Top marks for Disney in J.D. Power cruise industry survey

By Tom Stieghorst
Research firm J.D. Power & Associates, known for gauging customer satisfaction regarding everything from automobiles to airlines, has produced its first report on the cruise industry.

The report contains useful data for travel agents about how consumers find cruises, pick brands and evaluate ships.

Seven cruise lines were rated in the categories of service, stateroom, food, embark/debark, entertainment, cost and excursions.

Among the lines rated, respondents gave Disney Cruise Line the highest marks and gave Carnival Cruise Lines the lowest.

With an index score of 871 out of a possible 1,000, Disney ranked “among the best” in all seven categories. It scored especially well for entertainment and food, J.D. Power said.

Next came Royal Caribbean International, scoring 838, and Holland America Line at 835. Both were cited for good service, but the latter was rated “about average” for entertainment, cost and excursions.

Celebrity Cruises (828) and Princess Cruises (826) were virtually tied, with Celebrity ranking “better than most” for food, cost and staterooms, while Princess got “better than most” in the embark/debark and stateroom categories but drew the lowest score, “the rest,” for its excursions.

Two lines fell below the report’s average index score of 824. Norwegian Cruise Line scored 817 and was judged “better than most” only for its embark/debark process.

Carnival’s (810) strongest marks of “about average” came in entertainment, cost and excursions.

The report is based on responses from 3,003 customers who traveled on a cruise line in the past 12 months and who answered questions during the first two weeks of June.

Brand awareness

The J.D. Power survey also found that travel agents ranked fourth on a list of ways consumers had become aware of their cruise line brand. More than one quarter (28%) cited the cruise line’s own website, while 24% said they are loyal customers who have traveled with the cruise line previously.

Friends and family were cited by 17%, while travel agents were cited by 15% and promotional materials sent direct from the cruise line by 6%. Only 2.8% said TV ads were how they became aware a cruise brand.

Price ranked as the single most important factor in choosing a cruise, followed by “past experience with the brand.” Among those who will “definitely” or “probably” not take another cruise, cost was the driving factor, J.D. Power reported.

Another finding was that 18% of consumers reported running into at least one problem on their cruise. The report highlighted how problems erode loyalty and brand advocacy.

Passengers reporting zero or one problem said they will “definitely” take another cruise on the line they most recently used. If they had two to three problems, the likelihood of repeat business falls significantly.

“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% of passengers who experience a problem with their cruise line experience.”
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