Cruise ship rating systems meaningless, says prof
When trying to select the best cruise ship package, you should look at the age and the size of the ship rather than the rating systems in guidebooks, according to research by a University of Guelph professor.
“Cruise ship rating systems are meaningless,” said Joe Barth of the school of hospitality and tourism management. “You don’t need to use guides; you just need to know that new ships and larger ships are better.”
Barth and Reg Swain, a graduate of the school of hospitality and tourism management’s MBA program, found that as much as 70 per cent of the ratings are explained by only two variables: the ship’s launch date and the space-to-passenger ratio. Their research is published in the International Journal of Hospitality and Tourism Administration.
“Although cruise guides with star ratings appear to be well-researched and include a tremendous amount of information, each guide’s rating system is different and can confuse readers considering a vacation cruise,” said Barth.
There are more than 370 passenger ships around the world for vacation travellers. Cruises vary by duration, cost, activity, service level and theme. Because cruises aren’t cheap, making the right choice is critical for most people.
For their study, Barth and Swain examined four cruise guides: Berlitz Complete Guide to Cruising and Cruise Ships, The Unofficial Guide to Cruises, Stern’s Guide to the Cruise Vacation and Cruises Econoguide. They found that the rating systems were subjective to each writer’s criteria and opinion, and that the rating of the same ship often differs among guidebooks.
The researchers found that a simple way to estimate the five-star rating for a cruise ship is to divide the space (in square feet)-to-passenger ratio by 10. The result will be statistically compatible with the information provided in the four cruising guides examined in the study.
“Newer ships have more amenities and better designs than older ships,” said Barth. “They are more comfortable, have lower operating costs, resulting in more competitive fares, and have a design customers prefer. Some newer ships targeted towards the budget market try to squeeze in more passengers to increase revenue. Ships with more space per passenger, whether new or old, small or large, are more luxurious for the passenger.”
“We feel confident in advising first-time cruisers to select newer ships and/or ships with large space-to-passenger ratios that fall within their price range,” said Barth. “They are unlikely to be disappointed with their choice.”
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