Cruise lines try all sorts of things to please passengers, cooking up fresh ideas for cutting-edge restaurants, cabin designs, and itineraries. Many of the innovations are fabulous — think climbing walls and lawns covered in fresh grass — but, well, not everything can be a hit. Read on for our very opinionated countdown of programs and innovations that just didn’t work:
Disney Cruise Line
All 150 interior cabins on Disney Fantasy and Disney Dream have these innovations, which beam real-time views from outside the ship. (Picture pixelated waves with animated Disney characters — from Mickey Mouse to "Finding Nemo’s" Peach, the starfish — floating by. On one hand, a virtual digital window sounds oh so much better than a blank wall or a generic framed picture. And it’s a clever idea that’s beloved by toddlers and maybe some grown-ups, too. On the other hand, an inside cabin is an inside cabin. Nothing can change that — not even an overhyped LCD screen.
With just about everyone from grandmas to elementary school kids swiping away on their various digital devices, Royal Caribbean’s offer of iPad® tablets in suites sounded like a great idea. But not only do most passengers travel with their own devices, each ship's offerings aren’t connected to the Internet; they’re connected to the ship’s internal network to enable guests to order room service, watch movies, and get promotions from the ship's revenue-producing outlets, such as the spa and specialty restaurants. At the end of each cruise, the devices had to be sent to an offshore IT office to be wiped clean of all pictures, videos, and other data. What a hassle. It’s no surprise that Royal Caribbean is phasing out the program.
SeaDream Yacht Club
When SeaDream Yacht Club’s pair of 112-passenger mini-cruisers were refashioned from the stuffier Sea Goddess ships a little more than a decade ago, the focus was on offering a fun, sporty yachting vibe for active baby boomers — and that meant lots of toys for adults. Along with MP3 players and Balinese sun beds, a handful of the two-wheeled Segway® Human Transporters were added onboard each ship for use in port. What a cool thought to zip around port on one of these funky upright scooters, right? Turns out the idea of a Segway is sexier than actually trying to balance on one along the unfamiliar streets of some foreign port. They were under-used, and eventually removed.
Viking Crown Lounge
This panoramic perch was applauded as a groundbreaker when it first appeared on the new Song of Norway in 1970. It was built to cling dramatically to the exterior of the smokestacks, offering bird’s eye views in all directions. It was a Royal Caribbean trademark for years until the novelty wore off: Fewer and fewer passengers bothered to go up to the lounge, and the great view was trumped by nightclubs, bustling bars, live music, shopping, and dining. By the time the Vision-class ships debuted 25 years later, the lounge was relocated to the top of the atrium and, on the line’s newer ships, it exists in name only. It will be phased out completely on the soon-to-debut Quantum of the Seas.
A completely nonsmoking ship sounds like paradise to many travelers. Carnival Cruise Lines tried it back in 1997 with its 2,052-passenger Carnival Paradise, proudly launched as the world’s first totally smoke-free ship. After much fanfare, the experiment was snuffed out, and in 2004, the ship returned to offering designated smoking areas like the rest of the fleet. A spokesperson explained that the idea failed because Carnival Paradise didn't attract as many groups (a big and coveted part of a cruise line’s revenue stream). If a member of the group was a smoker, the group would book a different ship.
Norwegian Cruise Line
On paper, it made sense: Position three ships in the gorgeous islands of Hawaii year-round out of Honolulu. Norwegian Cruise Line bet big on the idea in the early 2000s, launching the first U.S.-flagged cruise ships in decades. The trio sailed Hawaii itineraries, some of which included a call to far-flung Fanning Island just north of the equator, where the beaches truly are unspoiled and gorgeous, but the trip requires two days sailing each way. From the onset, complaints arose about the service levels from the all-American crew, and — more importantly — Norwegian struggled to fill the three ships. Eventually, the line repositioned two ships to other places, just leaving the Pride of America to offer year-round sailings from Honolulu.
iPad is a trademark of Apple Inc., registered in the U.S. and other countries.
Segway is a registered trademark of Segway Inc.