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Chapter 2 Who cruises--and why.

After reading this chapter, you'll be able to

* Describe the typical clients onboard cruises of different lengths

* Explain 18 reasons why people are drawn to cruising

* Identify what is typically included in the cruise price, and what isn't

* Explain how cruises are priced

* Recognize the 15 most common roadblocks to cruise purchase

Imagine a huge wall map in an imaginary "Museum of Cruising." On that map, little lights mark the spots where every cruise ship currently is located. The first surprise: There are lights just about everywhere there's water, hundreds of them--on the South China Sea, up the Amazon, around Hawaii, even along the coast of Antarctica.

Now press a button. Those lights disappear and are replaced by a new set of lights. These indicate the location of the cruise lines' headquarters. Fewer lights now, but again they're spread across the map--Athens, Miami, Tokyo, and more. Press one more button. This time you'll see where cruise passengers come from. Just about the whole map lights up.

Cruising is indeed a global phenomenon. People from everywhere take cruises to everywhere. One important statistic: Currently only about 13% of all North American adults who can afford to take a cruise have done so, but over four times more say they would someday like to do so.

Here are a few facts, based on research studies done by CLIA and other researchers:

* Twenty-seven percent of all cruisers are under 40 years old, 42% are between 40 and 59, and 31% are over 60. This clearly punctures the myth that "cruises are only for old people."

* On average, about 40% of the people onboard are taking their first cruise.

* Three out of every four cruisers are married.

* People who take cruises earn about 15% more money in household income per year than do noncruisers. They also travel more, in general.

* About 10% of all cruisers bring a child or children along.

Does this give you a clearer picture as to who cruises? Good. You should remember, though, that these statistics define the average cruiser. A wide variety of types make up each "average" statistic. The kind of cruise has a powerful bearing on which type within these statistics will be attracted to that cruise.

There are also many categories of cruisers (e.g., families, singles, and the physically challenged). We'll examine these in more detail later. Just remember for now that the category you fit in very much affects why you cruise.

For example, on a short cruise, passengers tend to

* Be younger

* Have more modest incomes

* Have less education

* Be more likely to work full-time

* Be interested in a mass-market destination, like the Caribbean

* Be new to cruising

Conversely, on a longer cruise, the passengers tend to

* Be older

* Have higher incomes

* Be more educated

* Be more likely to be retired or semiretired

* Be interested in a more exotic destination, like South America

* Have already experienced cruising

Why People Cruise

It often seems that there are as many motives to cruise as there are people. Sometimes the reason is pure curiosity. Other times it's because of a travel agent's recommendation or, very often, positive word-of-mouth from a friend. Perhaps it's simply to fulfill a fantasy. Or maybe it's just to get away from a cold winter.

The cruise industry has intensely studied why people take cruises. Here are the 18 motives that seem to predominate:

1. A cruise is a hassle-free vacation. On a cruise, you pack and unpack only once. There's no driving around, looking for your hotel, or wondering where you should eat next. The cruise experience minimizes your concerns, melts away your stress, and maximizes your actual vacation time.

2. A cruise takes you away from it all. "It's different out there ...." So went one cruise line's promotional slogan. Smog, pollution, stress, traffic, alarm clocks, beepers, ringing telephones, chattering fax machines--these are not what a cruise is all about. Cruises are instead about water, sea, sky, and landscape--the simple things that touch us so deeply.

3. You're pampered like nowhere else. Breakfast in bed, lounging on deck, soaking in a hot tub, afternoon tea, perhaps champagne and caviar, and the most ever-present and gracious service you're ever likely to experience--these are rare in our everyday life but commonplace on a cruise.

4. You can do it all--or nothing at all. Most cruises provide a vast series of choices, the kind that enable you to pick, choose, or pass up as you wish. Your day might start with morning exercises on deck, yoga in the gym, or dance lessons in the lounge, followed by breakfast. After eating, maybe it's a cooking class or a port lecture. You might choose to watch a new movie or learn a new sport ... and all this before lunch. But no one will pressure you. You can sleep in until noon or snooze in a deck chair. It's all up to you.

The level of planned activities also varies from ship to ship and from cruise line to cruise line. People who like plenty of things going on can certainly find a cruise that fits the bill. On the other hand, more independent types can select a cruise that features a very relaxed experience with very little structure.

5. You can sample a broad geographic area. A cruise usually covers a vast area, stopping at the most interesting places along the way. This is why the majority of cruisers, according to a CLIA study, consider a cruise vacation to be a good way to sample vacation spots that they may want to return to later for a resort vacation. A number of destinations are in fact best visited via a ship. Some examples: Alaska, the Caribbean, the Mediterranean, the islands off Southeast Asia, and the fjords of Norway.

6. A cruise is something "new." Many people are tired of taking the same old trips, so they like trying out new vacation experiences. Since the vast majority of people have never been on a cruise, the desire to have a fresh "adventure" like a cruise can be powerfully motivating.

7. Cruises offer a huge variety of events, activities, and meals. See a show. Snooze lazily by the pool. Jog. Learn. Swim. Shop. Dine indoors or out, casual or elegant, seven times a day if you want. Explore a port or stay onboard. Cruises these days are about choice. Of course the size and "personality" of the ship determine what choices you'll have, but almost surely you'll find it impossible to be bored on a cruise.

8. A cruise facilitates shopping. Each port has its own shopping opportunities (often duty-free), as does the ship itself. (A wide selection of onboard boutiques is becoming increasingly common.) Plus, you don't have to haul your purchases around as you go from place to place.

9. It's easy to make friends on a cruise. Meeting new people on a cruise is simple. Opportunities to socialize seemingly are endless. Many of the people you meet will share your interests--that you chose the same ship, cruise, and destinations assures it. And some of these friendships may endure well beyond the cruise.

10. Cruises lend themselves to groups. If you take a cruise with people from an organization you belong to (e.g., a college alumni trip), you'll see old friends and meet new ones. If it's a theme cruise (e.g., a jazz-themed departure), you'll meet people you have plenty in common with.

11. A cruise is a romantic experience. It's amazing how many films, plays, songs, and books use cruises as the setting for romance. Cruises have a way of breathing new energy into an old relationship, or of setting the stage for a new one. (A Cosmopolitan survey concluded that 80% of cruisers feel more amorous at sea. It concluded many other things that we will not go into here ....)

12. A cruise is a learning experience. Even if your goal is merely to have a good time, you're almost sure to learn something new about the ports you visit. On many cruises, expert lecturers onboard give "enrichment" presentations that help you understand more fully the history and culture of places on the itinerary. Indeed, some specialty cruise lines make passenger learning their primary goal (and that's precisely why their passengers select them). A few merge "soft" adventure experiences with education, offering what is called an "expedition" cruise product.

13. There's a cruise that can satisfy virtually anyone. As you've no doubt concluded by now, just about everyone--families, singles, clubs, church groups, young people, old people, lovers of sports, lovers of knowledge, and more--can find a cruise to be fulfilling. Few other vacation experiences can make that claim. And it doesn't even have to be a vacation. Many companies hold their meetings, retreats, or incentive events on ships. Some charter the whole vessel.

14. It's a great way to celebrate a special event. People on their honeymoon, couples celebrating their anniversary, or those enjoying a birthday all find a cruise to be especially fulfilling.

15. Everybody's talking about how wonderful cruises are. Cruising is an "in" thing. Everyone seems to talk about cruises--and that's being reinforced by many TV shows and movies. Several studies indicate that word-of-mouth from relatives, friends, and acquaintances is a prime reason consumers choose to cruise. And several experts argue that a "hidden" reason for people to go on cruises is so they can brag about it when they get back.

16. Cruises represent a safe travel experience. In an age when crime or terrorism happens far too easily, a cruise represents one of the safest vacation choices available. The ship's environment is highly managed. Anything out of the ordinary is swiftly noted. Passage onto and off the ship is strictly controlled. Professionals often check the vessel's hull while in port--even underwater. Luggage is scanned. And vessels have safety and construction features that make problems very unlikely.

17. It's a fabulous value for the money. When you compare what you get for your cruise dollar to what you'd pay for a similar land-based vacation, you discover quickly that a cruise is a remarkable bargain. Since consumers regularly rate cruises higher than other vacation choices, a cruise's value becomes keenly apparent.

18. You know what you're paying in advance. A cruise generally is an inclusive vacation. When people pay for their cruise experience, they know up front what the majority of their vacation will cost. Rarely is this so for other sorts of trips. For example, a family driving through southern Europe will probably know what their air, hotel, and car rental costs will be. But the cost for food, drinks, gas, tolls, and entertainment is quite unpredictable. These items could easily add 50% to the cost of the trip.

[ILLUSTRATIONS OMITTED]

The degree of cruise "inclusiveness," however, varies from cruise line to cruise line, from ship to ship, and even from itinerary to itinerary:

* Always or almost always included are stateroom accommodations, stateroom amenities (e.g., shampoo), meals, certain beverages, entertainment, onboard activities, supervised children's programs, access to the exercise facility, and, of course, the ship transportation. In a few cases, room service or dining at a special alternative onboard restaurant entails a modest add-on charge.

* Sometimes included, sometimes not are airfares, port charges (what ports charge cruise lines to dock), government fees and taxes, and transfers between the airport and the dock.

* Usually not included are shore excursions, gratuities to ship and shoreside personnel, alcoholic beverages and soft drinks (but they cost less than at a hotel), optional activities, transfers when the air isn't purchased from the cruise line, laundry, certain special offerings (e.g., gourmet desserts at an onboard sweets shop), and pre-, post-, and/or land packages. As mentioned in Chapter 1, some cruise lines bundle pre- and/or postcruise experiences, at one price, into a single package. Also noteworthy: Very upscale lines tend to include almost everything in their packages. Clients on such cruises get almost all drinks and maybe some shore excursions for the price they pay. Also, on such luxury cruises the crew is not supposed to accept tips.

* Never included are the cost for meals ashore, parking at the departure port, shopping, gambling, photos, ship-to-shore phone calls, Internet connections, medical services, babysitting services, personal services (e.g., a massage or hairstyling), and insurance. (The cruise line usually does offer trip cancellation, interruption, and lost/damaged luggage insurance for a reasonable fee.)

The same reasons that account for the popularity of cruising among consumers also apply to travel agents, who make the vast majority of cruise sales. They, too, like the idea of a hassle-free, pampering, safe, diversified, and immensely satisfying vacation that can be offered to their clients--and that also represents a value. Moreover, cruise vacations are easy to book, they reinforce client loyalty, and are one of the most profitable products an agent can recommend.

Cruise Prices

Every cruise brochure spells out the exact price for each sailing, as well as what's included and what's not. The price is basis two or double occupancy--it's per person, based on two passengers to a room. Price depends upon where the desired stateroom "category" is located on the ship. (The industry prefers the word stateroom to cabin, though consumers tend to use the words interchangeably.) In general,

* The higher the deck the stateroom is on, the higher the price.

* Outside staterooms (which have windows) are generally more expensive than inside or interior staterooms (generally without windows). Often, the industry calls an outside stateroom an "ocean-view" stateroom.

* Larger staterooms on a given ship are usually more expensive than smaller ones.

* Staterooms with balconies generally cost more than those without.

* Outside staterooms whose views are obstructed (e.g., by a lifeboat) often cost less than those with unobstructed views.

On many ships, it's possible to have three or four different stateroom price categories on a single deck: The smaller outside staterooms toward the front might be one price, larger outside staterooms another, inside ones another, a suite on that deck still another, etc.

Many other factors can affect price.

* Booking six to nine months or more in advance usually yields a savings.

* A last-minute "sale" when the ship isn't fully booked also results in lower prices.

* To encourage early bookings or to energize slow sales, cruise lines often offer special promotional fares, such as two-for-one prices, 50% off the second passenger, and the like.

* If there's a third or fourth person sharing the stateroom, their per-person price is often much less than for the first and second persons. (Conversely, a single occupancy--one person in a stateroom designed for two or more--usually costs much more.) For example: The first and second person pay $1,000 each and the third pays $500. A single, on the other hand, would pay $1,500.

"Seasonality" is a factor, too. Cruise lines almost always price their itinerary according to seasonal demand. For example, summer is high season in the Mediterranean; that's when cruises there are most costly. Spring and fall are shoulder seasons, when prices are somewhat lower. Winter is low season. Prices for a Mediterranean cruise then are usually the lowest. (The weather is windier and rainier.) Repositioning cruises, when vessels are moving from one general cruise area to another, are almost always a bargain. (More about repositioning cruises in Chapter 7.)

Other factors that can reduce the cost of a cruise are special "alumni" or past passenger rates (rates given to people who have sailed on that cruise line before), group rates (group minimums vary by cruise line--some consider five passengers a group; others require at least 20; most are somewhere in between), and whether the cruise is bought through a travel agency that has specially negotiated prices. On occasion, cruise lines will discount their brochure rates substantially to increase slow bookings. (The practice of adjusting price to supply and demand is called yield management.)

Since cruise pricing is such an "elastic" thing, you should not consider the rate given in the brochure as set in stone. Think of it, instead, as something more akin to a "suggested retail price."

Roadblocks to Purchase

You would think, with so many things good about cruising, that just about everyone would be ready to buy one! Not so. When average persons think about a cruise (especially if they've never been on one), they sometimes feel reluctant to commit. After all, it's hard to decide on something unknown. Their reasons are often based on misconceptions (though in some cases--e.g., extreme sensitivity to motion--their feelings may be valid).

Here are the 15 most commonly heard objections to cruising:

1. Cruises are too expensive. In most polls, this is the number one obstacle to purchasing a cruise. One reason: Consumers aren't accustomed to paying for their whole vacation experience at once, well in advance of departure. They forget that since a cruise is inclusive, it will seem to have a high price tag. This is why CLIA urges travel agents to do an analysis for clients that compares the cost of a cruise to a conventional land-based trip. When the clients see their costs spelled out, they realize that a cruise represents a remarkable value. (See Figure 2-1.)

2. Cruises are boring. This objection comes from the days of transatlantic crossings, when the most some passengers did was sit on a deck chair bundled up in a blanket. Cruises are a different experience today. The problem isn't that there's too little to do, but that there's often too much ....

3. Cruises are only for older people. Here's another objection with roots in old-time cruising. A few cruise experiences do indeed skew toward a more mature passenger profile, but brochure descriptions make this bias very clear. Others tend toward younger passengers. The majority of cruises, however, feature passengers from just about every age group, with the average age becoming lower and lower. (It's currently 43 years.)

4. Cruises are stuffy and too formal. A cruise is largely an informal and relaxed experience. On certain ships, a dress code does prevail in the main dining room, sometimes for lunch, often for dinner. Formality is somewhat more frequent on upscale cruises, much less likely or even nonexistent on certain mass-market cruises, a sailing ship, or an adventure/education cruise. (See Figure 2-2 for a typical dress code requirement on an upscale cruise.)

5. Cruises are too regimented. To achieve the efficient flow of hundreds to thousands of passengers, cruise lines do try to organize things as best they can. But organization on a ship is far from rigid--there's plenty of freedom. Routines are especially relaxed on very large ships, upscale cruise lines, sailing ships, and adventure/education cruises.

6. There's not enough time in ports. It's true that cruise ships rarely stay in a port for more than 12 hours. At minor ports, this (or less time) may be all that's needed. And as we said earlier, one of the major goals of a cruise client is to sample a region.

For example, a traveler might wish to visit the major ports of the western Mexican coast, then return a few years later for a resort stay in the city that was most impressive. Moreover, it is possible--through a pre- or postcruise package--to spend extended time at the departure and/or arrival port. And to satisfy those clients who want a more extended port experience, some cruise lines are now spending more than a day in certain intermediate ports or building faster ships that will get from place to place more quickly, thus permitting a longer port stay.

7. The ship environment is too confining. Cruise ship designers have become increasingly adept at creating a sense of spaciousness aboard ship. Vast windows in public spaces, pale colors, and other tricks of the architectural trade "expand" the environment. The actual space that each client has is fairly well expressed by something called space ratio. More about that in Chapter 3.

8. Aren't you forced to socialize with people? As mentioned earlier, meeting interesting fellow passengers aboard ship is perceived as a benefit by many cruisers.

The likelihood that you'll meet people you have plenty in common with is great. Some people, though, find socializing uncomfortable. To address this, cruise lines organize all sorts of optional events to make mixing comfortable and easy. In theory, though, someone who wants to be alone could very well do that aboard a ship. Reading while in a deck chair, dining in one's stateroom, watching the scenery go by from a private verandah, opting for a ship with an unregimented approach--these and more can enable someone to enjoy a cruise without a whole lot of socializing.

9. I was in the Navy, and the last thing I want to do is take my vacation on a ship. You'd be surprised how often this one comes up. But a pleasure cruise is dramatically different from the Navy experience. Virtually everyone who cites this objection discovers quite rapidly that this is a silly preconception.

10. I'll eat too much and put on weight. Cruise veterans jokingly refer to "five-pound cruises" and "ten-pound cruises." The reality today is this: Low-calorie, healthy dining choices are increasingly available on ships, plus exercise opportunities allow you to work off all those calories. Or at least some of them....

11. Are ships really safe? The Titanic still looms large in the minds of the public--witness the immense box office success this 1998 film achieved. But a Titanic-like catastrophe is virtually impossible today. Modern safety regulation requirements and radar have seen to that. Fires aboard ships have occurred, but they're rare and easily contained.

12. I'm worried about terrorism. After 9/11/01, the cruise lines took very forceful steps to guard against acts of terrorism. Passenger and staff names are checked against government alert lists, luggage is scanned, photo IDs are often required of everyone--indeed, in some cases, the procedures followed are more rigorous than those at airports. Also, cruise lines swiftly alter itineraries to adjust for potential political flare-ups.

13. It's too far to fly to the port. This is a problem voiced by those who live far inland (e.g., North Dakota or Saskatchewan) and whose ship is leaving from, say, San Juan, Puerto Rico. Make them realize it's worth it for such a great experience (e.g., "It's only a half-day to one of the greatest vacations of your life"), or sell them on a closer port destination--one that requires less flying time and/or fewer connections or perhaps is within a reasonable driving distance.

14. I'm worried about getting sick. Some people are especially vulnerable to motion discomfort. But ship stabilizers (underwater wing-like devices that reduce a ship's roll) and other design features have minimized this problem. Cruise vessels also tend to sail in protected waters, where motion is less likely to occur. Many cruisers use Sea Bands[R], wrist bracelets that, through accupressure, apparently reduce the effect of ship motion. Physicians can also prescribe pills or skin patches that, for most people, relieve motion sickness. Alcohol and lack of sleep can worsen seasickness. People who are prone to motion discomfort should avoid drinking too much or sleeping too little. Another sickness concern: "Will I catch something onboard?" Press coverage sometimes makes it seem that stomach-attacking germs lurk everywhere on a cruise, that every ship railing hosts the Norwalk virus. Yet the U.S. government's Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), which regularly assesses shipboard sanitation conditions, has stressed that such viruses exist everywhere, that they may be the second most common thing people catch in any situation (the common cold is first). To allay fears, however, cruise lines now take intense precautions to keep their vessels extra clean and sanitized.

A question allied to all this: "What happens if I get ill while onboard?" Health professionals are right there aboard ship to deal with problems. No hotel can offer that.

15. I don't know enough about cruises. Though this objection is not commonly voiced, it's behind almost all the others. Many people are afraid to try something they've never experienced. More information usually resolves their reluctance, since this objection often implies that the client wants to know more .... Your job: to make them visualize themselves on a ship and feel--in advance--how wonderful it will be.

[ILLUSTRATION OMITTED]
FIGURE 2-2 Dress code (after 6 P.M.) for an upscale cruise line

Formal: Appropriate formal evening wear for women is an evening gown or
cocktail dress; men wear tuxedos, dinner jackets, or dark suits.
Sailings of eight days or less typically feature two formal nights,
while longer cruises usually have three or four formal nights.

Informal: Ladies usually wear dresses or pantsuits; men wear jackets
(tie optional).

Casual: Open-neck shirts, slacks, and sports outfits are appropriate.

Source: Silversea Cruises


In sum, the reasons to take a cruise vacation are many. The reasons not to take a cruise are often bogus. The key to cruise client satisfaction: A person must take the right cruise, on the right ship, and to the right destination for them. That's why travel agents--familiar with both cruises and their clients--are so critical to the cruise-buying process. When the personalities of the traveler and the cruise match, then all the objections a client may conceive will probably, and simply, melt away.

Questions for Discussion

1. You're going on a three-day cruise out of Florida. What can you predict about the passengers?

2. You've "graduated" to a ten-day cruise of Northern Europe. What can you anticipate about the passengers this time?

3. Give the six most important reasons why, in your opinion, the cruise experience is so successful.

4. What's typically included on a cruise? What isn't?

5. List at least six objections that people might have about a cruise vacation.

Activity

Do you know at least one person who has taken a cruise? Interview that person by using the questions below. Summarize that person's answers in the spaces given. It doesn't matter whether you've cruised or not. The purpose of this exercise is to explore someone else's perceptions.

1. What cruise or cruises have you taken?

2. What was the most important reason you decided to try out cruising?

3. What were the other motives you had for cruising?

4. Were you reluctant in any way about taking a cruise? What caused this reluctance? Did the actual cruise change your mind?

5. Now that you've tried out cruising, what's the best thing about it?

6. Do you plan to take another cruise? If yes, what kind of cruise will it be? (Destination, cruise line, number of days.)

Marc Mancini, Ph.D.

Professor of Travel

West Los Angeles College
FIGURE 2-1 Cost comparison

Typical land-based
vacation vs. cruise vacation

                               Land-based           Cruise
                             resort package     8 days/7 nights
                                7 Nights            3 ports

Fixed      Base price        $680 ($97/day)    $1,475 ($210/day)

           Air                    $400             Included

           Transfers            Included           Included

           Meals                  $350             Included

           Service charges        $93                 --

           Tips                    --                $60

           Taxes                  $76                $89

Variable   Sightseeing            $35                $40

           Entertainment          $55              Included

           Beverages              $150               $100

           Total                 $1,839             $1,764

           Per diem               $263               $252

Source: CLIA travel agency estimate for mid-range vacation
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Author:Mancini, Marc
Publication:Cruising, A Guide to the Cruise Line Industry, 2nd ed.
Date:Jan 1, 2004
Words:4522
Previous Article:Chapter 1 Introduction.
Next Article:Chapter 3 The anatomy of a cruise ship.
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