(1:45 p.m. EST) -- On the same day that Royal Caribbean's largest and most innovative ship ever, Oasis of the Seas, arrives in Fort Lauderdale to much fanfare, big-ship rival Carnival Cruise Lines is sending a clear message that it is taking a more strategic (read: conservative) approach to ship building.
At a press conference today onboard Carnival's brand-new Carnival Dream, which was christened just last night in New York, CEO Gerry Cahill told a throng of journalists from across the globe that spending -- on marketing to potential cruisers and on the product itself -- has not been cut back. Yet at the same time, the line has a laser focus on adding features that will have mass appeal and ultimately be more economical.
"Crazy innovations drive up the cost of the ship, and can also drive up operating costs," Cahill said. "There's a tradeoff between innovation and how much it'll cost you to make that innovation. We don't want to price a lot of our market out."
Carnival Dream, Cahill confirms, is selling at a higher fare than the other ships in the fleet -- as Royal Caribbean's Oasis of the Seas is, compared with its sisters. But he attributes the increased price to demand, saying the ship is selling well despite any up-charge.
Designer Joe Farcus, who's been doing interior work for Carnival for 30 years and has also worked on Italian-line Costa's vessels, echoed Cahill's sentiments during a presentation about Carnival Dream's look and feel. "When we look at innovations, we look at innovations that appeal to almost everyone onboard ... not just to get gimmicky response in the press."
Is he referring to the amusement park rides and seaside amphitheaters of Oasis of the Seas? Maybe. You certainly won't find such attractions on Carnival Dream. However, there are innovations to be found onboard -- including dueling waterslides (the longest-ever for the cruise line), a funky laser light show, new entertainment productions, and the Ocean Plaza cafe that offers port and starboard access to an expanded outdoor space, complete with whirlpools, on the ship's promenade.
It's hard to compare apples to oranges, but we will say that the difference in price between Carnival Dream and the line's other, modern ships is not as marked as the difference in price between Oasis of the Seas and its next largest siblings. For example, we priced seven-night Eastern Caribbean cruises in July 2010 on Cruise.com on both Carnival and Royal Caribbean. An inside cabin on Carnival Dream's July 17 cruise costs $799, while Carnival Liberty is priced at $789 on the July 24 sailing -- just a $10 difference. Outside and balcony cabins have about a $70 or $80 price difference. An inside cabin on Freedom of the Seas, meanwhile, starts at $977 for the July 18 cruise, while the same cabin on Oasis of the Seas will cost you $1,549 on the July 17 sailing. Outside and balcony cabins also have about a $500 difference between ships.
In other news, U.K.-based cruisers may soon be getting more love from Carnival. In November 2008, the cruise line canceled Carnival Liberty's U.K.-based season of Baltic cruises; the ship was supposed to sail from Dover this past summer but was repositioned to the Caribbean instead. In response to a question about when the cruise line may bring a ship back to the U.K. market, Cahill said the line is "thinking very hard" about 2011. Stay tuned!
--by Melissa Paloti, Managing Editor
Photo courtesy of Andy Newman/Carnival Cruise Lines
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Carnival Speaks Out on New Ship Pricing, Innovations
November 13, 2009