Archive for June, 2009

Cruise West young man

cruise-west-world-cruiseWhat do you call a 335-Day circumnavigation of the world visiting 242 Ports of Call, 14 Oceans & Seas, 52 Countries and 85 UNESCO World Heritage sites besides the journey of a lifetime?  Marketing geeks like me call it a creative and unique response to emerging trends.

Voyages of the Great Explorers from Cruise West is meeting these trends head on.  Future Brand recently invited Rossitza Ohridska-Olson to be part of an expert panel discussing future trends in travel. Two of Rossitza's five trends were experiential and creative tourism.

Experiential describes our growing hunger for authenticity, discovery and sense of adventure - one that will push further the geographical boundaries of tourism by seeking out more destinations.  We blogged here last December that authenticity was a scarcity in 2009, and as such a sought after luxury.  Cruise lines like Cruise West have defined what is scarce and unique by introducing the opposite of anything that has already become too affordable, accessible or well-known.

"No other cruise line - big or small -- offers a journey as long or as varied as Voyages of the Great Explorers," said Richard West, managing director and chairman of Cruise West.

Another trend, creative tourism, means engaging in and learning about the cultures and communities being visited.  A hallmark of the Cruise West experience is thought-provoking presentations by local experts and onboard Exploration Leaders who expand upon the significance of the cultural and historical highlights.

Departing Singapore on March 6, 2010, Cruise West's flagship, the 120-guest, all-suite Spirit of Oceanus will sail westward, following the sun, to return to Singapore on February 3, 2011.  Book the entire voyage starting at $233,995.

Here is a link to the eBrochure for the Voyages of the Great Explorers World Cruise.

Corporate meetings and incentive travel on Cruise Ships

Oprah Winfrey is with her employees this week on a cruise.  At the same time, she has become part of a marketing trend.

According to Jo Kling, Founder and President of Landry & Kling, Inc, a premier cruise event services company "We anticipate the number of corporate and incentive cruise programs and meetings at sea to triple."

And here at Cruise Market Watch, the trend is our friend.

How can one take advantage of a trend?  It begins by identifying the market, then developing strategies to win it over.

How big is the market for corporate meetings and incentive travel?  Annual estimates range from $175 billion to $40.3 billion.  I prefer the Incentive Research Foundation's $77.8 billion.  If cruise acquires 2% (roughly its same share of the overall world-wide travel market) it would represent $1.6 billion in revenue or about 6% of all cruise revenues.

How to Win them

As one can see from our chart below - providing superior meeting experiences aboard a cruise ship at a competitive price will lead over time to market share gain from the competition.


The cruise lines are doing their part by building conference facilities on ships to rival those in hotels.  For example, Royal Caribbean's Freedom of the Seas boasts dedicated conference meeting space with breakout rooms and reception area accommodating up to 400 people.  It also includes high-tech presentation rooms with color touch screens, wireless remote controls and teleconferencing equipment.

With the basic physical needs of corporate meetings taken care of, it is up to branding to communicate the message to corporate planners.  The experience of a corporate meeting on a cruise is more exciting, motivating and rewarding.  In addition, a cruise ship adds to employee camaraderie and bonding (ask Oprah).

Jo Kling and her team are going a step further.  By understanding the habits of the target market they are re-engineering the group quote process online with a new venture called Seasite.  Since nearly 80% of corporate meeting planners use the Internet for research, Seasite will for the first time consolidate cruise information online from strictly a meeting planners perspective.  It also facilitates a single RFP and quicker quotes.  The goal is to make the cruise booking experience equal to or better than the hotel experience.  Speaking the customer's language is always good thing.

"At Seasite, we understand that cruising for many planners is virtually uncharted territory. Seasite demystifies the entire process by providing easy access, depth of knowledge and the tools and resources needed to successfully plan and execute corporate meetings" says Kling.

seasiteI like the strategy.  The Seasite slogan "One-Third Land, Two-Thirds Meeting Space" successfully evokes the question in a corporate planners mind - why not at sea?  And Seasite accomplishes this without going directly to price (maintaining the brand and margins) or using a picture of a cruise ship (we know what a ship looks like - create the desire by selling us on the emotion).

And price?  According to Kling, the cruise lines can offer meetings for up to 40% less than traditional hotels.  A study by TNS about non-cruise corporate meetings taken outside of North American by U.S. companies states costs typically run from $750 to $570 per person, per day and average 4 days in duration.  This breaks out roughly as

  • 30% airfare
  • 20% lodging
  • 20% activities/entertainment
  • 15% food
  • 15% ground travel

The competitive cruise pricing structure, favorable meeting facilities and overall cruise experience leaves plenty of opportunity to deliver on the promise - rich and rewarding meetings that motivate and inspire employees.  This will help cruise lines continue growing market share.

For more on our "growing cruise markets" series see:

Oprah Winfrey: the world’s greatest cruiser?


According to Friday's Chicago Sun Times Oprah is taking her entire staff and their families on a Mediterranean cruise vacation.  They leave Chicago for Spain today, with port stops in Italy, Turkey, Greece and Malta.  The cruise, which also included three days at the Poble Espanyol resort,  is valued by Chicago's Best Travel at $5,400 a person on the Norwegian Gem.

This story is a nice lead into my upcoming series of  posts about the market for corporate meetings and events on cruise ships.  Our discussions about specific market niches where cruise lines can increase penetration, grow market share and revenue began in January 2009 with the spa market.

Thank You

for completing our Cruise Market Watch panel survey.   Results will be posted here sometime over the next several weeks.  In the meanwhile review previous surveys below.  You can leave additional thoughts or comments in the area provided at the bottom of this page.

Happy cruising!

Download Cruise Pulse April 2009 - International Edition

Download Cruise Pulse February 2009 - Second Edition

Download Cruise Pulse January 2009 - First Edition

Online traffic for cruise travel May 2009

Our monthly Cruise Search Index reflects change in cruise demand as measured by the number of visitors to online cruise websites.

For the month of May 2009, U.S. online search for cruise travel is estimated at 9.8 million monthly unique individuals. This represents a -15.5% decrease from the month prior (typical for the season) and a 3.2% increase over the same time last year (May 2008).

The chart below illustrates the unique visitors to cruise sites by month over time.  Reflected in the chart is the decline in demand beginning in August 2008 (below previous year levels), the steep increase in interest beginning in January 2009 and a waining into the summer months albeit slightly ahead of the same time last year.

Online traffic search for cruise travel

The following chart represents traffic for the top four visited Cruise Line websites.Online traffic search for cruise lines

The following chart represents traffic for the top four visited Cruise Line booking sites.

Online traffic search for cruise booking sites

Source: Comscore

The Tipping Point for Cruise Industry and Social Media

twitter_icons_256You would normally worry about seeing the words "tipping point" and "cruise" used in the same sentence.  No such worries here.  The phrase tipping point, coined by Malcolm Gladwell, refers to when small numbers of people (or businesses) start behaving differently and that behavior ripples outward until a critical mass or a 'tipping point' is reached, changing the world.  Contemplate some recent activities of cruise lines:

  • Disney Cruise started delivering podcasts on iTunes.
  • Yachts of Seabourn announced CEO Pamela Conover would be tweeting from Venice Italy for the launch of the new Seabourn Odyssey.
  • Royal Caribbean posted a job opening on LinkedIn, with a position requirement of having at least ten LinkedIn recommendations.

I think it is safe to say the term "tipping point" wholly applies.

Why Now?

Ten years ago (April 1999) Chris Locke, Doc Searls and David Weinberger wrote The Cluetrain Manifesto.  It was a call to arms signed by a few thousand people (including me).

The manifesto declared the web would require businesses to engage consumers at their level and really listen and react to their voices.  Consumers had reached the tipping point of web usage in 1998 - 26.2% of U.S. households had Internet access.  Today, 16% of Fortune 500 companies have a public-facing blog.1

Why Get In?  B.C.O.N - Branding, Customer care, Opportunities and Networking.

Branding. Product evangelists can spread the good word farther, more effectively and more efficiently.  Compare the initial interest as measured by Google search in two new search engine launches.  The small start-up Wolfram Alpha garnered nearly as much initial interest as Microsoft's bing.  The former used blog buzz and resulting news coverage, the later has upwards of a $100 million ad budget.

Your brand online can be more like the transparent, friendly, one-to-one human connections you expect with family and friends than the faceless issuance of a corporate press release.

Customer care. What I see developing is traditional customer service departments breaking down and going social.  There will come a day when, if I say something bad about Bank of America on Facebook, I'll expect someone from BOA to contact me and make it right.

Opportunities. Social media is leveling the playing field for entrepreneurs in the long tail of niche.  Bloggers for little or nothing provide information in topical areas that big media can't cover.   It is no longer a news or broadcast business - but an audience business and audiences are made up of millions of small groups.

Demos are dead.  Are you female 18-35?  If you are reading this blog, you are more likely a member of the cruise community with an intense interest how lines market and communicate.  It is about shared values not age or stage. Want to create something for everyone?  Welcome to the middle of the road.

Networking. Email usage will decline like "snail mail" has in favor of "wall to wall" posting on social media networks like twitter and Facebook.  From a marketing perspective, direct mail and "email blasts" (I've always hated that word) will give way to engaging with consumers where they live online.  Direct marketing will be become Network marketing.  Foreverism, from, means the relationships being created virtually today are lasting and lifelong links.  Isn't that more powerful than a one-off email blast?

How to Get In? L.E.A.P - Listen, Encourage, Advocate and Participate2

Listen. Don't monitor.  That means hear what customers think about your products, services and the competition.  Discover within the conversations emerging trends and do something with that instant feedback.  Tweak your product, respond to complaints - get your hands dirty by getting in the mix. Dazzle customers by acting.

Encourage. Develop new ancillary products and features that allow people to do more of what they already like to do.  Facilitate making your customers experience around your product and brand even more fun and easy (contact me, I have some ideas).

Advocate. Show support for social activities, sponsor local tweet ups, social media events and contests, bring new services to light, partner and create opportunities.

Participate. The 10 commandments as so well put by Lon Safko of Fast Company:

  1. Thou Shalt Blog (like crazy).
  2. Thou Shalt Create Profiles (everywhere).
  3. Thou Shalt Upload Photos (lots of them).
  4. Thou Shalt Upload Videos (all you can find).
  5. Thou Shalt Podcast (often).
  6. Thou Shalt Set Alerts (immediately).
  7. Thou Shalt Comment (on a multitude of blogs).
  8. Thou Shalt Get Connected (with everyone).
  9. Thou Shalt Explore Social Media (30 minutes per week).
  10. Thou Shalt Be Creative (go forth and create creatively)!

You can find more on how the cruise lines are engaging on the Social Media page of Cruise Market Watch.  The landscape is an ever-changing fluid environment, so if you notice a cruise line doing something new please alert me and I'll update the page.

1 Society for New Communications Research. 2 The acronym LEAP was liberally borrowed from my friend Harish Bharadhwaj

Around the world in 80 ways

Coco Chanel said "in order to be irreplaceable one must always be different" and when it comes to world cruises, Hurtigruten couldn't agree more.  Why cruise around the world in the conventional West to East mode when you can do it longitudinally by going North to South!

If people aren't going to talk about your product, then it's not good enough. - Jeffrey Kalmikoff

Hurtigruten understands a journey that begins in Reykjavik, Iceland September 23 and continues for 67 days plying the coasts of the U.K., Canada, U.S., Guatemala, Honduras, Costa Rica, Panama (including a transit of the Panama Canal), Ecuador, Peru and Chile is unique and extra-ordinary enough to get its pod chirping.


Travelers aboard the MS Fram (a custom-designed ship for cruising Arctic and Antarctic waters) will have a chance to see everything from a chinstrap penguin rookery and the Henryk Arctowski Polish Antarctic Station to a jungle boat ride down the flora- and fauna-rich Costa Rican Tortuguero Canals.

If you start feeling to far from home or need a break from the exhilarating excursions, the MS Fram features and Internet café, sauna and two heated outdoor Jacuzzis.

As Seth Godin puts it "If the marketplace isn't talking about you, there's a reason. If people aren't discussing your products, your services, your cause, your movement or your career, there's a reason. The reason is that you're boring."

The only longitudinal cruise of world, that's not boring.  That's pod-chirping excitement.