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Weaver, Adam C.

The McDonaldization of the cruise industry? Tourism, consumption, and customer service
Ph.D., University of Toronto, Canada, 2003, 435 pages

In this dissertation, I examine cruise travel and the cruise industry. The cruise industry has expanded rapidly in recent decades and more cruise vessels continue to be built. It is also apparent that cruise ships have increased in size--and more services and amenities are available on board. These trends deserve scholarly exploration.

My research examines the ways in which cruise travel and the cruise industry have been shaped by the McDonaldization process. The McDonaldization process has been studied extensively by George Ritzer, an American social scientist, who has tried to understand rationalization and standardization within contemporary society. It is Ritzer's contention that certain principles underpin the McDonaldization process, and that this process has come to infiltrate many aspects of our daily existence. This process has also come to influence the tourism sector. The McDonaldization thesis (the name Ritzer affixes to his explanatory framework)captures the orchestrated and ordered nature of many commercial transactions and activities within the tourism industry.

I am careful to deploy the McDonaldization thesis with caution, however. The principles that underpin McDonaldization are occasionally undermined by risk and uncertainty--in other words, events and trends that cannot be controlled or rendered calculable and predictable. There are risks and uncertainties that possess the capacity to ruin a cruise vacation for tourists, affect the income earned by cruise-ship workers, or even bankrupt a cruise-ship company. It is also difficult to reconcile McDonaldization with the concept of post-Fordistcustomization. The McDonaldization thesis does not account for the desire expressed by many consumers for product variety and personalized customer service.

It is my contention that risk and post-Fordist customization affect the way in which McDonaldization manifests itself on board cruise ships and across the cruise industry. Risk and post-Fordist customization have not caused the disappearance of McDonaldization--and McDonaldization has not caused uncertainty and niche-market products to vanish. I do not use theory in this dissertation in a way that stifles complexity. Instead, my study of cruise-ship tourism is sensitive to tensions and oppositional tendencies.