The Disney Cruise Line scored tops in in a recent JD Power cruise passenger satisfaction survey.
This probably surprised a few people until you begin to think a bit about how the major lines have morphed into one big homogenized product.
In years past, each line had its own special ambiance and aura about it. Carnival Cruise proudly touted their products as The Fun Ships with their Las Vegas style entertainment and bright lights. Royal Caribbean Cruise Line offered a slightly more refined product. The Love Boats of Princess Cruises were a bit more worldly with their European sailings and being owned by P & O cruises from the UK.
Now the lines have all morphed into one big commodity of similar products. Although experienced cruisers and some travel agents may disagree, the ships are the same, the experience is about the same and the itineraries are the same because the cruise lines focus on bottom line profits have created ships and cruise experiences that are remarkably similar.
Yet, the problem for these commodity cruises is that the hot ticket in today’s travel market is actually customized travel experiences. Experiential travel is replacing the pre-packaged commodity. The JD Power study above reinforces this statement. Disney Cruise Line is about an experience. It is about custom interaction with their unique characters and a unique family experience that also just happens to be a cruise. Disney Cruise Line gets it and is thriving as a result.
Yet the JD Power study also found that the commodity cruise lines had a 20% unsatisfactory passenger experience factor. Not good for companies that are founded on providing exceptional service. “Many cruise lines in the report have very high levels of passenger satisfaction, well above the report average; however, for more than a year, the overall industry has been dealing with a lot of negative news affecting customer perceptions, expectations and trust,” said Ramez Faza, senior account manager of the global travel and hospitality practice at J.D. Power. “To raise the bar, the industry must focus on meeting the needs of the nearly 20 percent of passengers who experience a problem with their cruise line experience. Cruise lines need to understand the causes of customer dissatisfaction and determine what will motivate them to come back.”
The major focus for cruise lines in recent years has been increasing the stock price through a combination of cost cutting including their channel distribution travel agent commissions and streamlining operations. While some cruise lines suffer through poor leadership, Disney has been quietly building a real threat to their dominance.