The UK’s cruise market is going from strength-to-strength with bargain-hungry Brits boosting the all-inclusive package concept.
Phil Evans, the founder and owner of Cruise Nation, said there is also a trend in the overall marketplace for long-haul products, which are “massively up over last year”.
Evans told Cruise Industry News: “Consumers want great value for money, and while free drinks packages represent the best value in most cases, customers who do not drink are often left at a disadvantage, therefore it is important to give customers choices.”
Online agency Iglu’s commercial product director, Dave Mills, is upbeat about the fortunes for the UK market and explained that the market has moved away from a purely price-driven sector with cruise lines now increasingly offering a more all-inclusive product and having a lot more to do onboard which is, more often than not, included in the price.
“These all-inclusive packages are so popular right now. The more you have included and the more time you have to explain the experiences, the more interest we see,” Mills said. “Outside the cruising market, all-inclusive holidays are very popular and the cruise market looks like it’s joining this sector in some way.”
He added that the cruise lines have committed to offering ever better value in recent years and packages are effectively close to the final holiday costs outside the sector with guests not having to spend much once they are onboard.
All-inclusive packages can include shore excursions and, even if they are not included, Mills said that cruise lines are working hard to offer immersive, once-in-a-lifetime experiences, which can still be very good value for money.
Like Cruise Nation, Iglu is also seeing distinct trends appearing in the UK’s cruise market.
“There are some broader trends and we are seeing huge growth in the area of expedition cruises, where people are generally going on smaller ships but heading off the beaten track to destinations such as the Galapagos and Antarctica,” Mills said. “Perhaps this is down to people seeing programs such as Blue Planet on TV and then want to see the locations for themselves.
Another trend appearing for travel agencies is for Brits to book their cruise holidays further ahead than in recent years.
Evans noted: “There has been a significant shift so far this year to winter 2018-2019 and summer 2019. This is mainly down to the many early booking offers available; in some cases, it is cheaper to book a 2019 cruise over a 2018 cruise.
“We have also seen our customers book further ahead than they were this time last year; our average booking window is now nine months in advance.
“Overall cruise prices are increasing. Cruise lines are rewarding customers for booking early with the best prices and incentives. Whereas two years ago, customers were waiting until the last minute knowing that prices would be reduced and they would get a better deal.”
ABOARD THE SILVER MUSE — In a news conference aboard Silversea Cruises’ first new luxury vessel in eight years, company chairman Manfredi Lefebvre d’Olvidio sounded optimistic that the 596-passenger Silver Muse would eventually be joined by one or more sister ships, to reach an eventual goal of a 12-ship fleet.
“What is a fact is that we have three options for three identical ships, at incredibly good terms,” Lefebvre said.
He said the options are for ships to be delivered in 2020, 2021 and 2023. He also said that puts Silversea in a good position, given the recent flood of ship orders that has created a backlog at shipyards.
“Now company policy is we announce things when we do them. When we say we’re going to build a ship, it’s going to happen,” Lefebvre said. He did not have any announcements about exercising the options.
The company’s next project after taking delivery of the Silver Muse is the conversion of its first ship, Silver Cloud, to do expedition cruising, including trips to Antarctica.
Lefebvre said the company has earmarked $170 million for upgrading its fleet. “If it’s necessary to do more, we’ll do more. If it’s not necessary, we will not. But we have a goal. We will proceed immediately with the Cloud. Hopefully another ship will be announced soon to have a massive refurbishment and renovation,” he said.
The 596-passenger Muse, delivered on April 3 by the Fincantieri shipyard, has eight restaurants but no main dining room.
“This ship for us sets a new standard. And, of course, it gives me the problem now that I will have to invest more money in the rest of the fleet,” Lefebvre said.
Silversea plans a global brand campaign starting this summer, related to some product announcements, chief marketing officer Barbara Muckermann said.
Muckermann told a group of agents on the ship in a presentation that Silversea’s target market are baby boomers, and that most of the millennial generation has yet to build the wealth needed to cruise on Silversea.
Lefebvre said that travel agents will play a key role in Silversea’s eventual growth to 12 ships, telling them,”If you help me fill this ship, I will build three more of these.”