Choice – The Driving Force of Today’s Cruise Industry
Written by: Kuki
Choices have always been a part of the industry, with lots of ships, itineraries and price levels to choose from.
But today, choices well beyond that seem to be driving the entire industry.
Experienced cruisers on the major cruise lines will remember when evening dining was restricted to two set dining times in a single dining room with specific assigned tables where passengers took their nightly meals; a buffet area available for breakfast and lunch; ; few day time activities; two set times each evening for a either a production show or some form of variety entertainer in the ship’s theater.
There was pretty much the norm in the industry for well over a decade.
I recall when Costa Cruise Line introduced the first “alternate restaurant” for evening dining, which required passengers to pay an extra fee for dining there. At the time the uproar from passengers was quite thunderous; as people complained about a cruise line charging for food, which to that point had always been included in their cruise fare.
In today’s cruise industry I’d bet many passengers would voice disappointment if their ship had only one such alternate restaurant. Along with offering alternate restaurants, many lines began opening their buffet restaurants for casual evening dining. That move was directed toward passengers who weren’t interested in complying with the ship’s evening dress codes (another dinosaur policy in the industry, working its way to extinction).
When Norwegian Cruise Line introduced what they tagged as “Freestyle Cruising”, offering multiple dining choices, with multiple changes to timing of shows to fit their freestyle scheduling, and particularly when they built ships to specifically match the “freestyle” style, they set in motion a reaction which has spread throughout the industry.
While, for a variety of reasons, I don’t believe the rest of the industry viewed Norwegian Cruise Line, and the changes it was making as any form of “ultimate threat” to their business, I do think they took notice of the general chatter of prospective passengers looking favorably at the additional choices NCL’s Freestyle was offering.
That movement, which Norwegian Cruise Line, unknowingly set in motion, today translates to directly to every new ship coming out of the shipyard, as well as any major refurbishment done to existing ships. Every cruise line is rushing to find innovative ways to offer their customers more choices in every area of the cruise experience.
In some areas the advances in technology have enabled the broadening of available choices; such as communication tools (which have also lead to considerable additional revenue). But they’ve also innovated by including many more dining options – some at an extra cost to the passengers; for others they have found a way to include them in the cruise fare.
And I’m not sure there’s now a major cruise line that doesn’t offer some form of “anytime”/”your time”/your choice/fit in any tag name for dinner seating to allow choice and flexibility to the passengers.
While it may go unnoticed sometimes, there have been fairly dramatic changes in the entertainment on cruise ships. One trend has been placed licensed Broadway musicals on board, as well as well known acts such as the Blue Man Group, and the technologically advanced use of LED screens I saw recently debuted on Carnival.
Not only are the acts and shows changing, but the timing of the shows, with some being repeated at various times throughout the cruise, is becoming more commonplace. This, in order to give passengers a choice of when they would like to fit seeing the shows into their own cruise schedule.
Even when it comes time to leave the ship at the end of a cruise, passengers have a choice. Every major line now offers guests the ability to do self disembarkation; where, if they can carry off their own luggage they are entitled to disembark as soon as the ship is cleared. Some cruise lines are also offering guests the ability to stay in their cabin until they disembark the ship, whereas before “the choice” was to be out of your cabin by 7 or 8 A.M., irregardless of the time you were expected to be leaving the ship.
I believe the cruise lines do now see choices are of great interest to their customers. I also believe we’re going to see the cruise lines get even more innovative to come up with more ways to supply those choices. It’s quite likely they’ll also come up with ways to charge their guests for some of the extra choices, and thereby drive some fairly significant new revenues. But, in many cases I also believe the guests will willingly pony up the extra cash to avail themselves of the choices.
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Posted: August 14th, 2012 under Kuki.