Throughout the last few years, cruise holidays have grown in popularity and an increasing number of new build ships have been launched by many of the cruise lines in order to not only satisfy this growth but to attempt to ensure its’ ongoing growth. As newer ‘mega’ liners or ‘super’ vessels with more and more innovative and, at times, unbelievable facilities on board are launched, with cruise companies spending millions of pounds on their ‘hardware’, it’s interesting to consider whether or not they are pure genius, or simply gimmicks that, once the novelty has worn off, aren’t really making more people cruise than would have done anyway.
Examples of these innovative facilities which have been added on cruise ships include, ‘Flowrider’, Royal Caribbean’s onboard surf park. And with Royal Caribbean International it doesn’t stop there. They are also responsible for, amongst other things, rock climbing walls scaling their ships’ funnels, ice skating rinks at sea, zip wires along their Royal Promenades, old-fashioned Carousels for the children (and big kids in all of us!!), as well as a whole host of other unbelievable facilities.
And Royal Caribbean aren’t alone – with other cruise lines also competing such as Celebrity Cruises and their real grass on the top deck, P&O Cruises and their Scaletrex tracks and Norwegian Cruise Lines and their ten pin bowling alley to name but a few.
Some of these facilities are pure genius it must be said, and generally the activities which have been designed to keep children completely entertained whilst on board. Water parks, discos, slides and amusement arcades are just a handful of the options available to keep youngsters happy. And in this context, these ‘gimmicks’ must be a good thing as happy children equals happy parents and therefore a great holiday for everyone.
Taking this into account, the introduction of some of these kid-friendly ‘gimmicks’ must have assisted in the growth of cruise holidays within the family market and similarly, the ‘wild and wacky’ ideas which British holiday makers will have seen on television adverts, in newspapers and magazines and on direct mail will most definitely have helped grow the market as they will have helped to dispel some of the staid and old fashioned myths of cruise holidays only being suitable for the ‘over fed, newly wed and nearly dead’!
Because these more ‘out there’ facilities have aided marketers within the cruise lines to generate more inspirational and aspirational sales messages, they must have helped in some way to grow the cruise market. And in fact, research has shown that advertising in recent years has changed many people’s perceptions of cruise holidays although there is still some way to go.
However, the reality on board is that for many travellers, once they have queued for some time to trial the facilities, and had the experience once, it’s unlikely that for example, a zip wire, or grass on the top deck would actually encourage repeat bookings. Then it is in the hands of the ‘complete’ experience, the food, staff, destinations, accommodation and value for money being some of the key reasons guests would go on to make repeat bookings.
In conclusion, new facilities on cruise ships have most definitely helped assist the growth in popularity of cruises, but whether or not they help repeat business is still debatable. And where now for the next raft of mega ships? It will be interesting to see what the cruise line designers come up with next!