Which? cruise poll condemned as ‘inaccurate and unrepresentative’

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MSC Bellissima

MSC Cruises and P&O Cruises have hit back strongly against negative comments made about them in a newly published survey by consumer group Which?

The annual cruise poll of Which? members rated MSC Cruises as the worst line with “poor customer service. Surly staff and mediocre food” and a customer score of 57%

But MSC Cruises criticised the report as “inaccurate and unrepresentative” and called for the methodology to be improved.

P&O Cruises was criticised for its “social atmosphere” on board with several repeat passengers complaining that standards had dropped and it was akin to “Butlin’s on the sea”. However, the British line received a “respectable” customer score of 71%.

A spokesman for P&O Cruises said in response: “We continue to see cruising rise in popularity across all demographics and age ranges, many of whom have learned to appreciate cruising by going on cruises with their families while growing up and who are attracted to the flexibility and choice available on cruises from discovery to dining; exploration, knowledge, learning and adventures onshore.”

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The poll of 2,253 Which? members taken in September placed Viking Ocean Cruises top followed by Saga Cruises, Azamara, Hurtigruten and Silversea.

 

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Viking Sky

The bottom five were MSC Cruises, Holland America Line, Cruise & Maritime Voyages, Norwegian Cruise Line and Royal Caribbean International. P&O Cruises came sixth from bottom in the rankings.

Which? travel editor Rory Boland said: “Cruises shouldn’t be about long queues, expensive extras and rubbish excursions, especially when you’ve already forked out thousands of pounds for your trip and have limited choice about how you spend your time and money on board.”

However, the results were based on small numbers of responses, with just 67 for MSC Cruises, while P&O Cruises attracted the highest number in the survey at 504.

MSC Cruises argued that the small sample size was not representative of the overall passenger experience following a 37% rise in passengers from the between 2018 and 2019 and three million taking cruises with the company worldwide last year.

The line said: “MSC Cruises is particularly disappointed with the methodology used by Which? as well as the commentary provided within the report.

“The survey fails to recognise the vast difference in what the cruise lines offer as an experience, comparing products that cost £630 per night and products that cost £130 per night without stating what is included.

“This makes for an inaccurate comparison and as a result is misleading for consumers.

“Whilst this is the second year MSC Cruises have featured bottom of the report, Which? stated that for the 2018 report they surveyed people who have cruised with MSC Cruises in the last year, and for the 2019 report people from the last two years, this shows they have only surveyed an additional 21 people and as a result we had a minimal chance of improving our score given the incredibly small sample size.

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P&O Cruises ambassador Gary Barlow to perform on Iona

“Whilst we are always grateful for the feedback and are constantly working to evolve our product offering and passenger experience we feel that this ranking is unrepresentative of both our brand and the cruise industry as a whole.

“The report does not give enough information to allow readers to make an informed choice on what they think is value for money based on what the cruise includes.”

MSC Cruises said it approached Which? for a second year running asking for a meeting “to help educate them on the cruise industry and to discuss suggestions as to how this report could better represent the cruise industry”.

The line added: “Whilst representatives from Clia, including an MSC Cruises team member did have a meeting to this effect last year, the report has been issued in exactly the same way which is very disappointing.

“Once again we have requested another meeting in the hope of looking for a fairer, more representative study with a distinct improvement in the methodology.

“At MSC Cruises we really believe there is a cruise for everyone and we hope that this inaccurate, unrepresentative report does not put future cruisers off investigating cruise, the fastest-growing holiday segment in the world.

The P&O Cruises spokesman said: ”We work relentlessly to improve and enhance the guest experience for P&O Cruises guests across all our ships.

“In May we will launch our new flagship Iona which will feature enhancements to already successful brand signature venues from the existing fleet, as well as features newly developed for Iona.

“These include a breath-taking three-deck atrium in the heart of the ship as well as SkyDome which will be a world-first at sea and offer a unique space for relaxing in all weathers and providing entertainment, featuring aerial performers and a wealth of live acts.

“Iona will be the first new launch for P&O Cruises in five years, and will be the most environmentally efficient ship in P&O Cruises history.

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P&O Britannia

“It will use LNG to generate the primary source of power reducing exhaust emissions to support the company’s sustainability goals. Iona will be named on July 4 in a celebration which forms part of Ionafest which will feature Clean Bandit, Trevor Nelson, Jo Whiley, Alex James and Sara Cox. We are also very proud to have just announced Gary Barlow as our brand ambassador.”

Clia claimed that the survey “does not tell the true story and is entirely unrepresentative”.

The cruise line trade body said: “We have previously raised our concerns regarding how the survey has been conducted, such as its limited sample size.

“We remain disappointed that these concerns have not been addressed, but we continue to remain willing to engage should the survey authors decide to adopt a fairer approach in future.”

A Clia spokesperson said: “Cruise holidays are becoming increasingly popular as more and more passengers are appreciating the incredible experience, value, and fantastic onboard service offered by cruise lines today.

“Not only are more people choosing cruise holidays, with 32 million people expecting to travel on a cruise in 2020, but they keep returning too, with 82% of cruise travellers saying they are likely to book another cruise in future. In fact, the cruise industry enjoys one of the highest ratios of repeat customers within the travel industry.”

Viking Cruises launching expedition ships in 2022

 Viking Cruises launching expedition ships in 2022

BEVERLY HILLS, Calif. — Viking Cruises has opened the books on a new product line: Viking Expeditions, an expedition cruise line that will set sail in 2022.

The line in its first year of operation will have two, 378-passenger ships. The Viking Octantis, scheduled to debut in January 2022, will sail Antarctica and the U.S. Great Lakes. The Viking Polaris, due in August 2022, will cruise in Antarctica and the Svalbard region in the Arctic.

Vard, a Fincantieri subsidiary, will build the ice-strengthened ships.

Viking's expedition ships will feature the Finse Terrace.
Viking’s expedition ships will feature the Finse Terrace.

It had been anticipated that Viking was planning an expedition line ever since it placed an order with Vard, which also was constructing expedition ships for Ponant and Hapag-Lloyd.

Viking made the plan’s official during an event for trade and media at the Hilton Beverly Hills Hotel, which featured a naming of Viking Jupiter cruise ship by soprano Sissel Kyrkjebo and a brief performance. (The naming was conducted remotely, as the Jupiter is currently sailing near Ushuaia, Argentina.)

In remarks from the stage, Viking chairman Torstein Hagen said that he had “long had the ambition to do something in Antarctica.” the company had been making plans for an expedition ship as early as 2013.

And there was applause when Hagen revealed plans for the Great Lakes cruises that take in ports such as Thunder Bay, Ontario; Milwaukee, Wisconsin; and Mackinac Island, Michigan, saying that “guests also like to cruise near home.” The ships are being built specifically to fit that water system’s locks.

Viking has also activated the URL viking.com, which include links to all three product lines.

At a Q&A session with the press, Hagen said: “We have one brand, so everybody really knows what they’re getting when they’re getting a Viking product. I think that’s comfortable. From the get-go we said we’re about exploring the world in comfort. So ‘exploring’ has been part of our tagline. It’s a logical step at this time in our career.”

The Octantis and Polaris will do double duty as cruise ships and research vessels. Viking said it will host researchers and scientists via partnerships with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and the Cornell Lab of Ornithology, among others. Another partnership is with the University of Cambridge’s Scott Polar Research Institute, where Viking has created an endowment, the Viking Chair of Polar Marine Geoscience, that supports the institute’s graduate students.

As part of the endowment, scientists will conduct fieldwork on the ships and interact with passengers.

A 430-square-foot space called the Laboratory will be “designed to support a broad range of research activities,” Viking said. Guests will have supervised access to the area.


Another view of the Finse Terrace outdoor lounge.
Another view of the Finse Terrace outdoor lounge.

The Laboratory will overlook the Hangar, which Viking said will be an industry first: an in-ship marina enabling the launch of small excursion craft through the ship’s multiple shell doors, including an 85-foot slipway that enables guests to embark rigid inflatable boats (RIBs) from a stable, interior surface. The ships will carry Zodiac craft, kayaks and two six-passenger submersibles.

In the rendering Hagen showed to guests at the Hilton, he pointed out with a smile the colour of the submersibles. “We have a yellow submarine.”

Viking said the ships would meet guidelines and requirements from the International Association of Antarctica Tour Operators, the Association of Arctic Expedition Cruise Operators and others. The ships’ straight bows are expected to reduce fuel consumption. A dynamic positioning system will enable the ships to hover over the seabed without anchoring.

Each passenger will be provided with a Viking Expedition Kit with boots, binoculars and waterproof pants. They will have access to satellite phones, VHF radios and excursion gear like trekking poles and snowshoes.

The expedition ships will feature the Scandinavian design ethos seen on its river and ocean ships. Guests who have sailed Viking will recognize some of the public spaces on Octantis and Polaris. But there will be touches unique to the ships.

For example, the cabins will have what Viking called a Nordic Balcony: a sunroom where the top of the glass can be lowered to the open air. “You don’t need an outdoor balcony — it’s cold,” Hagen said. “We’ve taken that space and brought it inside.” He also showed off an image of the drying closet that will be in each cabin, for airing and drying items like wet expedition jackets and gear.

The cabins start at 222 square feet, but the top accommodation is the 1,223-square-foot Owners Suite with a living room, six-seat dining table, 800-square-foot private garden and traditional Norwegian wood-sided hot tub.


A rendering of the expedition ships' pool deck.
A rendering of the expedition ships’ pool deck.


Viking is designing the aft decks of the ships as a combination lecture hall and outdoor lounge. The Aula auditorium is inspired by the University of Oslo’s hall where Nobel Peace Prizes were awarded, and its backdrop will be floor-to-ceiling windows with 270-degree views.

Adjacent to the Aula will be the Finse Terrace, an outdoor lounge with couches and warming lava rock “firepits.” Viking said the two spaces can be combined for “an unmatched alfresco experience for guests to be immersed in nature.”

This report was updated to include remarks by Viking chairman Torstein Hagen.

Viking Orion Named by NASA Astronaut Dr. Anna Fisher in Italy

Viking Orion Naming

Viking Ocean Cruises has named its fifth ocean ship, Viking Orion during a celebration in Livorno, Italy.

The ship was delivered to Viking last week and is currently sailing a maiden voyage with her ceremonial godmother, American chemist, emergency room physician and retired NASA astronaut

Named after the prominent constellation and in honour of Dr. Fisher’s work on NASA’s Orion exploration vehicle project, the 930-guest 47,800-ton Viking Orion arrived in Livorno early this morning, Viking said.

“Today is a proud day for the entire Viking family. Just three years ago we launched our first ocean ship, and now we are welcoming our fifth ship, whose name was selected to honour both the original Viking explorers who used the constellations for long-distance navigation, as well as the great space explorers of our time,” said Torstein Hagen, Chairman of Viking. “We are grateful for Dr. Fisher’s many contributions to the scientific community, and we are humbled that she is godmother to Viking Orion. The spirit of exploration is at the heart of the Viking way of travel, and we look forward to welcoming guests onboard our newest ship, which has been designed to offer opportunities for learning about the great history of space exploration.”

Viking Orion Naming

Following her arrival this on Thursday morning, Viking Orion was positioned alongside the city’s historic Medici-built Fortezza Vecchia (Old Fortress). Livorno is known as a gateway to Tuscany, a region reached by the original Viking explorers.

Nearby, Pisa is also known for its native Galileo Galilei – “The Father of Science” – whose gravitational theories and the invention of the Galilean telescope have been central to advancements in oceanic navigation.

It was at the Fortezza Vecchia that in 1662 students of Galileo held an experiment to test his projectile motion theory.

Livorno – with its Fortezza Vecchia – was chosen specifically for Viking Orion’s naming ceremony because of those connections to scientific studies and exploration.

Viking Orion Naming

During the naming ceremony, guests enjoyed a high-tech show and musical concert that paid tribute to Nordic mythology and the spirit of exploration. Legendary British explorer Sir Ranulph “Ran” Fiennes served as the narrator for the event, which also included musical performances from Italian tenor Antonio Corianò, Norwegian bukkehorn musician Sissel Morken Gullord and Norwegian singer Sissel Kyrkjebø, who is widely considered one of the world’s top crossover sopranos and who will also be godmother to Viking Jupiter, which debuts in early 2019.

In addition to the naming ceremony, “Finse Explores the Universe” was also released, the 14th book in the educational children’s book series, “The World of Finse”, which showcases the adventures of Viking Senior Vice President Karine Hagen’s yellow Labrador, Finse.