The cruise industry is a bit of an oddity in that it’s exhibiting rapid growth while simultaneously showing relatively small market penetration. Lots more people are cruising than before, but that percentage of the population is still relatively small overall.
Cruise lines, of course, cherish their loyalists, but they most covet those who have never taken a cruise before.
The question is: Just how should they go about attracting them onboard?
Most recently, the hardware approach has been ever bigger ships while the software approach has been ever more pizzaz. But could a return to basics really be all that is necessary to effectively market to the uninitiated?
Surely, the bigger-is-better approach has worked to an extent; I’m not saying otherwise.
Just look to Royal Caribbean International’s latest and greatest: the Harmony of the Seas. As the world’s largest cruise ship, it has undoubtedly received tons of buzz globally, which has, in turn, translated hype into sales.
However, when I last interviewed David Herrera, president of Norwegian Cruise Line Holdings China about the brand’s new Norwegian Jo,y he reminded me of a simple point that resonates in the Chinese market as much as it does in the North American one—and quite frankly, internationally.
Cruise travel remains attractive because of its wonderful value proposition and convenience. The ability to affordably unpack once and visit multiple cities (and, in many cases, countries) within a single sailing is unparalleled in travel.
For decades, these core fundamentals were enough to attract people to cruising, but they were doing so at a slow pace. To pick up steam, the marketing message has been emboldened with even more.
Most cruise lines agree that the “go big or go home” approach is working, and their collective acceptance of that has made the entire industry more noticeable to the public.
When a cruise ship launches with bells and whistles—such as skydiving and surfing simulators, waterslides and water-coasters, zip-lines and other sky rides that put shoreside attractions to shame—people definitely take notice. Ultimately, cruise lines are competing with land resorts as much or more so than themselves.
Travelers generally consider shoreside options tried-and-true. The key is convincing them to take one of their precious weeks off and “chance” it on an unknown cruise instead.
That’s when cruise guarantees are brilliant.
A neon sign is great, but if it outshines the core message, it is not.
By all means, cruise lines should continue innovating with bold new features and touting them proudly. But they should also continue informing people about what makes cruising so great at its very core.
That’s where travel agents come in. They should never forget when listing off all the facts and figures of a new ship what most makes a cruise appealing: its value and convenience.
If the goal is to make a bolder statement with wild new onboard features, perhaps there is also a sexier way to share the basics too.
Cruise ads could really do a much better job at conveying the inherent package deal that exists on a cruise. Not only do guests get passage to several ports included, but they also receive accommodations and most meals, activities and entertainment rolled into the fare as well. These are significant details that need to be highlighted much better.
Norwegian Joy’s new go-kart racetrack, for instance, is an absolute blast and certainly a conversation starter, but let’s not forget that the discussion should also touch on the simple joys of a cruise as well.