Comment: Will cruise follow the low-cost airline model?

Comment: Will cruise follow the low-cost airline model?

Miles Morgan, owner of Miles Morgan Travel

I remember the day that Complete Cruise Solution decided to stop giving out traditional tickets and move to e-tickets.

I did not agree – and still do not today. Where has the romance of cruise gone? It’s not a point‑to‑point flight; it is meant to be an upmarket holiday.

I am sure Cunard’s customers have not used their scissors on a Sunday afternoon to cut out their luggage labels since their Blue Peter-watching days!

But that was only the start. CCS’s move to Vantage and Getaway fares could signal the future path.

Cruise lines are failing to make money simply selling tickets for their cruises. Prices now are regularly falling below the £100 per person per day level, so what do the cruise lines do?

I think they’ll start to follow the low-cost airline model: strip out as much as possible that they can charge for later to give a very low lead-in fare.

So what have we seen to date and what could we see?

A charge to select your specific cabin? Yep, being done.

A charge for entertainment? On my recent stay on Norwegian Breakaway, they were charging for the Big Top entertainment. Prepay your gratuities before setting foot on board? Well, of course.

Charge for meals? Yep, one standard restaurant and multiple pay ones – a nice $20 pppn earner.

But where could this end? ‘Ah yes, sir, you want to get off in Barcelona? Fine, that’s £20 to use the gangplank, please.’

Sounds rather like Mr O’Leary’s PR spin to charge €5 to use the toilet.

This is the route the low to mid-class cruise lines may follow and, just as we saw with British Airways versus the low-cost airlines, other lines will start adding value built into the price and go the other way.

Those doing just that in the cruise industry include Azamara and Regent, with its fully-inclusive cruising even including excursions. The divides are being drawn, but what does this mean for agents?

More good news, I feel. Cruise has always been a tough product to book online, with lots of complexity, from choice of cruise line and ship to cabin grade, cabin number and dining sittings. To make the right choices, a knowledgeable agent is vital.

These changes to cruise product could add myriad options and decisions for a consumer already slightly unsure, giving good agents even more chances to sell if they really know their stuff.

So my advice to agents is to acquire even more knowledge to pass on to customers. And to really go the extra mile, dig out those scissors and do the ‘Blue Peter’ cutting for your clients.

Cruise could just be a profitable sector for us agents again.


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