Nearly 150 agents boarded Carnival Cruise Line’s new ship Horizon. Harry Kemble and Lucy Huxley report

29% of people who have never cruised plan to do so

The proportion of holidaymakers who have never cruised but intend to (29%) is now greater than the percentage of people who have cruised before and plan to again (26%), according to new research.

The figures were presented to delegates at Clia’s first ‘Broaden Your Horizon’ event on board Carnival Cruise Line’s newest ship, Carnival Horizon, which was launched this month.

Cruise line executives said agents should jump on the growing interest in cruise, which they put down in part to new marketing methods.

Tony Roberts, managing director of Princess Cruises, said prime time ITV show The Cruise, which features Royal Princess, “drives a huge amount of interest”.

“We get four million viewers, which is twice the number of UK cruisers per year, so we’re reaching a new audience,” he said. “We see a spike [in calls and web users] while the TV show is on, then for half an hour afterwards.”

MSC Cruises sales director Steve Williams added: “Both times we’ve been on Cruising with Jane McDonald, the featured ships have been our bestselling products for a month after the show.”

The bosses agreed innovations, such as the Dr Seuss water park on Carnival Horizon, the racetrack on Norwegian Bliss and the Ultimate Abyss slide on Royal Caribbean’s Symphony of the Seas, helped attract media and customer attention.

Ben Bouldin, Royal Caribbean International’s managing director for the UK and Ireland, said: “We are constantly looking at ‘who is the customer?’ and ‘how are they changing?’ Millennials are now parents and are now cruising. They want something different than what our traditional cruisers want.”

Iglu Cruise is credited with making the first booking for Symphony’s Ultimate Family Suite, which boasts a slide, games and a swinging chair. Bouldin said the two-storey suite had also been booked for $95,000 over Christmas.

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Carnival Panorama to sail from California

New Carnival ship Carnival Panorama will operate its maiden season out of Long Beach, California, rather than in Europe.

The 3,934-passenger vessel will offer seven-night itineraries in the Pacific Mexico region when it sets sail in December 2019.

Christine Duffy, president of Carnival Cruise Line, said: “Until now we have only been sailing in Europe when we bring out a new ship. With Panorama we will be sailing out of Long Beach.

“Like all cruise lines, we make decisions based on deployment based on where we see the greatest demand and lift for us – that is why we really spend more of our time in the US.”

Carnival ‘software’ takes priority over bigger vessels

Carnival Cruise Line has no intention of building the world’s largest cruise ship and instead aims to improve the onboard experience with each new launch, the line’s president said.

Speaking on board new ship Carnival Horizon, Christine Duffy said it “has never really been about the hardware” for Carnival.

Carnival launched 3,960-passenger Carnival Horizon earlier this month and will welcome Carnival Panorama, with a capacity for 3,934 passengers, into its fleet in November next year.

But neither vessel matches the largest cruise ships in the industry, such as Royal Caribbean’s 6,680-passenger Symphony of the Seas, which launched in March.

Carnival’s yet-to-launch Excellence-class ships will have a capacity for 5,200 passengers.

Duffy said: “For us, it has never been about building the largest ship. It is about giving the crew and guests a great experience.”

She later said that while Carnival Horizon was a “beautiful ship”, the ‘software’ on a new Carnival vessel remained more of a priority than the ‘hardware’.

“A lot of the enhancements that we have made with these new ships is what you don’t see,” she said, adding: “That is something that is really important to us; the improved Wi-Fi is as much for our guests as it is for the crew.”

New Vista-class ship Carnival Horizon features SkyRide, a cycle track suspended 150 feet in the air, a Dr Seuss-themed water park; and an elevated climbing frame, SkyCourse. Both SkyRide and SkyCourse appeared on Carnival Vista, the first Vista-class ship.

Ballie: Tap in to our global range of cruises

UK agents should take advantage of Carnival’s worldwide range of sailings, said UK and international sales vice‑president Iain Baillie.

He was speaking on board Carnival Horizon which, after sailing four Mediterranean cruises from Barcelona, will reposition to New York for the summer and then to Miami in September, from where it will operate six to eight-night Caribbean cruises for a year.

Asked if UK agents should be rewarded with more European deployment by Carnival, Baillie told Travel Weekly: “Our travel

agent partners like that we are providing them with a different opportunity in terms of deployment, generally out of North America and the Caribbean.”

He added that UK agents were discovering that new-to-cruise customers were attracted to short sailings, which could be packaged up with land-based trips in North America.

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‘Facebook should still be part of your marketing’

The demise of Facebook is “grossly exaggerated”, with the social media platform still the number-one network used by millennials and their offspring, according to a digital marketing expert.

Oli Yeates, founder and chief executive of digital agency Clicky Media, said travel firms and agents should respond to the demands of millennials and their children, who will soon be booking their own holidays.

“People born since the millennium will be the largest generation in numbers ever,” he said. “They are more informed and more connected to each other. They are the least brand loyal and 60% claim that experiencing culture is the most important part of a holiday. They may not be your customers now but they will be in 10 years, so you need to be ready.”

Yeates said video is increasingly important, as are mobile-ready websites that load quickly, with 45% of visits to travel sites now via mobile.

He urged agents to make websites bookable and look at modern payment systems such as ApplePay, and to make sites more visual with high-resolution photos and video.

Yeates said it was crucial that websites loaded fast, adding: “Over 40% of people abandon websites if they don’t load within three seconds.”

Views on Horizon

Richard Downs, Iglu
“It is beautifully designed. The food has been fantastic. Fahrenheit 555 steakhouse is amazing. The rides like SkyRide or walking in the air [SkyCourse], were quite exhilarating.”

Claire Brighton, The Advantage Travel Partnership
“The ship looks amazing. The atmosphere makes it – it is so much fun at sea. Agents have got a great repackaging opportunity – they can do a lot of four-night [itineraries].”

Nicola Caffell, Thomas Cook
“Horizon is a beautiful ship. The key things are the pool bar, which is really good fun in the day, and the sushi bar. The food is sensational.”

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