Cruising is booming. That was the message from the Cruise Lines International Association (CLIA) at Cruise360 in Vancouver last week.
To get a sense of what that bright future has in store, CLIA gathered the presidents of four major cruise lines for a panel discussion on the state of the industry and where things are headed. Christine Duffy of Carnival Cruise Line, Adam Goldstein of Royal Caribbean Cruises, Rick Sasso of MSC Cruises USA and Andy Stuart of Norwegian Cruise Lines sat down with Cindy D’Aoust, CLIA’s president and CEO, to share their thoughts.
Christine Duffy of Carnival Cruise Line & Rick Sasso of MSC Cruises USA
Technology has become key for both getting to know clients and for clients to stay connected once they’re onboard. While lack of connectivity used to be considered a feature of cruising – a chance to disconnect – clients now expect to stay connected to friends and family back home through social media.
“With technology today and the expectations clients have, you need to understand the preferences of the guest and how to cater to them,” Goldstein said. “I know social media wasn’t invented for cruising, but it might as well have been. That’s where the conversation is happening.”
Carnival has embraced onboard connectivity with its HUB app, allowing guests to access all their social media accounts and message with other cruise guests, Duffy said. Information in the app will eventually replace the paper daily programs left in guest cabins. The app, now available on four ships, will be rolling out across the Carnival fleet.
While connectivity onboard used to be very expensive, prices are dropping. MSC offers weeklong Internet packages from $30, Sasso said.
“We want it to be the perception of each member of the family that the cruise was designed for them,” Goldstein said. He noted the “accordion” experience cruise lines offer, where all members of a family come together at meal times, but expand out to do their own thing during the day. “All cruise lines are magic when it comes to this,” he said.
“It allows family members to have the experiences they want, when they tend to have different aspirations,” Sasso said.
“The sense of flexibility is a huge positive,” Stuart said. “Families think they want to be together all the time, but then they realize that they want to have some separate spaces. Cruises are tailor-made for this. I don’t think the industry makes enough of it.”
“There is no better vacation for a family,” Duffy said.
The Travel Agent’s Role
Pricing that gives guests choices for package options is here to stay – and that’s a good thing for both travel agents and clients.
“When we give customers choices, they need someone to help them choose,” Stuart said. “That’s you. It creates a triangle of happiness, where the customer is happy, the travel agent is happy and the cruise line is happy. We need to understand the customer, ask the right questions and add value.”
“If we ask the right questions, we can design the optimum experience,” Duffy added.
Agents who were not able to attend Cruise360 can catch up on all the general sessions online via CLIA Cruise TV.