To Improve, Cruise Lines Look Inward
Upgrading existing fleets proves more beneficial than building larger ships.
Instead of building bigger ships, many cruise companies are turning to innovation to appeal to travelers. For instance, Royal Caribbean International announced in March that it will invest $900 million to add amenities such as waterslides and trampolines to ten of its vessels, as well as improve its culinary program, helmed by celebrity chef Jamie Oliver.
“Revitalizing older ships leads to a more consistent brand message and consistency in the fleet,” says Noriye Oto, vice president of cruise and tour product management at International Cruise & Excursions, Inc. If you are introducing first-time cruisers to your brand, she explains, it’s important to provide an experience that is comparable to all the bells and whistles of your newer vessels.
In addition to ensuring brand continuity, upgrades are more attractive to cruise lines because ship size may be nearing its peak. Oto explains that the number of ports that can accommodate mega-ships is limited, and the infrastructure on shore to handle a large influx of visitors in a very short amount of time is often lacking.
Another way cruise lines are improving their fleets is through technology. “Increasing connectivity is a way to share more information and live experiences—no better sales tool than that,” Oto says. In June, Princess Cruises announced that in addition to a preview program on the Regal Princess, three more of their ships will be equipped to use Ocean Medallion, a Bluetooth-enabled wearable technology with a host of features, such as enabling guests to unlock their stateroom or pay for onboard purchases.
Oto predicts the activities found off the ship in port destinations will inspire the next great onboard offerings, such as race car tracks, new specialty restaurants, craft beer, silent discos, escape rooms, laser tag, and wellness programs. “What vacationers can do on board has certainly become as important as the destinations visited,” she says.
Cruise lines looking to integrate more technology into their operations should consider improving the boarding process with features like online check-in. “Cruise companies should focus on the embarkation process,” Oto says. “As the ‘first impression,’ anything that can help a voyager start their vacation off on a positive note would go a long way.”
Image credit: courtesy of Royal Caribbean