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Cruise Line Perceptions Continue to Sink

Several top cruise lines continue downward trend first reported in wake of Carnival Triumph incident.

Cruise Ship Loses Power In Gulf Of Mexico

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Carnival Triumph sits idle February 11, 2013 in the Gulf of Mexico / Getty

/ By Niva Goldberg /

Carnival Cruise Lines has canceled 10 more cruises aboard its ship Triumph, which was undergoing repairs after an engine fire left it stranded in the Gulf of Mexico last month, the company said . The Triumph’s return to service was pushed back.

The company said it also canceled two European cruises aboard the Carnival Sunshine, which had been scheduled to relaunch in April after a $155 million renovation. Passengers whose voyages were canceled on either ship will receive full refunds, reimbursement for nonrefundable transportation costs and a 25 percent discount on a future cruise, Carnival said.

At the some time former Carnival Cruise Lines CEO back as consultant. Bob Dickinson, who retired as president and CEO of Carnival Cruise Lines in 2007, after a 35-year career . According to Carnival, Dickinson at first will focus on strategies in North America for marketing and distribution across the company’s brands. Dickinson comes on board at a rocky time for the cruise company.


Tough times

The cruise industry took some tough perceptual hits earlier this year, with several high publicity incidents – most notably the Carnival Triumph’s heavily covered limp to shore – leading to widespread questions of quality standards and shipboard safety.

A March Harris Poll found that Quality, Trust and Purchase Intent scores recorded in the week immediately following the Triumph’s return to shore (“Post”) showed notable drops when compared to scores recorded prior to the incident (“Pre”) – not just for Carnival, but across many top cruise brands.

Many suggested at the time that these drops were likely a temporary setback, and that perceptions would soon bounce back. However, a recent Harris Poll of 2, 052 U.S. adults surveyed online between May 14 and 16, 2013 (prior to the recent fire aboard Royal Caribbean’s Grandeur of the Seas) by Harris Interactive, finds that perceptions for the top cruise industry brands have not only remained below their pre incident levels, but have continued to decline.

Results are compared, where applicable, to Harris Poll EquiTrend® data collected from January 11, 2013 to February 8, 2013 (the Carnival Triumph incident lasted from February 10-14, 2013) and a Harris Poll of 2, 230 U.S. adults surveyed online between February 19 and 21, 2013.
Worsening Waters

Looking at specific perceptual measures, the average perceived Quality score across the seven brands tested is down by 13% vs. its pre incident level and 6% compared to the post incident wave of testing. While Carnival’s Quality score shows the steepest declines (down 28% vs. pre and 12% vs. post), all of the other brands tested ranged individually from 8%-11% below pre levels.
The average Trust score across the seven brands tested is also down in comparison to both pre (down 12%) and post (down 5%) incident; as with Quality, Trust shows the steepest decline for Carnival Cruise Lines (down 26% vs. pre, 11% vs. post). However, the six other brands tested remain between 8%-12% below pre incident Trust levels.
Purchase Intent has declined, on average, 11% from its pre incident level (and 5% from its post incident level). While this again affects most of the brands tested (with most down between 7%-15% vs. pre levels), it is worth noting that Holland America’s Purchase Intent score has largely weathered this perceptual storm, holding at just 2% below its pre level. Carnival is again hardest hit, down 20% vs. pre, 8% vs. post.
Air Travel Gains Altitude over Cruises

Revisiting statements comparing the cruise industry to air travel – a comparison first made in the aforementioned February Harris Poll – Americans’ inclination to favor air travel over cruises has only increased. Over six in ten Americans (62%) agree that air travel is much more reliable than taking cruises (up from 57% in February), and the majority (56%) agree that air travel is much safer than taking cruises (up from 50% in February).
Roughly half of Americans (51%, roughly even with February’s 53%) agree that they’re less likely to take a cruise now than they were a year ago, with this sentiment once again proving stronger among those who have never taken a cruise (56%) than among those who have (43%).
One-third of Americans (32%) agree that cruises are “worry-free, ” down slightly from 35% in February, with past cruise experience again appearing to have a considerable impact on this perception: those who have taken a cruise (51%) are again more than twice as likely to agree that cruises are “worry free” as those who have not (22%).
“When we first addressed this topic in March, even we were open to the idea that a ‘recency bias’ of sorts might be impacting the results so soon after the Triumph fiasco, creating a low tide for the industry as a whole, ” concedes Harris Poll Insights Vice President Deana Percassi. “But these more recent findings, coupled with reports of heavily discounted pricing on Carnival cruises, indicate that the industry as a whole, as well as the Carnival brand specifically, may still be facing rough seas.”




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