Sailing Into Profits: How to Grow Cruise Revenue

The 228-passenger Scenic Eclipse is one of many new expedition vessels to be launching soon. Shown here is the 366-square-foot Deluxe Verandah Suite. // Photo by Scenic

As cruise selling agents sail into the second half of 2018, the horizon is clear for robust cruise sales. But the cruise seascape always brings swells and bigger waves too. Being proactive in your sales game and knowing what opportunities to tap are critical for retailers. Here are key trends and events to watch through the end of 2018 and beyond.

Tap Into Solo Travel Opportunities: One in four adults will take some type of solo trip this year, industry research shows. The reasons vary widely. Solo travelers may simply love to travel and check off spots on their bucket list. Others are traveling solo due to the recent loss of a spouse or partner. Other solo travelers may be among a group of girlfriends or guys planning a getaway, yet they each want their own cabin. Or, solo cabins are often needed when a family member (grandma, grandpa or even a younger adult) travels with a large family group and desires a single cabin.

Agents should plan client chats and tap into these circumstances within promotional materials, newsletters, marketing e-mails or social media posts. Revealing its assessment of cruise trends for 2018, Cruise Planners (CP) says that “traveling solo doesn’t have to mean traveling alone as cruise lines make it easier and more comforting for those looking to explore the world with like-minded travelers.” On the ocean side, CP cites such cruise lines as Norwegian Cruise Line, Royal Caribbean International and Holland America Line that offer single cabins on certain ships.

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For example, the new Norwegian Bliss plus five other Norwegian ships have a complete Studio Complex and Lounge; this area, accessible only by key-card, includes individual solo interior cabins of up to 100 square feet; each has a private bathroom, large porthole (with interior views or, on Bliss, a virtual one), flat-screen TV and other stateroom perks. Best of all, at the exclusive lounge, solo travelers can relax, enjoy drinks, order room service, watch a big-screen TV and meet their solo “neighbors.”

Combine Two Voyages for Revenue Growth: Some cruise lines now offer both ocean and river products. A growing trend is a “combination” of those to create a longer, more diverse vacation. In 2019, Viking Cruises will launch a new “Ocean & River Voyages” product. Departing May 26 and June 2, 2019, Viking’s new 23-day “Grand European & Viking Fjords” combination itinerary couples the river line’s 15-day “Grand European Tour” voyage along the Rhine and Danube Rivers (between Budapest and Amsterdam on a 190-passenger Longship) with a week-long “Viking Shores and Fjords” ocean itinerary between Amsterdam and Bergen on the 930-passenger Viking Sun.

Keeping client expectations and product personalities in mind, agents themselves might create a list of potential ocean-river cruise match-ups for clients to consider. Perhaps throw in an onboard credit, free transfers, or a specialty restaurant perk if clients book the combination of voyages. Another option? Suggest one cruise for the family, one immediately after for a more relaxing couple’s getaway. So, Boomer or mature grandparents might travel with their adult children, grandchildren and even great grandchildren to Barcelona for a contemporary, fun-filled experience, but then head off when that voyage is over to a European river cruise with a pampering, wine-themed focus.

Looking further ahead, Crystal Cruises’ new collection of “Grand Journeys” are expanded sailings that combine 2020 Crystal Symphony and Crystal Serenity itineraries, allowing guests to curate voyages ranging from 14 to 57 days.

Help Millennials Head to Sea: The 2018 Cruise Travel Report prepared for Cruise Lines International Association, based on a JD Power survey, cited cruising as the top vacation choice in every age range. One highlight? Overall, 94 percent of Millennials said they’re likely to book a cruise for their next vacation — and they’re interested in contemporary affordable brands, but also premium brands, and even to some extent, luxury products. One reason? Millennials are the first generation to have routinely taken a cruise with their parents, so tap into that emotional connection. Also show how high-tech and yet “engaged” and customized the cruise experience has become. And stress the increased focus on active adventures and “authentic” experiences ashore.

Carnival Corporation in a blog posting noted that Millennials cruise because it’s highly appealing that accommodations, meals, activities and entertainment are included in the cruise fare. Shorter cruises appeal for affordability, while longer cruises provide an effortless way to see the world — traveling to Cuba, Europe, South Pacific and beyond. Millennials also like the convenience of local homeports for travel to the Caribbean, Mexican Riviera or Alaska without the cost and hassle of international flights.

Cruise ships offer an endless array of choices. Improved Internet access makes it easier for Millennials to post real-time photos and videos and to stream TV shows, movies and music. And like all generations, Millennials love the “no continual packing and unpacking” perk of a cruise. Plus, Millennials value hands-on activities. One example might be raising the sails on an authentic sailing ship, such as Star Clippers’ new five-masted, fully-rigged Flying Clipper, which is scheduled to debut this coming winter.

Tap into Expedition: Expedition cruising is a hot ticket. In Alaska, for example, even luxury lines such as Seabourn and Windstar Cruises have created an expeditionary approach by carrying Zodiacs and expedition teams. Many new expedition vessels are launching too, many with a luxury bent. They include the brand new 228-passenger Scenic Eclipse; the 200-passenger Crystal Endeavor, arriving in 2020; and Ponant’s 184-passenger Le Laperouse, which just launched. It will also launch Le Champlain this fall, and two more sister vessels in 2019.

Also launching in 2019 are the highly anticipated, 100-passenger Celebrity Flora, a new Galapagos expedition vessel; Hapag-Lloyd Cruises’ 230-passenger Hanseatic Nature (for German speakers) and Hanseatic Inspiration (for English and German speakers); and other expedition ships as well.

Promote the Power of Wellness/Fitness: Guests are increasingly drawn to a cruise vacation for new wellness and fitness options —both at sea and on shore excursions. Most lines have added new options. Among the latest? Celebrity Cruises and Canyon Ranch have introduced 20 new fitness classes and fitness / wellness seminar experiences for guests at sea; six class categories are based on different core needs and exercise groups: Sweat, Conditioning, Longevity, Mindfulness, Nutrition and Acupuncture.

For example, “Sweat: Tabata Impact,” a fast and furious, Japanese-style integrated interval work-out, combines cardio and training techniques, including core-strength training exercises. “Nutrition: Detox 101: Weight Loss and More,” delves into the most effective detoxifying foods, and how they promote weight loss and overall well-being.

Entice Workaholics to Cruise: The State of American Vacation 2018 research, prepared by “Project: Time Off” shows that Americans took 17.2 days of vacation last year, up a bit from 2016 and the highest level since 2010. But while 84 percent of consumers say it’s important to use time off for travel, they typically use less than half for that. Reasons given include cost, children and pets. Cruising certainly can help with the first two reasons.

Agents can stress it offers “value” with such inclusions as accommodations, dining and entertainment, plus promotional value-adds like onboard credits or specialty dining. Supervised children’s clubs, usually at no cost, are a big plus for parents who can then still enjoy “just for us” time as a couple.

The biggest barrier to consumer travel is “work.” Consumers fear taking a vacation will make them appear less dedicated or, worse yet, replaceable. Some believe their workload is too heavy or that no one else can do their job. One solution is for agents to tackle the work-life balance issue head-on. Show how a family can have a fabulous “bonding” cruise vacation — even if one adult still needs to keep in touch work-wise via phone or Internet or if one spouse needs to work during the day from the stateroom.

The rest of the family can still enjoy pool play, kids’ clubs, activities ashore, spa treatments, waterparks, virtual-reality activities or other fun activities. But then the entire family, including the working spouse, can still share a special dinner together, a family event or a show. And plans can be made for special outings on a holiday or weekend day, or during an off-work period, given time zone differences. It’s not a perfect solution, but it’s an option for some workaholic clients.

Keep Your Eyes on a New Partnership: Watch what happens with regulatory approvals as the year progresses. If all goes as planned, by later this year, Royal Caribbean Cruises Ltd. (RCCL), the world’s second largest cruise company, will complete a $1 billion investment deal announced in June — taking a 67 percent stake in privately held Silversea Cruises, operating both ultra-luxury and expeditions products. Manfredi Lefebvre, Silversea’s executive chairman, says RCL’s financial / operational strengths will allow his family-founded line “to grow at an unprecedented pace and will allow us to capture the burgeoning demand for ultra-luxury and expedition cruising.” In turn, Silversea’s nine vessels will also quickly expand RCL’s brand portfolio. “It will allow us to become brand leaders in every segment,” says Richard Fain, RCL’s chairman and CEO, noting that previously “ultra-luxury and expedition cruises were gaps in our product portfolio.”

RCL currently owns and operates Royal Caribbean International, Celebrity Cruises and Azamara Club Cruises. While Fain says there may be some “overlap” between Azamara, a luxury boutique brand, and ultra-luxury Silversea, he doesn’t see issues because he believes both have loyal customer bases and offer different products. Still agents tell us they hope that RCL doesn’t tinker with either the Azamara or Silversea brands.

One steadying factor is that this isn’t a pure buy-out. Silversea will remain an independent company although RCL will become its majority shareholder. It will be interesting to watch the synergies, including greater sales reach for Silversea.

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