THIRD IN A SERIES
When new Norwegian Epic set sail earlier this year, the ship was jam-packed with entertainment options. Miami-based Norwegian Cruise Lines promised a ground-breaking onboard experience that would set the bar higher for other cruise vacations. I think they delivered that. With last year’s Oasis of the Seas and this year’s new sister Allure of the Seas coming in December Royal Caribbean International is offering a unique experience too with activity and entertainment options never before seen at sea. Those headline-grabbing vessels get a lot of attention. What’s not being reported is what direction the future will bring but the writing is on the wall. Look for cruise lines to continue expansion at a more modest pace with a focus on refining operations in all areas.
- Individual ship branding- efforts are most visible today by Royal Caribbean as they try to promote upcoming Allure of the Seas as her own ship, not simply a cookie-cutter replica of Oasis. Surely, Oasis is a tough act to follow and Allure has her work cut out for her. But look for all lines to spend energy equal to that they have spent on expansion in the past on individual ship branding aimed at producing more return guests. Look to see more familiar faces when returning to the same ship again too as crew rotations slow and lines work on creating a following for specific ships. Not all that long ago it appeared that cruise lines were gravitating towards one central experience regardless of the line. Today and tomorrow, cruise lines focus on differentiating themselves from one another
- Ship Placement and Pricing- of ships will continue to be critical as lines reflect on where they have been and where they want to go. The recent Great Global Recession demanded a keen focus on controlling expenses and staying afloat during a time of record low bookings, cancellations of already booked vacations and a bleak outlook for recovery. Cruise lines know they fare well in Non-US markets and will continue to offer more ships sailing more unique itineraries. Look too for guests formerly happy with Caribbean itineraries to branch out to Alaska, Europe and other destinations. Prices come and go but a keen focus on the extreme value of a cruise vacation will prevail. It’s what got them to this point and what will propel them to a bright future.
- The next generation– In the next decade, a whole new generation of the cruising public will arrive on the scene. They’re all too busy right now to be bothered with such things but will soon have children and houses and cars and vacations. Energized by the current social trends they will be looking for something different, presented to them in their language with complete transparency by cruise lines that are engaged with them directly. That’s a mouth-full of stuff that cruise lines are just now beginning to taste. Some lines, like Princess Cruises with their FollowMeAtSea Twitter engagement, are diving in with cutting-edge efforts. Others have Facebook pages but embrace the social scene with more of a dabbling sort of “Let’s see if this turns into something” posture. Like so many business’, they want to add buzz word “social media” as a line item to their advertising or marketing plans alongside billboards, magazines, newspapers and other traditional promotion/public relation avenues.
Not just the cruise lines will be modifying and evolving how they do business either.
- Land vacations fight back– Tired of cruise lines stealing their guests, look for land vacations to become more competitive, interesting and a greater value. From Vegas to Yellowstone and every option in-between, look for land-based vacations to take their best shots at cruises. It’s been tough if not impossible for them to compete with the value offered by a cruise vacation in the past. But if cruise line executives convinced that cruises are priced too low get their way, prices will go up. As they do, watch for land vacations to move and attempt to swoop in for the kill. Nimble cruise line operations will react quickly but in the confusion of it all some extraordinary values in either land or cruise vacations will result.
- Travel Agents will solidly become the smart way to book by savvy travelers to the displeasure of some cruise lines hell bent on their annihilation. Other lines, firmly behind the travel agent community, will rise by the same social sword that will cut down those not engaged. Agents now using social venues as yet another place to slap their bargain advertisement will fail. Engaged agents with a one-on-one relationship with clients will thrive like never before.
In this series, ”The Future Of Cruise Vacations” , follow along as we explore what’s on the books right now and what is coming up down the road. We’ll look closely at different cruise lines, changes being made to existing ships and what’s coming up on new ships down the road. We’ll talk about pricing, value and what a cruise vacation is apt to offer in the near and distant future. Along the way we’ll answer your questions and ask a few of our own.