Hurricane Irene has been the big story this week as the cruise lines juggled itineraries to keep their cruise ships out of Irene's path. The Right Way, and Wrong Way, to Abandon Families in a Foreign Port as a Monster Storm Approaches Carnival and Royal Caribbean received a lot of press for leaving hundreds of passengers in San Juan Puerto, Rico as the hurricane approached. The local port officials informed the cruise lines that due to the storm's approach, the port was limiting harbor traffic. Carnival's Victory cruise ship left San Juan four hours early and Royal Caribbean's Serenade of the Seas left six hours ahead of schedule. As a result, 300 Carnival passengers and 145 Royal Caribbean passengers found themselves in San Juan as their cruise ships sailed away. Carnival handled the crisis effectively. The cruise line provided all of their guests with hotel rooms for two nights and offered to fly them to the next scheduled port in Barbados. Royal Caribbean cruisers provided hotel rooms only to the 15 passengers who purchased their tickets directly from the cruise line. The remaining 130 were left to find their own hotels as the storm approached. And anyone who wanted to meet up with the ship at the next port in Aruba, had to pay for their own transportation. This from the company whose mantra is "Deliver the Wow" to its guests? Unlike Carnival, Royal Caribbean made no effort to communicate the earlier departure time via their customers' emergency contact information and left families in the lurch in a time of emergency. Even super cruise fan Carolyn Spencer Brown editor of Cruise Critic, expressed outrage in her blog "Bad Weather Blunder: A Lesson in Cruise Crisis Control?" "This takes my breath away. And it's not about the fact that it didn't offer to pay for hotels and flights . . . . It's about dropping the ball in a risky situation. Clearly, I'm not the only one who is shocked at Royal Caribbean's lack of responsibility to its customers. On Cruise Critic's forums, its blog, and its Facebook page, travelers are incredulous." Wow is right. When you can shock Cruise Critic, you have really screwed up. Another Shocker (But No One is Shocked) – Royal Caribbean's Unlimited Booze Packages Travel Agent Central reported this week that Royal Caribbean "has taken a lead" in offering prepaid unlimited alcoholic packages to its passengers. RCCL's CEO Richard Fain is quoted as saying that unlimited booze packaging has been "hugely successful." The article states that on Celebrity cruise, passengers can pay for an unlimited drinks premium liquor plan for as much as $378 per person for a week cruise. "Your savings depends on how much you drink," the article reads. Yikes. The drunkest passenger gets the best value? This cruise line has struggled with alcohol related overboards and sexual assaults over the years. Take a moment and read Latest Royal Caribbean Rape Allegation Reveals Problem of Underage Drinking on Cruises. Its unlimited-booze-packages is a new low. I wonder if the cruise line kept all of the pre-paid unlimited alcohol money spent by the guests who missed the Serenade of the Seas in San Juan due to the hurricane? Are Cruise Stocks About to Tank Again? Investor Place has an interesting article about the tenuous nature of cruise lines stocks at this moment – "3 Reasons Cruise Line Stocks Might Be Starting to Sink." I have always tracked cruise stocks because crew member benefits are the first to get slashed when money gets tight for the cruise lines. Three years ago, Royal Caribbean's stock fell from the $40's to under $6 a share. The cruise line responded with harsh cost saving measures in ship employee benefits. The company's stock rebounded back to the $40's but has been in a nose dive this year back to the low $20's. As the cruise executives push alcohol sales to try and boost profits, what new measures will they introduce to screw the crewmembers?
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