CLIA Survey of Agents Offers Insights Into Consumer Buying


Family and multigenerational cruise vacations continue to be popular among cruisers. // (c) 2011 Carnival Cruise Lines

From more choice in restaurant styles, water sports, adventure tours, Broadway shows and kids free zones, the diversity of offerings by cruise ships makes a big difference to today’s cruise vacationer, according to a new survey of travel agents by Cruise Lines International Association (CLIA). CLIA reports that shipboard lifestyles and choice of shore excursions play important roles when consumers choose a cruise, and cruise lines are doing a good job providing what their customers want.

The representative survey conducted in early June asked CLIA-member agents to evaluate the importance, according to their knowledge of client preferences, of dining experiences, spa and wellness opportunities, shipboard entertainment, accommodations, and shore excursions. It also asked agents whether cruise lines have made improvements in certain categories and how well cruise experiences compare to those offered in land-based vacations.

In choosing a particular cruise vacation, shipboard accommodations, according to the nearly 900 agents who responded to the CLIA survey based on their experience with clients, were the most important lifestyle attributes of a cruise, followed by cuisine, entertainment, spa/wellness facilities and programs and shore excursions.

CLIA reports that In terms of dining experiences, agents said that almost 75 percent of clients look for added choices of alternative styles of shipboard restaurants, followed by traditional dining room experiences and more casual “Lido Deck” style dining. They also reported that more clients are requesting heart-healthy cuisine, closely followed by diabetic/sugar-free menus.

Significantly, CLIA notes, cruise lines seem to have overcome the perception that cruise passengers worry about gaining weight: only 10 percent of agents said their clients expressed that concern more than occasionally.

Workout facilities and adults-only (or kids-free) facilities top the list of spa and wellness interests, according to agents. Other wellness features in order of importance to clients are saunas and hot tubs, spa services, running tracks and group exercise programs, and beauty salons. The majority of respondents said that shipboard spa and wellness facilities compared favorably to those on land and almost 75 percent of cruisers believe that these facilities have improved in the last three years, CLIA reports.

Almost 80 percent of agents said that shipboard entertainment has improved during the same period, with Broadway style shows, Las Vegas style revues and “famous name” acts ranking at the top of consumers’ preference lists. Seventy-five percent of respondents said that cruise ship entertainment compares favorably to land-based vacations.

Price is the top consideration when vacationers are choosing shipboard accommodations, according to agents responding to the survey, followed, in order, by: in-cabin amenities, Wi-Fi, adjoining rooms and branded bedding. A large majority of agents – 90 percent – also believe that cruise ship accommodations have improved somewhat or greatly in the last three years, CLIA said.

Among the most popular shore excursions among cruisers, are “sun and sand” experiences, including beach, snorkeling, and watersports. City tours and adventure excursions, such as zip-lining, fishing, hiking and horseback riding, are also extremely popular, followed by shopping tours, arts and culture, ecotours and extreme tours like cave tubing, jet fighter experiences and race car driving. There is also moderate and increasing interest in VIP tours.

CLIA agents also were asked about other aspects of cruising with the following findings:

• The fastest growing segments of cruising are multigenerational families, followed by families with children

• A casual elegant shipboard ambiance, closely followed by casual atmosphere are the favorites among most travel agents’ clients, with both increasing in popularity; followed by country club, formal or more laid back shipboard atmospheres

• Eighty-five percent of the surveyed travel agents reported an increase in clients celebrating a life milestone on a cruise. Weddings and vow renewals lead the life milestone list followed by multigenerational family reunions, honeymoons and college/high school graduations.