Here’s the problem with vacation: my brain goes with me.
Oh to be on a cruise
Once again my vacation of choice this year was a Carnival cruise. Snorkeling, cocktails, sun, sleep, food, fun, reading, napping.. the usual suspects all present and accounted for. Also in attendance, my communications consultant brain always seeing and thinking “oh they could do this, that business should try that.”
Difference makers. First time on a ‘Conquest’ class ship and while bigger may be better, it’s the Fun 2.0 features that really upgrade this cruise experience. I’ve done more cruises without those extra touches than with and all things the same, that’s the cruise that’s worth it. The Value is there; in the extra eateries and entertainment options, and across the board those ships, those crews, the food, the fun.. everything seems stepped up to the next level.
Know Your Customer. This was both hit and miss.
- The miss: many of my favorite experiences were scheduled during my getting ready for/eating dinner time. I know the cruise director was working around having only two sea days and yet, I can’t help but think – and wasn’t the only one to notice – that many of the popular activities were geared towards for the early seating. Balance for everyone, please.
- The hit: the redesigned, ‘upgraded’ dinner menus. Upgrade in quotes because in a brilliant stroke of branding and design smarts, Carnival fooled a lot of repeat guests into thinking it’s a ‘new’ menu. While some selections were new and truly improved, it’s also a lot of the same – simply repackaged. What was once the kitschy ‘didja’ as in ‘did ya ever want to try…’ is now labeled a ‘rare find,’ the ‘always available’ is the new ‘from the grill’ section, what was the ‘Caribbean’ inspired fare du jour has been dubbed ‘port of call’ to honor the journey. Same food, different labeling, pretty typesetting .. and voila everyone’s impressed.
- Near miss or almost hit. The pasta with the mushroom cream sauce doesn’t hold a candle to Maggiano’s Rigatoni D. Ergo changing a logo won’t fix the brand, a pretty menu with flowery marketing descriptions doesn’t improve the food. I’ve always thought Carnival made a mistake by cooking down to its guests; the ‘new’ menus aren’t a perfect fix but certainly another step – in line with the very good Blue Iguana Cantina and Guy Fieri’s burgers – in the right direction.
Keep it Simple. Much like when you go to Disney World, you’re not going for themes and rides – you’re there for the experience. People pay very good money for those family trips, those shared moments and memories.
Same with cruising; it’s a no worries, little bit of everything for everyone kind of vacation. To that end, I loved the cruise-ship owned ‘private’ island; it’s a nice lazy beach day, where they do all the work and planning for you and it’s included without an excursion expense.
Service + Value = The Trick. The Liberty crew did a great job but always room for improvement. Been in food service enough to know it’s hard to serve that many people and yet, with all their practice, you’d think I’d get better than lukewarm pancakes.
Then there are the various daily specials the spa runs. So while marketing gets the win, PR takes the loss as the nice woman I met who paid more than $100 bucks for her facial kinda felt she got hosed when they broadcast the $39 deal over the intercom. And a cheapskate like myself learns to never pay full price, wait for the promo sale and get that ‘value.’
Lagniappe. AKA random thoughts.
- Many ports and places kinda marketing proof; Grand Turk is such a small island, there’s little competition on beach clubs or diving operators — you pretty much have to take what you can get.
- That said, I repeated the exact excursion – a sail and turtle snorkel – I’d done a few years ago in St. Thomas, I thought so much of the service, experience and value.
- Comedians make brilliant sociologists, anthropologists. They relate to people – the why of what makes us tick – so they can tell jokes we’ll get. Dan Gabriel – “Going on Facebook is the life equivalent of looking in the fridge when you’re not hungry.” (Tweet This.) So spot-on I wrote it down. Makes me think PR turned comedian Shane Rhyne has a real chance.
Ok folks – books, gossip rags, a few too many drinks at the bar – how does one turn their brain off and just be away? Tell me your secret. P.S. Love it when a monster long blog post writes itself!