Don’t rock the boat, baby

The cruise industry has hit some choppy waters lately, to say the least. Everyone in the world has seen the pictures of the Titanic-like Carnival Corp’s Costa Concordia. It’s like Captain Schettino fooled around while the ship sank.

And now the latest crisis to rock the boat – more than 100 passengers on the Ruby Princess, operated by a unit of Carnival, have picked up the nasty Norovirus that triggers vomiting and diarrhea for 1-3 days. And this was after ANOTHER ship was hit with the same bug the week before. So it’s no picnic for Carnival right now.

Talk about a PR crisis. First a luxury ship that sends passengers scrambling to lifeboats and then two ships that send passengers running to the toilet. They need some cruise control ASAP.

So, what should the cruise industry do to regain its sterling image and rebuild its brand? Where’s the crisis communications? One thought is a message about the relative safety of cruising versus driving or flying. Another idea is to implant feature or travel reporters and DJs on cruise ships to help promote the positives including rock climbing, ice skating, gambling, Rodeo Drive-like shopping, musicals, food and so on. Carnival Corp, or another large cruise group, can also book a travel expert on radio and TV shows to talk about not only what a deal cruising is for the whole family right now, but what a great vacation it is.

Personally, I’ve been on 11 cruises – 10 on really big ships – and except for one day of rough seas where I wanted to be helicoptered to the nearest spit of land, it was pure fun. I never had the slightest fear that the boat might leak or cruisers might debark with Depends.

I do think cruising is still safe and that it’s a great time to book. And no, I don’t work for the cruise industry. But, I do pack lots of Purell.

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