Cruisers in the U.K. are rumbling about an influx of troublemakers attracted by low prices, according to a feature on Times Online this week. In the U.S., six Carnival Cruise Lines passengers were recently arrested following a headline-grabbing punch-up with a taxi driver. (The line has since dumped Antigua from Carnival Victory's weekly cruises, but does not make a connection between these two events, saying it was looking to replace Antigua anyway to freshen up that particular itinerary; also, it still calls there with Carnival Freedom).
Cruise execs insist that incidents of bad behaviour have nothing at all to do with passenger's pocketbooks. Last week at The Travel Convention in Barcelona, a gathering of the U.K.'s top travel professionals, Carnival Corp. CEO Micky Arison was pushed in an interview with the BBC's Jeremy Vine to defend falling standards as Vine dredged up a much-publicised brawl on P&O Cruises' Ventura last Christmas.
"Fighting isn't just something that happens to people on low incomes," Arison said. "Whether you earn 10p or £100,000 a week, it often comes down to how much beer you've drunk or the circumstances you're in."
Indeed, rebellion and mutiny are common buzzwords. Last year, a Carnival passenger was booted from his ship for outlandish behavior. In 2007, on a cruise to Asia on Sapphire Princess, passengers were so furious over missed ports (due to dueling typhoons) that they huddled around computers in the Internet cafe and searched Google Maps for proof that the Captain's navigational skills were inept (one guy even marched up to the bridge to give him directions!). And, even before that, Cunard passengers took to protesting over multiple issues on the Queen Mary 2, from the too-packed Todd English restaurant to last-minute itinerary changes after an unexpected delay for repairs.
Plus, the pricing argument may be a moot point as cruise fares are unlikely to stay at today's lows. Robin Shaw, vice president and managing director U.K. and Ireland for Royal Caribbean, says: "Prices need to go up. There is a fundamental profit equation here and we do need to recover some of our investment [in new ships] over the next year or two. We're in a recession and we need to keep our ships full but it doesn't stop the need to pull back income. Even if prices go up by 10 or 15 percent, cruising still offers amazing value."
Do you think low fares have anything to do with the influx of passengers behaving badly? Are scandals at sea here to stay? Speak out in our poll!
--by Sue Bryant, Cruise Critic contributing editor, and Melissa Paloti, Managing Editor