What are your clients’ expectations when they go on a luxury cruise vacation? We posed this question and a handful of others to two travel advisors who specialize in cruise bookings. They noted that their luxury clients—from ultra luxury to mid-market—are looking for a “bragworthy” experience, a stress-free environment, and a worry-free cruise vacation. Here’s the take on luxury cruise bookings from two of your peers.
Define today’s luxury cruise vacation.
According to Ali Geiger, Dream Vacations franchise owner and vacation specialist, “A luxury experience involves being with like-minded travelers who are curious, well-educated and well-traveled. People who want to learn about and be immersed in the destination and culture they are visiting. The luxury client expects good service, and to have the mundane, everyday details taken care of for them so they can fully enjoy their experience.” Kathy Lunceford, a Cruise Planners franchise owner and luxury travel specialist, points out that a luxury cruise means a “stress-free environment once on board, with personal service and attention to your needs; inclusiveness of premium beverages, gratuities, specialty dining; multiple fine dining options; and deluxe accommodations. Many lines portray themselves as ‘luxury,’ but in today’s market, a travel agent is your best friend to determine what a traveler’s needs are, what is truly included, what is truly luxury in the eyes of the client.”
What are affluent cruise clients’ expectations when they go on a cruise and which cruise lines are they opting for?
According to Lunceford, “luxury to my clients means all-inclusive amenities, service and cuisine excellence, deluxe accommodations and public areas, and a high crew to guest ratio. Most are opting for Silversea, Seabourn, Crystal Cruises and Ponant.”
Geiger notes that for her “affluent cruise clients, a unique and ‘bragworthy’ experience and destination are at the top. They want to be in a relaxed atmosphere with others who have like-minded interests. They want to be pampered and have everything handled for them. No worries, only relaxation and enjoyment. Most opt for Regent Seven Seas.”
What type of cruise vacation are your affluent cruise clients opting for?
Both Geiger and Lunceford point out that their more affluent clients prefer the smaller ships and river cruises, with Lunceford noting that “the smaller ships offer more personalized service, more intimacy, no long lines getting on or off the ships, and typically a higher level of service and attention to detail. A staff that only has to care for a few hundred guests, or fewer, versus four or five thousand can really elevate the guest experience. These ships can also often visit ports that are not accessible by the large ships.”
What are mid-market cruise clients’ expectations when they go on a cruise and which cruise lines are they opting for?
While the affluent cruisers want that “bragworthy” experience, Geiger says that the “mid-market client is looking for things they don’t get at home regularly: Great food, great service. They want to experience things that their friends have seen or done.
Mid-level looks to Azamara Club Cruises and maybe Celebrity for higher levels of service as well as more unique itineraries and special experiences.”
Lunceford’s clients in this circle are looking for “amenity inclusiveness, but perhaps with more of an eye toward value. They want excellent cuisine, dining options, spacious accommodations, reasonable excursions, and good service from crew and staff. Most of my mid-market luxury clients sail Oceania, Viking Ocean Cruises, SeaDream Yacht Club and Azamara Club Cruises.”
Where do you see luxury cruising in the next few years?
Lunceford points to “small ships adding more features and amenities to try and differentiate themselves from others such as Scenic’s Eclipse, which will have a helicopter and a mini-submarine. Ponant’s new ships will feature a glass wall on the lower level, which will let you observe the underwater life, all while you sip your cocktail in comfort.” Geiger adds that she foresees “more smaller ships offering revamped itineraries and adding new experiences.”
Keep This on Your Radar
• AmaLea, which debuted in March and sailed the line’s Tulip Time cruises, embarks on 7-night cruises on the Danube between Vilshofen and Budapest this month. Two of those sailings are themed Wine Cruises hosted by Amelia Ceja, president of Ceja Vineyards Napa, CA and Frederick Frank, president of Dr. Konstantin Frank Wine Cellars, Finger Lakes Region, NY and take place in November. AmaLea will close out her inaugural 2018 season with four Christmas Markets Cruises on the Danube.
• Azamara Club Cruises has joined forces with Rocky Mountaineer to develop special offerings of inclusive pre- and post-land programs for select Azamara Alaska voyages in 2019. Offerings include bike rides along the Pacific Ocean and picturesque scenery with the Azamara Cruise Global, Bike Local program; stays in premium hotels; luxury train travel through unique, historical routes throughout the Canadian Rockies; and gourmet cuisine. Cruises include the 10-day Alaska Intensive Voyage sailing May 2019; the 8-day Alaska Adventure Voyage in June 2019; and the 10-day Alaska Showcase Voyage in July 2019.
• Crystal River Cruises has unveiledmore than two-dozen new Crystal Getaways for three of its river ships, sailing between May and November 2018. The new collection of Getaways for the Crystal Bach, Crystal Mahler and Crystal Ravel feature multiple overnights in regal cities on 6- to 9-day voyages. Your clients can opt for the 7-day Romantic Rhine on board the Crystal Bach; Crystal Mahler’s 9-day European Essence sailing; or if they want to check out the newest ship to join the fleet, the
Crystal Ravel, recommend the 6-dayDanube Getaway.
• Seabourn is celebrating: Not only is it in the midst of its 30th anniversary, but this month marks the debut of the line’s newest ship, Seabourn Ovation, and with that comes a new poolside dining experience, Earth & Ocean at The Patio. This a la carte dinner venue developed by consulting chef Anton Egger features candlelight seating and a menu that celebrates flavors rooted in authentic local favorite foods from around the world. The experience will be fleetwide by spring 2019.
• Launching in 2020, Scenic Eclipse II’s debut sailing season will include the untamed territory of Russia’s White Sea; the Northwest Passage; the rarely visited Southern Greenland; Alaska/Russia’s Bering Sea, with ports in both Russia and Alaska; the wilderness of the Alaskan frontier; both coasts of Canada, the U.S., Central and South America; a circumnavigation of Cuba; and several sailings that take in the bucket-list trip of Antarctica, the Falklands and South Georgia.