Years ago, a cruise terminal at a U.S. port might have been a dimly lit warehouse facility, sometimes in a seedy area of a city. Cruisers tried to ignore these facilities and focus on boarding their ship. Today, ports recognize the importance of aesthetics and the economic valne of keeping cruisers happy. Many ports boast sparkling new terminals and parking garages.
New facilities are certainly welcome. But perhaps a more interesting development is that ports increasingly see themselves not just in the cruise business, but also in the hospitality business. For example, Port Canaveral officials often welcome cruise ships that arrive to add a personal touch.
We’ve seen that first hand. We disembarked (unannounced) from Seabourn Pride for a port call a few months back. To our surprise, David Poston, Port Canaveral’s assistant director of marketing, was meeting guests, ship staff and tour operators just outside the terminal. Poston and other executives regularly meet ships to see how everything is flowing and to make cruisers feel valued.
Many of these new facilities feature improved services. The Cruise Seattle Concierge at the Bell Street Pier Cruise Terminal and at the Terminal 30 Cruise Facility will store luggage before or after a cruise in a safe, secure location at a cost of $3 per bag. The concierge will also drop stamped letters or postcards in the mail, sell domestic and international phone cards, provide information about Seattle activities, make a dinner reservation, arrange for a taxi or limo and even address special requests.
In New Orleans, cruisers parking in the newest cruise terminal will find everything in one building. Before they park, a seacap (the cruise version of a skycap) will take their bags; they’ll simply drive in and park, then take an elevator to the check-in.
Many ports, including Cruise Philly, the Port of Charleston and the Port of Los Angeles, have developed attraction-and-dining discount booklets for cruisers. Many ports, including Port Canaveral, have worked with local hoteliers to create packages that include free parking at the hotel dnring the cruise and free shuttle service to and from the port.
Solidly in the “above and beyond” department is the Port of Mobile. Just before the Carnival Holiday
returns to that port, port employees scour the parking garage. No, they’re not issuing tickets for parking in the wrong place or citing the guest for some other infraction. They’re in search of flat tires.
Most cruisers out of Mobile are drive-market customers, some driving fairly hefty distances to get there. It’s not that uncommon for cars in the garage to have a flat, says Sheila Gnrganus, operations manager of the Mobile Alabama Cruise Terminal. Gurganus says coming off the ship and realizing you have a flat can be depressing after you just had such a wonderful cruise experience.
But at Mobile, dozens of cruisers every year head for their cars, only to find a friendly note on the windshield stating (in essence): “We noticed you had a flat tire. We took the liberty of fixing it. Enjoy your trip home.” And the port doesn’t charge a cent. Now that’s service!
Separately, while ports are doing much to satisfy cruisers, so are cruise lines. We had a chance to talk to Frank Del Rio, president and CEO of Oceania Cruises
, at the annual Seatrade conference, and while he wouldn’t publicly reveal specifics to reporters about public spaces planned for the newest Oceania
-class ships, he said that you can expect to see larger spas with plunge pools and cantilevered whirlpool spas that extend off the sides of the ship (similar to those on Royal Caribbean
’s Freedom of the Seas
Labels: Cruise ports