What’s Behind Cruiser’s Cruise Line Loyalty?
Written by: Kuki
These days, in most cases when boarding a ship you’ll find over 60% of the passengers onboard are repeat customers of that cruise line. I had always considered cruisers to be somewhat of an adventurous breed, and this seemingly high percentage of passengers returning over and over to the same cruise line seems to belie that hypothesis.
My Blog last week spoke about the recent reduction of benefits Royal Caribbean has made to their Crown and Anchor Society “loyalists program”. Customer Loyalty Programs are a relatively new phenomena that has invaded a broad spectrum of businesses and industries selling goods and services to consumers.
There’s very few purchases a consumer can make without encountering a loyalty program. Whether you’re putting gasoline in your car, or making purchases at a drug store, or buying groceries or clothing, or purchasing travel, you’re being offered some variation of a loyalty program. Of course there’s the ever popular air line frequent flyer programs, and even credit card companies offering rewards with every purchase made using their cards.
So it should be obvious that the business community has decided that loyalty programs are an effective tool in encouraging repeat business. I think loyalty programs can be looked at from two points of view. They can be looked at a means of trying to reward loyal customers, or attempts to bribe people to be loyal customers. Viewing it as bribes, it’s quite amusing to see how little value the bribe has to have to work on some customers.
In regard to the cruise industry I’m personally somewhat surprised the loyalty of brand customers seems to reach beyond their loyalty programs and rewards. Unbridled dedication to a cruise line seems much more common than customer loyalty or devotion to other products.
Truly, to my mind, none of the cruise line’s loyalty programs offer enough value in their benefits to convince me to not examine all options when choosing a cruise; or more specifically a cruise line. My curiosity to find what they all offer, and to experience as many alternatives as possible over-rides any supreme loyalty. But I am beginning to believe I am in the minority in this regard.
As I read our message boards I see many people taking pride in being able to say it’s their – 3rd, 8th, 15th, 20th, and so on- cruise with a particular line. And I see many people acting as “cheerleaders”; touting their choice of cruise line to be superior to all others, whether they have actually cruised on another line or not…which to my mind is a difficult position to defend.
There’s a bit of an inexplicable desire of people to have their choice of cruise line validated, and that validation seems to partially come by being recognized as members of the cruise line’s loyalty programs.
I witnessed this recently when Carnival announced the introduction of newly designed “Sail and Sign” cards, the Identification cards each passenger is given, which also serve as their cabin door keys, and charge card onboard. The discussions of the reactions to the new designs on the message boards was surprisingly intense. In fact so many past passengers expressed negative opinions on the design that Carnival went back and redesigned the cards. I have to admit I was startled by the fervour of the reaction. I’ve frankly never given the designs any thought, as long as they function. But the recognition that people believe comes to them with a different coloured or designed card, which makes them stand out from others is apparently important to others.
There are those who will argue that once they’ve found a cruise line that they like there’s no reason to look further, and that’s understandable to some degree. However, I still have to ask myself why they wouldn’t be interested in seeing if they can improve their cruise experience by sampling some of the alternatives. Too many people seem willing to accept word of mouth negatives they’ve “heard” – either from friends, message board posts or cruise line marketing- about other cruise lines, and then actually speak about them in a negative light, rather than relying on their own their own judgement by climbing onboard another cruise line.
I realize that people’s vacation dollars and time is limited, so there might be some hesitation to gamble on something new. But it does seem odd to limit yourself. Just because you know you like carrots, does that mean you should never try peas? I hate zucchini, but I’d never know that if I had never tried it.
Perhaps the fear of spending money to find you don’t like zucchini motivates you to stick to carrots, and just say you heard zucchini is awful. I’d certainly encourage everyone to taste everything… except of course zucchini; it’s awful!
What drives your loyalty? Is it possible to admit your loyalty to a particular cruise brand, without finding it necessary to speak negatively about other brands, or other people’s choice of cruise line?
Do the cruise line’s loyalty programs have a direct and significant impact on your decision when you are booking your next cruise? Or do you simply view them as an extra amenity?
Once onboard a ship is it important to you to be recognized by the ship’s officers and crew as a repeating, loyal customer?
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Posted: April 14th, 2009 under Kuki.