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Published on Friday, June 7, 2013

New Harris poll: Cruise perceptions continue to fall

In March, when the Harris Poll asked people how they felt about cruising, many chalked up the low scores to the Carnival Triumph fiasco. But a May poll, conducted prior to the fire on the Royal Caribbean's Grandeur of the Seas, has found that perceptions have continued to decline.

The poll, released yesterday, finds that average perceived Quality score across the seven brands tested is down by 13% vs. its level before the Carnival fire, and 6% compared to the testing directly after the incident.

While Carnival's Quality score shows the steepest declines (down 28% vs. pre and 12% vs. post), all the other brands fell by 8%-11%.

The average Trust score across the seven brands is also down in comparison to pre (down 12%) and post (down 5%) incident. Trust shows the steepest decline for Carnival Cruise Lines (down 26% vs. pre, 11% vs. post), but the six other brands tested fell 8%-12%.

Purchase Intent declined, on average, 11% from its pre incident level and 5% from its post incident level.

While most of the brands were down 7%-15%, Holland America's Purchase Intent score was largely unaffected, at just 2% below its pre level. Carnival was again hardest hit, down 20% vs. pre, 8% vs. post.

The falling perception of cruises has improved the public's view of airline travel.

More than six in 10 Americans (62%) agree that air travel is much more reliable than taking a cruise (up from 57% in February), and the majority (56%) agree that air travel is much safer (up from 50% in February).

Roughly half of Americans (51%, roughly even with February's 53%) agree that they're less likely to take a cruise now than they were a year ago, with this sentiment proving stronger among those who have never taken a cruise (56%) than among those who have (43%).

One-third of Americans (32%) agree that cruises are "worry-free," down slightly from 35% in February, with past cruise experience again appearing to have a considerable impact on this perception: those who have taken a cruise (51%) are again more than twice as likely to agree that cruises are "worry free" as those who have not (22%).

"When we first addressed this topic in March, even we were open to the idea that a 'recency bias' of sorts might be impacting the results so soon after the Triumph fiasco, creating a low tide for the industry as a whole," said Harris Poll Insights vice president Deana Percassi. "But these more recent findings, coupled with reports of heavily discounted pricing on Carnival cruises, indicate that the industry as a whole, as well as the Carnival brand specifically, may still be facing rough seas." 

The May Harris Poll was conducted online within the United States between May 14 and 16, among 2,052 adults aged 18 and over.

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