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Disney tops cruise customer satisfaction list

Written by Nick Blenkey

Meyer MinnieJUNE 27, 2013 — Disney Cruise Line ranks highest in customer satisfaction in a J.D. Power 2013 Cruise Line Satisfaction Report released today.

The report indicates that while overall customer satisfaction with cruise lines is high, nearly one in five customers experience a problem while on their cruise.

The 2013 Cruise Line Satisfaction Report is based on responses from 3,003 customers who traveled on seven cruise lines in the past 12 months. The study was fielded from May 29, 2013, through June 14, 2013.

According to the J.D. Power report, price (53 percent) and past experience with brand (39 percent) are the two primary reasons for selecting a cruise line.

The average price paid for a cruise by one person is $1,628 and $2,330 for a group of two to four.

The report measures cruise line customer satisfaction based on seven key factors (in order of importance):  service; stateroom; food; embark/debark; entertainment; cost; and excursions.

Disney Cruise Line ranks highest in customer satisfaction with a score of 871 (on a 1,000-point scale), significantly higher than the report average of 824, and performs particularly well in the entertainment and food factors. Royal Caribbean International ranks second with a score of 838, and performs particularly well in service. Holland America Line ranks third at 835, also performing particularly well in service.

While customer service, stateroom and food comprise more than 50 percent of the contribution to overall satisfaction, the number of problems passengers experience during their cruise also has a significant impact on loyalty and advocacy. Overall, 18 percent of passengers across all cruise lines indicate they experienced at least one problem on their cruise. On average, cruise line passengers experience 1.8 problems.

Passengers experiencing zero or one problem (61 percent and 55 percent, respectively) say they “definitely will” take another cruise with the cruise line they most recently used. When two to three problems are experienced, the likelihood of customers taking another cruise with the same cruise line drops dramatically (33 percent and 28 percent, respectively). Among the brands above the industry average, 68 percent of passengers indicate they “definitely will” recommend their cruise line to others, surpassing the report average of 61 percent. A high level of satisfaction translates into customer loyalty and advocacy, says J.D. Power.

“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 percent of passengers who experience a problem with their cruise line experience. Cruise lines need to understand the causes of customer dissatisfaction and determine what will motivate them to come back.”

The primary reason for choosing a particular cruise line is price (53 percent). However, among customers who say they “definitely will not” or “probably will not” return for another cruise, cost is the driving factor, with their overall satisfaction score at 614 points. The average price paid for one person is $1,628. When the number of people in the traveling party increases to two or four, prices average $2,330 for the group. Among customers who say they “definitely will” return, service is the key reason for their decision.

“To retain existing customers or acquire new customers, cruise lines need to be extremely sensitive to the price point that is most comfortable for customers, while providing the highest level of service possible,” said Mr. Faza. “It’s all about perceived value for customers. Did they get their money’s worth? Was the service better than expected? Simply put, cruise lines need to work harder to create an enjoyable experience in which customers feel they are getting a great value for the price. Cruise lines that satisfy their customers and provide them with a reason to cruise again are rewarded with loyal customers.”

Most consumers become aware of their cruise line brand through one of several means: the cruise line’s website (28 percent); they are loyal customers who have traveled with the cruise line previously (24 percent); or they discover the brand from friends and family (17 percent). Additionally, television plays a role in creating awareness about cruise lines, with 2.8 percent of customers saying that TV ads were the reason they selected a cruise line brand.

Overall Customer Satisfaction Index Scores (Based on a 1,000-point scale)

Disney Cruise Line        871

Royal Caribbean International        838

Holland America Line        835

Celebrity Cruises        828

Princess Cruises        826

Report Average        824

Norwegian Cruise Line    817

Carnival Cruise Lines             810
J.D. Power is a business unit of McGraw Hill Financial.

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