This year had hardly gotten underway before we again were reminded how important safety at sea is. Ships’ officers have told us repeatedly that their first priority is safety – for passengers, crew and ship.
Yet, five crew members were killed in a lifeboat drill accident on the Thomson Majesty in February. On the very same day, the Carnival Triumph suffered a crippling engine room fire, setting her adrift in the Mexican Gulf and subject to live 24-hour news coverage as she was towed back to port.
In addition, we still have the Costa Concordia incident of last year fresh in mind, as well as several less catastrophic, but nevertheless noteworthy incidents.
With a bigger fleet, these incidents are still few and far between in the big picture, but they raise questions:
- Is the focus on cost reduction impacting maintenance procedures and crewing?
- Is going from 30-month to 60-month drydock intervals such a good idea?
One thing is for sure, the media coverage can be counted on to be intense, influencing public perception as well as politicians looking for scapegoats and potential tax revenue sources.
To most people, taking a cruise means going somewhere; hence, itinerary planning plays a key role in delivering the cruise experience.
In the beginning, it was fairly easy, most ships sailed week-long cruises from Florida and fuel was cheap. Since then the industry has become global and fuel costs have skyrocketed.
Today, itinerary planning is often described as a big puzzle, whereby cruise lines seek to minimize costs – for fuel and ports – and maximize shore excursion revenue to the point of operating their own ports.
There is one inescapable factor, however, and that is passenger attraction – in order to be successful, itineraries must be salable, that is, people must want to go there.
As several cruise line executives point out in this issue, the attraction factor is a challenge cruise lines and ports/destinations need to work on together.
There will always be plenty to do whether for safety or itinerary planning. There’s never down-time for a dynamic, growing industry.
Angela Reale Mathisen & Oivind Mathisen