Archive for December, 2008

Looking forward to 2009

CAPE CANAVERAL, FL - JANUARY 04: In this hando...

CAPE CANAVERAL, FL - JANUARY 04: The 4,000-passenger Disney Dream (Image credit: Getty Images via @daylife)

I’m writing this post from Mexico City – but won’t be away from Cruise long.  I’m headed for Acapulco for New Years and will be checking out the port.  I’ll return to Miami January 7, 2009 and won’t be able to post again until then.

Looking forward to 2009 I will be focusing my Cruise Market Watch efforts in a couple of primary areas:

1)    Each month I will look at one specific market niche where cruise lines can increase penetration, grow market share and revenue.  Once the market segment is detailed and sized for potential, I will follow up with thoughts and ideas about “how to win them” such as the "link together and take away strategy," and "getting your pods chirping."
2)    I will be launching Cruise Pulse sometime in February.  This will be a monthly survey panel of travel agents to measure forward booking trends and will augment our Cruise Search Index and Cruise Price Index.  All valuable tools for industry watchers, analysts and investors.
3)    Of coarse, we will continue to follow industry news from a marketing perspective and update market share and revenue projections.
4)    I will also start posting Top 10 monthly cruise deals and “just for fun” cruise related Top 10 lists at

Thank you for stopping by and I hope you are enjoying the holiday season.


Cruise Ship Santa Claus Sighting


Miami (Cruise Market Watch) Thursday, December 25 2008, 5:30 a.m. - A photographer responded to two calls of reported Santa Claus sightings onboard the Carnival Destiny, early Thursday morning.  After thoroughly checking the area, deputies who were dispatched to the Port of Miami were unable to locate Santa Claus at that time.  The cruisers who spotted Santa Claus, also known as Saint Nicholas, Kris Kringle or simply "Santa” indicated he was headed back to the North Pole lead by his team of eight flying reindeer.

Destiny passengers and crew commented they were pleased by the unexpected visit, explaining they assumed having been returning to port late Christmas Eve Santa would not be able to locate them.  As one cruise traveler put it “he knows when you are sleeping, and he knows when you're awake, it’s frankly amazing.”  Kitchen staff noted a half gallon of milk and at least one dozen cookies had gone mysteriously missing.

Later that same morning the Monroe County Sheriff's Station received additional Santa sighting calls near Key Largo, Florida.  Deputies quickly responded and located Santa Claus on the rooftop of a local residence.  The deputies were able to track Santa Claus near the neighborhoods for more than twenty minutes, before eventually losing site of him across the Atlantic Ocean south of Tavernier.

Viva Las Cruises – The Cruise Market Can Grow

While I have yet to hear of a major boxing or Mixed Martial Arts (MMA) match aboard a cruise ship, there are some analogies and lessons to be drawn from the boom era experienced in the Desert City and the future potential of cruise lines.

Jon Mayer’s “Mayercraft Carrier” and  – the cruise lines version of “Elvis Live In Las Vegas Hilton”

Elvis live in the Las Vegas Hilton and the cruise line version - Jon Mayer’s “Mayercraft Carrier”


  • Cruise ship building, like construction of Las Vegas hotels over the last 17 years, will create growth for the entire cruise market, not erode business between cruise ships and brands.
  • Las Vegas’ annual visitor volume, relative to annual cruise passengers carried, indicates growth potential for the cruise market.
  • Lessons from Las Vegas show the trend towards shorter cruises will accelerate


I recall the spectacle surrounding the launch of Excalibur in Las Vegas in 1990 (200 miles west of me) while studying for my Master’s degree.  What was interesting was the continual building of hotels and casinos did not cannibalize each other’s business.  Rather, each new hotel added to the creation of an even bigger overall destination.  Each generated more buzz, which in turn spawned more new people traveling to Las Vegas.  All the hotels won.  Room inventory in Las Vegas increased 71% from 1991 to 2007, while annual visitor volume increased 84%.  This is how the Dream, Oasis of the Seas and NCL’s F3 will help the cruise industry as they hit the market.

Think the cruise industry over extended itself with an uncontrolled ship building spree?  Maybe some perspective would help.  All the cruise ships in the entire world filled at capacity all year long still only amount to 1/3rd of the total number of visitors to Las Vegas – that single city in the desert.  See chart to the left.

I’ll leave the debate over the functional differences between the two vacation experiences for another post, but suffice to say I believe cruises can generate as much passenger traffic worldwide as the landlocked Desert City. If cruise lines grow 84% over the next 17 years (like Vegas has) they will carry 26.4 million passengers and require a passenger capacity of 680,000 (using today's  7.1 day average duration of stay).  This would still fall 13 million visitors short of Last Vegas' 2007 visitor numbers.


The chart to the left compares available rooms in Las Vegas (times two to make comparable to the cruise industry standard of passenger capacity, which counts two people for each available room). Overall cruise lines do have more available capacity than Las Vegas. So why the large differences in overall visitors? This is because the duration of stay in Las Vegas is much shorter (2.5 days on average) compared to cruise lines (7.1 days). Look for this difference to narrow as shorter cruises increase in consumer popularity because they decrease the overall cost of the vacation. Cruise lines benefit by “turning over” more total passengers. If the average duration of stay for Las Vegas were applied to cruise lines current capacity, they would carry 49.3 million passengers annually. In addition, passenger’s onboard spending per day is higher on cruises of shorter durations!

Las Vegas statitisics courtesty of Bob Potts, Assistant Director, Center for Business and Economic Research, University of Nevada, Las Vegas.  Cruise statistics from Cruise Market Watch and the CLIA.


NCL’s F3 is alive, it is official

A close-up of Norwegian Epic's water slides.

A close-up of Norwegian Epic's water slides. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

But it will be one ship, not two as originally planned.  After speculation around F3 events at Cruise Market Watch back in early October the news is now official - there will be one next generation mega-ships (dubbed F3).  STX Shipyards (formerly Aker Shipyards) and NCL just announced they reached an agreement to keep the project moving forward.

NCL and STX Europe revised the F3 order and are now building one 4,200 passenger berths F3 ship that will represent the largest of NCL’s fleet. The original hull currently in construction is set for final delivery as originally scheduled, May 2010.


Carnival’s “Fun For All. All For Fun” TV Spots to Launch Dec 25

Carnival Fascination docked in Nassau, Bahamas...

Carnival Fascination docked in Nassau, Bahamas in May, 2009. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

As announced by Cruise Market Watch October 23, Carnival's new TV advertising campaign "Fun For All, All For Fun" will use 30-second spots created from its events carried out in Dallas and Philadelphia involving the world's largest inflatable beach ball and piñata.

“Fun is more important today than ever,” said Ruben Rodriguez, executive vice president of marketing and guest experience for Carnival Cruise Lines.  “These new spots capture a sense of genuine, spontaneous fun which is the same kind of experience that makes a Carnival cruise such a memorable vacation.”

“There is a difference between telling consumers you’re fun and actually being fun,” added Pete Favat, Arnold’s chief creative officer. “These commercials truly capture the essence of fun and you can’t help but have a good time watching them. We hope that this will create even more passion for the Carnival Cruise Lines brand among consumers.”

Noam Murro directed the TV spots. Murro is well known for his award-winning commercials for Volkswagen, Hummer and Nike. Most recently, he directed the movie “Smart People.”

Details posted today by Ad Week.


P&O Cruises new ad campaign to launch

P&O Cruises and its ad agency partner Miles Calcraft Briginshaw Duffy (MCBD) are launching their new promotional campaign on Boxing Day, December 26.  Boxing day is a public holiday in the United Kingdom, Canada, New Zealand and Australia and marks the start of the strong travel-selling season in the UK.

The TV campaign is dubbed “Every Day is Different” and will run until early March 2009.  It features seven different spots that communicate “what it is that makes every day of a P&O Cruises holiday so different” according to Head of Brand Marketing Philip Price. There will also be online, radio and print components. Travel agents will be the first to see the campaign this week in Travel Trade Gazette print advertisements.

Video of P&O’s previous campaign “There is a World Out There” is featured below.

Cruise Index December 2008 Update

Our monthly Cruise Search Index reflects change in demand and online search market share. U.S. online cruise search is estimated at 7.1 million monthly unique individuals for the month of November. The good news is Cruise Search stabilized from an October drop but the bad news is it is still down compared to the same month the year prior.


% Change for November '08
vs Last Year vs. Last Month
Total Internet Traffic 4.4% 0.1%
Total Cruise Search -7.9% 0.9%


Percentages in the charts below represent the approximate share of all online cruise traffic.

Chart 1 - % of traffic for top Cruise Lines from all cruise related traffic (click to enlarge)




Chart 2 - % of traffic for top booking sites from all cruise related traffic (click to enlarge)



Also note our updated December Cruise Price Index.



Cruise marketing top 10 greatest moments


Be it a cruise marketing strategy, tactic or stroke of good fortune, here are my picks for the top ten greatest marketing moments in cruise history.

#1 The Love Boat– Premiering on ABC September 17, 1976 in the pre-cable world of only three major networks, new couples getting together in the ocean moonlight was good entertainment for mainstream America. Since the show the cruise industry has grown ten times over.  The former owner of Princess Cruises estimated The Love Boat generated over a billion dollars in revenues for the cruise lines. According to my wife, “Oh, The Love Boat!” is still a frequent response when you tell people you work on a cruise ship.

#2 The Carnival Funnel – In 1968 Canadian Pacific (CP) needed a new corporate logo to communicate its direction, global capability and stability.  The result was dubbed the “multimark.” Having been painted on the Empress of Canada’s funnel, the ship and design were transferred in February 1972 to a young former NCL marketing executive, Ted Arison.  Renamed the Mardi Gras the ship became Carnival's first.  By rounding the edges and changing the CP logo’s colors to a festive red, white and blue the multimark morphed into the most distinctive image at sea and a corporate logo recognized worldwide.  Visually communicating the Fun Ships concept it sends the message “these ships are unique” and signals the delivery a branding promise that has directed the company's marketing strategy for three decades.

#3 Voyager of the Seas - In 1999 the first of five Voyager class ships was a revolution in design, size and on-board amenities.   The 137,000-ton, 3,114-passenger vessel featured an ice-skating rink, inline-skating track, basketball court, mini golf course and rock-climbing wall spanning the back of the ship's funnel. These amenities became a brand signature for Royal Caribbean and were leveraged in the long running "Get Out There" advertising campaign. The ship and campaign opened the cruise market to new vacationers who had an "explorer" mind-set.

#4 Cunard - On July 4, 1840 the paddle-wheeled Cunard steamer Britannia left Liverpool and crossed the Atlantic with a cow on-board to supply fresh milk to passengers.  Over the next 120 years Cunard was the epitome of glamorous transatlantic travel.  Between 1920 and 1940 Cunard’s rich and famous passengers were seen enjoying trips on theatre newsreels throughout the United States and Europe.  The 1950's renewed that tradition and “Getting There is Half the Fun” was experienced by the likes of Elizabeth Taylor, Paul Newman and even the Queen Mother in 1954.  Any ship you sail today still carries an aire of that heritage.

#5 Cruise Critic - Word-of-mouth promotion has always been the best marketing tool for Cruise Lines.  Until Cruise Critic launched as part of America Online in 1995 a travel agent’s statement was about the only way for a prospective cruiser to hear recommendations. Today, consider the experience of Tina Dacin.  "She had not taken a vacation in 20 years and…conducted most of her research online. Eventually, she found the Regent Web site and began visiting online cruise forums on which people discussed their experience on Regent. 'As I got online, I discovered that people were passionate about their Regent cruises,' she said. That electronic word-of-mouth led her to book a Mediterranean cruise on the Seven Seas Voyager with her mother. She liked the experience so much, she said, that she plans to cruise again."

#6 Block Booking – the practice of selling out blocks of cabins (or occasionally even an entire cruise ship) contributes a significant portion of revenue to each sailing.  Whenever you cruise a contemporary line you can’t help but notice the groups formed by anything from corporate sales award winners to fans of a particular rock star.  In speaking with them you find their loyalties are to the group, not the cruise line (they sail with whomever the group sails).  Nevertheless the industry today wouldn’t be the same without them.  The practice reached mass acceptance in the late 1990’s with chartered sales by booking agents at Thomson Travel of Great Britain.  Wherever the idea was first generated, it was a brainstorm.

#7 Cathy Lee Gifford – Love her or hate her, in 1984 (one year prior to "Live with Regis and Kathie Lee") she was singing, "In the morning, in the evening, Carnival's got the fun..." This was the first time a cruise line advertised on national network television and the spots showcased Carnival ship’s dancing, dining, entertainment, playing, socializing, sunning, swimming and fun. The Carnival-Gifford partnership lasted into the mid-1990s and Carnival’s growth greatly outpaced its competitors over that same period.

#8 Freestyle Cruising – No matter how you feel about formal nights and open seating, NCL made a bold break from the traditional cruise model in 2000.  Freestyle Cruising emulated land-based resorts by permitting guests to dine when and with whom they wanted – and in doing so made a daring move to acquire market share from new guests who had resisted cruising before. “No tux required” is a pitch that resonates with Norwegian’s target demographic - “passengers in their mid-40s earning $80,000 a year and who have an individual streak.”

#9 Expanded Home Ports - The jet airline killed transatlantic passenger travel and nearly took out the cruise business, until the discovery of cruising the Caribbean from Florida.  So ultimately what nearly took cruising away gave it back in the form of passengers flown to Miami from across the U.S.  However, when the number and size of ships grew larger than what daily flights into Miami and Ft. Lauderdale could accommodate market expansion required finding new ports.  Coupled with post 9-11 concerns about flying and working to reduce overall airfare costs by shortening distance, the addition of home ports across the nation (and indeed the world) has worked to further expand the market and expose new cruisers to the experience.

#10 Casinos on-board – Today’s number one on-board revenue source on most ships is the Casino. Yes, even ahead of the liquor sales.  But prior to the 1980's only a small minority of ships had casinos and those that did had them relatively hidden.  Now the gaming and cruise industries occasionally hire managers across industries and NCL's 50% owner Apollo Management also owns Harrah's Casinos. Most importantly, the low entry “all inclusive” prices that make cruising an obtainable and affordable value are in part thanks to the ship's players.


Updated 12/17/08.  Some additional and significant cruise marketing moments were neglected in my original post and are now included below.

10.1   The “Big Red Boat” and family cruising - In 1984 Premier Cruise Lines became the first cruise line to operate out of Port Canaveral, Florida and in doing so also ingeniously located its ships approximately 45 minutes east of the “The Magic Kingdom.”   Premier Cruise Lines brought the entire family together onboard in a strategic way by adding year round family programming, over 30 child counselors on every voyage and large public rooms devoted to different children's age groups.  Moreover, as the "official cruise line of Walt Disney World," passengers could combine a 3 or 4 night round-trip cruise with a complimentary Disney World vacation to complete a 7 day family vacation.  The concept was so successful it eventually spurred the idea within Disney management to create its own cruise line.  Other competitors also followed in pursuit of the lucrative family market segment.

SS Norway.  Photo by Barry Vaudrin

SS Norway. Photo by Barry Vaudrin

10.2  The “Ship Amongst Ships”  - on April 14, 1980 after $80 million in renovations NCL re-christened the SS France the SS Norway.  Built in 1962 she was the “last purposely designed year-round transatlantic super-ship” and at 316 meters she was also the longest passenger ship until the RMS Queen Mary 2 in 2004.  The re-christening symbolized the industry's final shift from an era of transatlantic travel into one of Caribbean style cruising. With a passenger capacity of 2,000 the SS Norway became both the largest cruise ship and the first super-liner employed exclusively for cruise service.  She gained a large and avid following among Caribbean cruisers and gave credence to the notion of a ship being a destination in itself.  Her size, amenities (the first cruise ship to add broadway-style entertainment) and popularity permanently changed the cruise industry and helped usher in a construction spree as competitors began to order bigger and larger ships.


Go East, young cruise line

The original refrain was by Horace Greeley, who in a July 13, 1865 editorial famously advised "Go West, young man, go West and grow up with the country."

Cruise Market Watch estimates embarkations from Asia will account for 8% of worldwide cruise travel in 2009, or 1.3 million annual passengers.  Several very recent news stories also point to this growing and powerful trend.  Go East, cruise lines and grow up with the Eastern economy.

The first report is from Dubai titled Leisure sector to go on cruise control:

"More than 82 cruises are scheduled to visit Dubai in 2009; a figure that will be significantly increased by 2010 due to the entrance of new markets. This means that as many as 40,000 cruising holidaymakers will embark on the region's leisure industry"

Bianca Lanao, International Account Director for luxury cruise line Regent Seven Seas Cruises, is quoted as saying "The Middle East is an emerging market that is becoming more and more exposed to the cruise industry as more ships visit the region and awareness increases."

Moreover, Royal Caribbean recently added an office in Australia to respond to the demand, while Carnival is transfering an Ocean Village ship to Australia under the P&O Brand.

Another report comes from the All Asia Cruise Convention and is titled Asia Cruise Association (ACA), 10 years in the making.

During the convention, Christopher Hayman, Seatrade’s Managing Director stated: “Asia is on the threshold of major cruise expansion."

Undoubtedly, the ACA will provide its members a solid foothold toward making that vision, like Horace Greeley's, a reality.


The Christmas card your customer deserves

This is the time of year one begins writing and sending Christmas cards.  In thinking about the business-to-business cards I've received in the past, I'm reminded about what makes both exceptional marketing communications to customers - and what is average, normal, quickly discarded and forgotten.

There are basically three types of Christmas cards we have all received that represent how NOT to communicate with customers.

The Non-Personal, the Super Generic and the Its All About Me

    1. The Non-Personal Christmas card is the one you typically receive at work from vendors.  You know, selected from catalog of 100 options, mass-printed, non-denominational (heaven forbid we offend someone by actually knowing them well enough to know how they celebrate Christmas), with a formulaic saying and possibly a signature. Nothing like taking the time to say "we barely care."


    1. The Super Generic.  In good fun, one option is to purchase the same .99 cent card pack from your local discounter and send it back.  It is not about the money - that's not my message.  My mother used to work with me cutting out paper grocery bags.  I'd color on them and we would fold out an envelope and ta' da - instant personalized creativity.  If your message is you care - maybe a phone call would communicate that message better?


  1. It's All About Me.  The corporate version of this is sending a card with images of its own product or shiny building edifice.  You sell widgets.  I am impressed.  Another common mistake is 1,200 words all about its own wonderful success the past year.  Don't forget a closing lacking any acknowledgement you know me as a person or what my business has been doing.

I know it's difficult to personalize each and every card.  I know it takes hard work to devise something exceptionally unique.  But I also know how meaningful it is to feel special and cared for and the difference it makes in building a customer relationships.  Today, I ran across this post on a cruise message board.

"We just received our latest gift from Oceania - a very nice wine caddy...stuffed with goodies.  We've received an 'appreciation' gift every year from Oceania, since the Regatta Inaugural. Always unexpected, always very nice, and one of those unadvertised perks of being an Oceania Past Guest.  Just another reason why we hope to have many more years, and many more cruises, with Oceania."

‘Nuf said.