme example.

Mark Fosselman found himself on the same itinerary over and over again following the loss of his wife, Becky. She had been in ill health, and the two had shared numerous cruises on the Elation before she passed away in April.

Fosselman told Carnival that the ship held special memories for him and that cruising was very therapeutic in helping him mourn his wife and come to terms with her death.*TomStieghorst

There are many conventional selling points to a cruise. But often it isn’t the size of the cabin, or the itinerary or the food that people care most about when they’re on a cruise.

When I asked a man on a recent cruise why he was on the ship, there was no hesitation: “I wanted to spend time with my brother,” he said. The passenger lived in Tennessee, his brother in Michigan. They didn’t see each other regularly, and a weeklong cruise was a chance to catch up.

More than marketing slogans or ad campaigns, the human need for connection and recognition often drives the choice of a cruise vacation. One passenger on another cruise I took recently was astonished to be the center of attention after his family surprised him with a cruise for his 90th birthday.

Another person on the cruise was aboard with someone who had started to show signs of memory loss. She said she took the cruise because she wasn’t sure in a year or two if her traveling companion would even be the same person.

So it is fine to have the latest and greatest technology on a ship, hot new entertainers or interesting new shore excursions. Onboard spending credits or free gratuities may be the way to seal the deal if someone is close to making a purchase.

But just as often it is the soft things, the human things, that start passengers thinking about taking a cruise. Cruise lines have started to pick up on this in their advertising, for example in Carnival Cruise Lines’ “Moments That Matter” spots or the Princess Cruises “Come Back New” campaign. They’re definitely not hard sell, but effective in the long run, it seems to me.

Royal Caribbean, Celebrity and Azamara to run as separate businesses

Royal Caribbean, Celebrity and Azamara to run as separate businesses

By Lucy Huxley

Royal Caribbean, Celebrity and Azamara to run as separate businessesRCL Cruises Ltd is to create three individual businesses for each of its brands in the UK, claiming they have each now grown to a size that warrants “increased focus and investment”.

The new structure, which will take effect from January 1, 2014, will see current associate vice president & general manager Jo Rzmowska become managing director for Celebrity Cruises. A recruitment process is already underway both internally and externally for separate managing directors for the Royal Caribbean and Azamara Club Cruises brands.

Each individual managing director will also get his or her own commercial, marketing and sales teams, as well as separate agent trainers and trade marketing budgets.

But the proposed structural and operational changes also include the consolidation of guest and trade call centres around the world – including the UK and Ireland team based in Addlestone in Surrey – into just three multi-lingual contact centres in Guatemala, Romania and the Netherlands, operated by an external partner, Xerox.

Under the proposal, the Royal Caribbean International and Azamara Club Cruises UK and Ireland guest and trade service call centres would be operated from Guatemala, resulting in the potential redundancy of 100 people. A period of consultation with potentially affected employees in Addlestone has begun today.

A Celebrity Cruises guest and trade services team, dedicated to the UK and Ireland, will be set up in the UK, employing 50 people.

Dominic Paul, who remains as vice president and managing director of Europe, the Middle East and Africa, said the proposed restructure was an important milestone in the history of the global RCL Cruises Ltd business:

“The only other market that we have this kind of focus is North America. This is the first time we have given any other market such attention. We have seen that when a market gets to a certain size of importance, this is the structure that works best to grow.

“The UK is the second-largest market globally and this move is a recognition of the growth achieved so far and to best position each cruise line for future development and growth.”

The three RCL brands collectively in the UK and Ireland have seen 8% growth in the last five years versus the overall cruise market in the UK and Ireland which has grown at 3% in the same period.

Asked if it meant the company, which is the second largest cruise operator in the world, would deploy more than the current five ships to the UK as a result of the restructure, Paul said: “This underlines our commitment to the UK market. We are investing in the brands and see the future potential for more growth. We hope that this will mean we can bring new ships into this market.”

The company said the partnership with Xerox would allow it to address efficiency challenges that are common in any business that has experienced rapid global expansion.

“As a renowned leader in this area, Xerox supplies the contact centres of many customer service focused brands globally. This proposal follows an extensive global review specifically looking at the operational efficiency of multiple guest and trade service centres around the world,” a statement said.

“All of the proposed changes are being reviewed in order to best position the business for future growth, whilst maintaining a competitive edge and strong customer service for trade partners and guests.”

Rzymowska said of her new position: “I am very passionate about all three of our brands, but the Celebrity role is the opportunity that I have been asked to look at and I am very happy with that.”

She described the search for her counterparts on the Royal Caribbean International and Azamara Club Cruises brands as “significant” because they are such “key roles going forward”.

And commenting on the creation of separate teams below them, she added: “There will be opportunities for the [current] team.”

Rzymowska said agents could expect to see more attention paid to them under the new structure.

“Everybody is in business to run a profitable business. And we believe that the trade seeing more of us, and us being able to give them more focused, dedicated time and more investment, will result in increased profitability for them.”

Rzymowska added: “Changes made earlier this year to the commissions structure are working for the business. There are currently no plans to make any changes to the base commission structures of Royal Caribbean International, Celebrity Cruises and Azamara Club Cruises, including when the dedicated brand teams take effect in January 2014.”

Carnival chief Arison orders ‘comprehensive review’

Carnival chief Arison orders ‘comprehensive review’

Carnival chief Arison orders 'comprehensive review'

Costa Cruises’ parent Carnival Corporation is to undertake a “comprehensive review” of all safety and emergency response procedures across its nine cruise lines which run 101 ships worldwide.

Carnival also gave its backing to a call for thorough evaluation of safety regulations by the International Maritime Organisation, requested yesterday by the Cruise Lines International Association.

The moves came as Costa confirmed that survivors of the Costa Concordia will receive a refund for the abandoned cruise after the ship run onto rocks off the west of Italy and “all material expenses relating to it”.

The Italian company added that it was in contact with passengers and consumer protection associations “to determine indemnity for the hardship endured, with the support of the tour operator association of each country”.

This came as a video emerged showing the crew of Costa Concordia reassuring passengers nothing was wrong, after the ship had begun taking in water.

In the amateur footage, a crew member says “everything is under control” and a generator problem will be fixed. She asks passengers to go to their cabins.

The vessel ran aground off Italy’s coast with 4,200 people on board and listed on its side. At least 11 people died and 21 are still missing.

Italian media broadcast what is claimed to be the first phone conversation between port officials and crew of the vessel about 30 minutes after the ship hit rocks. In the exchange, a crew member is heard saying it is experiencing only a blackout, the BBC reported.

Carnival chairman and CEO Micky Arison admitted the Costa Concordia tragedy “has called into question our company’s safety and emergency response procedures and practices”.

He added: “While I have every confidence in the safety of our vessels and the professionalism of our crews, this review will evaluate all practices and procedures to make sure that this kind of accident doesn’t happen again.”

The action by the company, which includes UK-based P&O Cruises and Cunard Line together with the likes of Princess Cruises, Carnival Cruise Lines, Holland America Line and Seabourn, will be led by retired US navy captain James Hunn, the organisation’s senior vice president of maritime policy and compliance.

Hunn and senior health and safety executives from each of the lines will review all safety and emergency response policies and procedures, officer and crew training and evaluation, bridge management and company-wide response and support efforts. He will report to the Carnival’s health, environment, safety & security committee and to chief operations officer Howard Frank.

Carnival also announced that the committee is engaging outside “industry-leading experts” in the fields of emergency response organisation, training and implementation to conduct an audit of all of the company’s emergency response and safety procedures and to conduct a thorough review of the Costa Concordia accident.

Frank said: “This company-wide initiative will identify lessons learned and best practices to further ensure the security and safety of all of our passengers and crew.”