March 12, 2008
Who knew that Rick Sasso, president of MSC Cruises' U.S. arm, would channel David Letterman at yesterday's Seatrade panel of industry honchos? Yet this not-so-late-night host offered a fun "top 10 list for why people should cruise." It's really more of a discussion of what the industry is doing to continue to appeal to cruisers, but it's still interesting for past and new cruisers.
Whether you've cruised before or not, we want to know: Which item on this countdown most makes you want to cruise? Vote in our poll on the Ask a Cruise Question forum -- and feel free to post your own personal "top 10 reasons to cruise" in that same thread!
Here's the countdown:
10. Industry Investment: There is an amazing number of new ships on order, which means that not just now but years down the road, there will be splashy new launches and nifty new features and amenities to entice passengers to return over and over.
9. Product Evolution: "It's extraordinary!" the ever-ebullient Sasso enthused -- and he's right. Get this: Cruise prices have remained steady (when adjusted for inflation) over the past 20 years! And yet the experience has improved enormously. One interesting factoid he shared was that you get twice as much space per passenger (when looking at space ratios) today than you did a couple of decades ago. And we all know about some of the more progressive innovations -- bowling alleys, surf parks, boxing rings, and spa cabins, to name a few.
8. Variety: "There are so many more brands [cruise lines] with ships in all sizes and representing every demographic and lifestyle," Sasso noted. As well, with the advent of theme cruises [in the U.S. and the U.K.], travelers can find an outlet for almost any lifestyle choice or hobby.
7. Seasonal Shifts: You want just two of the more obvious ways cruise lines are toying with seasonality? Consider the notion of cruising from New York in winter, right when people want to get away to warmer climes -- or take a look at the summer Caribbean itineraries where there used to be none. On the cusp: cruising in the Mediterranean year-round. (Want to try it? Enter our Mediterranean Winter Cruise Treasure Hunt & Cruise Giveaway for a chance to win an 11-night MSC voyage for two, airfare not included!)
6. Ships Move: Itinerary lost its appeal? Another becomes super hot? Ships can easily be repositioned -- often with relatively little notice (though that's not always a good thing). Consider the changes many cruise lines have made to deployment schedules to adapt to, for instance, the Mediterranean's red-hot status as a cruise destination. Sasso says to keep an eye on South America, which is possibly the next new hot cruise region.
5. High Satisfaction Rates: Yes, ships have gotten bigger (and service less personal, sometimes) but Sasso says that passengers' satisfaction rates "are the same as 30, 40 years ago."
4. Industry Talent: Sasso credits recent successes to the industry's mix of experienced, cruise-industry-for-life staffers and younger, uniquely innovative 20- and 30-somethings. Look for this trend to play out onboard, too. What immediately comes to mind are officers we've met on recent cruises on Princess, NCL and Cunard who seem astonishingly young (could it be that we're just getting older?) for such important jobs -- and yet they're a credit to their professions.
3. Technology: Sasso drew a big wave of knowing laughter when he described how cruise ships used to figure out how many people were embarking: a staffer would stand at the gangway and actually use a clicker to count each person one by one. These days technology not only makes it easier for cruise lines to account for all manner of things, it is also accelerating the growth of the industry's appeal.
2. The Industry's Commitment to Safety: We agree with Sasso that the industry is making strides in the areas of safety, security and the environment. He told an anecdote that shows how seriously his own line takes the challenge of ship cleanliness and sanitation: On Christmas Eve in 2007, MSC's Lirica received a surprise inspection from the CDC's Vessel Sanitation Program inspectors. Despite being caught off guard, the ship scored a perfect 100.
And the number one reason that people should cruise:
1. Partnerships: Okay, so this isn't as sexy as a David Letterman countdown, but Sasso makes a good point when he says that the relatively new trend in developing relationships between cruise lines and ports (to create new facilities, such as Grand Turk, Progreso and Cozumel) is a win for all -- including passengers.
--by Carolyn Spencer Brown, Editor in Chief
More stories live from Seatrade 2008!