Luxury Cruise Brands Focus On Personalization Through Specialization

The worldwide cruise industry is a $131-billion dollar business. For luxury cruises, nearly 90% of sales were booked through travel agents. This was the launching point for the Luxury Cruise Lines Discussion Panel at CLIA’s cruise3sixty 2015 event in Ft. Lauderdale, Fla., this past month. 

With the major cruise lines building ships to accommodate ever-increasing numbers of passengers: 4,400, 4,500 and more, the largest boat on the luxury panel discussion was just around 200 beds. When asked about their place in the cruise industry, and how they reacted to the trend of larger boats and more passengers, the panel representatives stood firm in their identity.

Sandy Stevens, VP of sales for Paul Gaugin Cruises, started the counter to the “larger is better” concept by reinforcing the type of customer seeking a luxury cruise. They are not looking to acquire toys or spend on things, but they would rather spend on quality time and relationships. Navi Sawhney of Ponant USA echoed the same sentiment, that passengers were seeking life experiences, something that would be transformational. Joe Ducket, VP  of sales and marketing for Windstar Cruises, followed along those lines by explaining that the smaller boats can go to unique ports and destinations that the bigger boats cannot go, which lead to more intimate, memorable moments that people can share. 



Gretchen Bell, VP of sales at SeaDream Yacht Club, and Kristian Anderson, senior VP and GM of Silversea Cruises, both emphasized the personalized attention that visitors receive on the boat. Bell emphasized that the SeaDream cruises average a 1-1 crew-to-guest ratio and the personalized details, such as embroidered names on pajamas for every guest. Not to be outdone, Anderson brought up the Silversea arrangement of having a personal butler for every cabin. Again, the emphasis was on the personalization and the experience. 

Rather than confronting the increasing size of the cruise lines in the industry, the luxury cruise lines stand bold in knowing their niche and catering to the individual. Rather than making the ship the focus of attention through activities and ever-increasing spectacles, the luxury cruise experience is focused on the personal attention on the guest, a closeness with the destination, and the “moments” that will define them for life.

However, it was clear that the luxury cruises were not for a few elite, as the affordability factor was still important. Stevens made this a point of contention by asking the agents in attendance to focus on the cost of the cruise — after the cruise, “The bill that people receive when they walk off the boats means that they haven’t yet finished paying for it. That is the true cost of the cruise.” By taking that bill into account, it may not be a stretch to opt instead for the luxury cruise, where everything is all-inclusive with personalized service and attention. Then, she challenged the agents to focus on a specific area of speciality and become the expert. By knowing your niche and focusing on that information, your reputation will grow and develop. You do not have to be all things to all people, nor is it profitable to attempt to do that. 

The panel reinforced that concept by providing examples of their commitment to a more personalized experience, rather then going after numbers and spectacles. By focusing on the experience, and helping to create intimate moments in guests’ lives, they were changing people. Appropriately, Anderson brought applause by closing with his remark from an old cartoon, “You don’t need to see a therapist, you need to see a travel agent!”

Also on the panel was Charlie Sylvia, VP of trade relations, CLIA - Moderator.

2 comments about "Luxury Cruise Brands Focus On Personalization Through Specialization".
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  1. Matthew Bailey from SiteLogic, May 11, 2015 at 9:42 p.m.

    Paula, that is an axcellent point, and one that was not addressed to the panel. I'm sure that there are economic considerations underlying it all, but have you seen or heard of any response to the demand?

  2. Paula Lynn from Who Else Unlimited, May 12, 2015 at 7:50 p.m.

    Matthew, the more I travel, the more I learn. There are a continued growth of information about the single traveler from budget to expensive. Cruises and US travel are 2 categories on the omitted list. It is like a distain for singles who travel and willing to spend their money. So with so many places in the world who do want travelers/visitors, people go where they are welcome. I wouldn't be surprised if there have been no serious or real surveys on even interest. Personally, I do know, especially women who certainly would do some kind of Viking River Cruise or such and do not go. One woman is longing to go since she is unable to do the walking she used to, is a widow without a partner, her friends are not going and has the financial means to travel. In case it has never been noticed, the boomer generation has more money to spend on luxury travel than other generations and divorce after 25, 30 years is rather common these days, not to mention death of a spouse, especially men.

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