I launched www.CruiseMarketWatch.com last August as a way to highlight my research and marketing skills in a practical and demonstrable way. Since then, the site has had 54,000 page views from 14,500 unique visitors and ranks first for the search term "Cruise Market." I have been published in the Travel Trade Gazette and Cruise Shipping Miami Today, attended the Cruise Shipping Miami convention, surveyed over 600 travel agents and created an iPhone app for cruisers. Not bad for a part-time pleasure. But perhaps most importantly, it has helped me stay emotionally connected to the love of my life, to whom the site is dedicated, as she travels the world.
I started out knowing I wouldn't out scoop the cruise sites that post news releases onto the web. If it already exists, it's not unique - so why should you visit? I try to find cruise trends that have an impact from a marketing perspective and actually write something insightful. Moreover, I provide market data for free that simply can't be found anywhere else.
Since my passion is applying analytical and strategic thinking to the development of remarkable products and promotions, I'd like to share five Google Analytics site statistics from the past year.
Adam M. Goldstein, President & CEO Royal Caribbean International calls the app "the marriage of the cruise countdown clocks."
The app includes not just a countdown to cruise timer with over 200 ship images, but also a "who is cruising" social feature. You can make friends before you even start the cruise by creating your "cruiser" profile and exchanging messages and helpful tips for the best cruise experience. The countdown clock also makes a ship horn sound when launched, followed by the soothing sound of seagulls and ocean waves.
Thomas Troward (1847-1916) said "The law of flotation was not discovered by the contemplation of the sinking of things."
And likewise idea of creating the first app for cruisers was contemplated in an early Cruise Market Watch post. It grew into a full-blown goal after talking over the concept with Yachts of Seabourn Vice President of Marketing, Adam Snitzer. Thanks to a lot of help and partnership with mPlugged, cruisers around the world can now enjoy its functionality.
MSC Cruises has been a regular trackside advertiser at Formula 1TM races around the world for the past several years. They even have a Formula 1 Simulator aboard the MSC Fantasia.
But they aren't just settling for sponsorships at the racetrack. They are aggressively getting into the race to acquire market share in the growing cruise industry.
MSC Cruises just launched its tenth ship - the MSC Splendida in Barcelona. The Splendida is the sister ship of the MSC Fantasia, launched last December 2008. She was the largest ship ever build by a European owner, carrying 3,959 guests. The MSC Poesia was introduced the March prior and the MSC Magnifica comes into service March 2010. Moreover, MSC unveils two more new ships MSC Meraviglia and MSC Favolosa in 2011 and 2012.
Head swirling? Here is a chart to help you get you oriented.
That is 130% growth in passenger capacity in just five years. What is the impact on market share? From a worldwide market share in 2009 of 4.3% to 5.1% in 2012. Doesn't sound like much? That eight tenth of an extra percentage point alone means $230 million in gross revenue from a $29 billion 2012 worldwide cruise market.
Another eye opener, the MSC Fantasia was scheduled to host U.S. President Barack Obama, British Prime Minister Gordon Brown and other leaders from Russia, Germany, Japan, Italy and Canada at the G8 "Group of Eight" Summit in Italy early July. While those plans were scrapped when Silvio Berlusconi switched the venue from La Maddalena to L'Aquila, MSC Cruises nevertheless remains on a fast track.
When my wife and I moved to Miami we fondly told each other "it's like a dream." The dream kept growing, as she is now working on the Carnival Dream's set-up in Montefalcone, Italy. Scheduled for its first sailing Sept. 21, it will be Carnival's largest ship. As if these two things weren't enough to get excited about, CruiseMarketWatch.com is eager to experience the new on-board technological features, dubbed the "FunHub."
The FunHub creates the cruise industry's first on-board social network, along with access to ship's services, facilities and daily activities information.
create a personal profile to meet and interact with others on-board
create groups based on interests
find details about the Dream's numerous on-board activities
browse food and beverage offerings
learn about ports of call and excursions
access weather updates
read biographies of key shipboard personnel and see ship maps
In addition to FunHub portals, access to the FunHub is available on any guest computer or Wi-Fi enabled device free of charge. Internet access to sites outside the FunHub is available with purchase of a special Internet package.
Below are price ranges for three different contemporary cruise lines for August 2009 sailings, balcony cabin, all 7-day eastern Caribbean cruises:
Brand 1 = $739 - $1,309
Brand 2 = $999 - $1,149
Brand 3 = $1,463 - $2,309
Why is one line able to fill cabins at rates 50% to 100% higher than the others? Why are consumers willing to pay a steep premium even in tough economic times?
It is due to passion - consumer's passion for the brand. Review the passion pyramid below. At its pinnacle is aspirational attainment - a brands ability to fulfill a market's goals and dreams. Consumers who get here feel a kinship with the brand, they are where they belong and are willing to pay to get there. At the bottom is the mass market, where there is no pricing power because the vacation experience is a commodity competing on price.
Consider an example from the auto industry, where consumers pay more to purchase and maintain large SUV's with four-wheel drives that are rarely if ever engaged. What is engaged is the fulfillment of the dream or idea that one could escape - a member of the group that can climb mountains and steer around avalanches - even if it is only on the way to the suburban grocery store.
A family vacation at its core is functional, but the choice of what vacation you take is "what does it say about me." Consumers today consciously choose to associate with your brand. It is the label you use to display your kinship, like kachina dolls displayed in Native American Hopi family dwellings to designate membership in various clans. It is not just your vacation, it is telling others who you are.
And who is willing to pay a 100% premium for a contemporary cruise? Consumers who aspire to become members of the Disney clan. Disney's power is derived from the fact they are not communicating in monologue, but engaging across multiple channels; cable networks, teenage pop stars, theme parks and 80-year-old characters that are cultural icons. Professor Ludwig Von Drake introduces me to cruising via podcast on my iPhone.
Most recently Disney Cruise Line is partnering with Kodak and Disney Channel to deliver themed cruises where cruisers will mingle with stars from Disney Channel shows like Hannah Montana, Sonny With A Chance, The Suite Life on Deck, JONAS, Camp Rock and High School Musical. All complete with autograph session and live performances.