Labor Day signals the start of fall, the introduction of cooler weather in much of the U.S., and the last third of 2017. It also leads into this year's last "launch wave" of major new ships, adding more capacity to the industry and more berths for agents to sell.
In particular, North American travel agents are eagerly anticipating the arrival of the 154,000, 4,134-passenger MSC Seaside from MSC Cruises and the 47,800-grt Viking Sun from Viking Ocean Cruises.
Dream Cruises' new World Dream is also launching this fall in the Asian market.
But any new ships -- regardless of whether the client opts to sail on one of those or not -- create marketplace “buzz” and get people talking about cruises.
Most importantly, “new ships give agents the opportunity to educate consumers that a cruise vacation is the best value vacation,” says Drew Daly, general manager of network engagement and performance, CruiseOne, Dream Vacations and Cruises Inc.
“The new vessels also bring greater awareness of all the amenities available to cruise passengers such as amazing restaurants, quality entertainment and variety of onboard activities," he adds.
Built for Warm Weather Cruising
As part of its 10-year, $10 billion expansion, MSC Cruises will welcome its first Seaside-generation ship in December. The 154,000-ton, 4,134-passenger MSC Seaside, designed for warm weather sailings, will arrive in Miami in December 2017 for its christening.
“I’m excited to have a new ship out of Miami that’s year-round,” says Shaiy Howard, owner and travel advisor, Travel by Shaiy LLC, an independent agency in South Florida affiliated with Travel Planners International.
She can’t wait for her clients to check out the bar bowling, as well as the other lounges including the Jazz bar. “Also, the kids and teen programs seem interesting,” Howard notes.
From another perspective, “the MSC Seaside promises to bring the industry closer to the water with the amazing design of the exterior promenade providing guests with more fresh air, open spaces and options for exploring outside the ship,” says Daly.
Bringing the sea closer is the intent of that 360-degree promenade, two glass-floor catwalks that will extend beyond the ship and glass elevators to provide panoramic ocean views. Agents also are eagerly awaiting their first look at the ship's condo-style design, particularly aft, where it more resembles a hotel than a cruise ship.
MSC Seaside’s Caribbean cruises to either the eastern or western Caribbean will operate year-round from PortMiami. The eastern Caribbean itinerary will call at San Juan, Puerto Rico; Philipsburg, St. Maarten; Nassau, The Bahamas.
The western Caribbean itinerary will feature calls at Ocho Rios, Jamaica; George Town, Grand Cayman; and Cozumel, Mexico.
A Growing Fleet
A sister ship to Viking Star and the fourth ship in the growing Viking Ocean Cruises fleet is the new Viking Sun, which debuts in late fall.
What’s the draw for cruising enthusiasts? “Viking Cruises is offering a more upscale and inclusive vacation experience that is focused on the destination,” says Daly.
Michael Consoli, a Cruise Planners franchise owner based in Roswell, GA, (shown in the photo at left during a river cruise), describes Viking's new seagoing ship as a blend between Viking's river product and "a small ship ocean liner, with inclusive pricing."
He believes Viking's ocean ships create an upscale residential feel so some guests may not even feel as though they're on a cruise.
Consoli plans to position the new ship as "a natural progression for those who have experienced river cruises and are now looking to have that same destination immersion and small-ship atmosphere while sailing to new ports around the world."
Viking Sun will sail global itineraries, among them Viking’s “2018 World Cruise” from Los Angeles to London, a 122-day cruise that explores 257 countries. Cruisers can also opt for the 21-day pre-cruise sailing from Miami to Los Angeles, creating an even longer voyage.
A shorter option is “Cultural Cuba,” an eight-day voyage offered on multiple departures late this year. The benefit for U.S. agents is that this is roundtrip from Miami, with good air lift and pre- and post-cruise hotel stay opportunities in South Florida.
New Ship Promotion
Whether it’s these two ships this fall, or others next year, how can agents best promote or market these new cruises?
Daly recommends this as a top promotional tip:
- Use visual images to post on social media with any new ships that come out. Look for images of food, activities or just the ship.
- Accompany the image with a quick phrase to encourage the consumer to take action and reach out to the agent.
“For instance, something as simple as ‘there is no better vacation than a cruise. Let me help you find your best cruise vacation,’” could be highly effective,” he says.
Being a great matchmaker is, of course, always key. With just one third of the year left, it's a good time to contact cruise line business development managers, find out what clients are the best fit and what tools they have to promote and sell a new ship.
Vicky Garcia, COO, co-owner, Cruise Planners, says cruise line sales teams will effectively help agents build their businesses, and Viking, for example, "even has a turn-key 'Cruise Show Sales Kit' with flyers, travel agent tips, and more to help agents host successful cruise nights."
More in the Pipeline
The good news is that more new oceangoing ships are launching in 2018. Those range from the upscale yacht Scenic Eclipse to the sailing ship Flying Clipper to the ultra-luxury Seabourn Ovation.
In addition, agents will have plenty of new, larger ships to sell with the 2018 launches including Norwegian Bliss, Carnival Horizon, Celebrity Edge, Holland America Line's Nieuw Statendam and Royal Caribbean International's Symphony of the Seas, among many others.
In total, the world's major shipyards have a burgeoning order book of 77 new ships valued at $48.9 billion for delivery between now and 2025.
Look for continuing updates here with tips from front-line agents on how to sell and market new ship products.