How Relevant is Ranking when Planning your Cruise?
The ranking of the cruise lines may be of no value when in search of your perfect cruise. The ranking is generally accurate given the industry as a whole, but this has little to do with selecting a ship for your personal cruise or that of your group. Yes, we can begin a search by the initial categorizations and the process of elimination:
- If choosing a River Cruise, what’s size of river cruise vessel or river barge? What river in what part of the world
- If choosing an Ocean Cruise, would you want a motorized vessel or sailing ship ?
- Luxury, Premium or Standard ?
- Time of Year ?
- Length of Cruise ?
- Destinations Preferred ?
- Relative Value ?
- Business or Leisure ?
- Meeting or Incentive ?
3 Primary Considerations when you Begin Planning your Cruise
The first three things that need to be determined prior to considering any ranking are:
1) The length or cruise desired,
2) The time of the year and,
The length of the cruise is the most important issue because most cruise ships in the world cruise for 7 nights or longer. Cruises of less than 7 nights are mostly limited to the Caribbean and the Gulf of Mexico. Cruises, if longer than 7 nights, are usually taken by retired people because the working class has difficulty leaving work for more than a week at a time.
The Time of the year is the second most important consideration, because 80% of the vessels normally in the Caribbean depart the end of March and early April for Europe, the Canadian Maritimes and Bermuda or trans-canal to Alaska. This leaves fewer options for those wishing to cruise from a U.S. port until they return in October or November. Ninety (90%) percent of the ships that remain in the Caribbean are Carnival Cruise Line ships.
Budget is the final primary consideration. A limited budget and a length of less than 7 nights quickly eliminates all of the Luxury cruise lines leaving “Premium” & “Standard” cruise lines as the only options and there are no Premium cruise lines departing from the U.S. for the six months other than in Alaska from May through September.
Only after these three considerations are addressed is it possible to consider the destination and itinerary desired and then select between the cruise lines and vessels that offer cruises in the region desired. If the destination is Europe on an ocean or river cruise, the summer months are your only option. The same is true for Alaska, Bermuda, the Galapagos or the Northeast United States. South America is only an option during our winter, which is their summer. Hawaii, Tahiti and areas of the South Pacific and the Pacific Rim offer cruises year round.
The next step is to find the best value within the budget. Now everyone has the option to search and book online, but cruises unlike air travel are not a commodity where a seat is a seat and the only difference is price and the color of the paint on the plane.
Why Use Corporate Cruise Consultant?
Each cruise line and each vessel within the cruise lines is different as are the categories of staterooms available. Those booking directly will never find all of their options because few know cruise lines other than Carnival, Royal Caribbean, Norwegian. Princess, Celebrity and Holland America and a few of the luxury lines such as Crystal, Regent, Silversea and Seabourn.
The only way to learn all of your options and to obtain the best rates continues to be through an agent who will save you hours of time and possibly a great deal of money. A good agent will be aware of the specials on all cruise lines, how to book a Category Guarantee”, Senior Rates, special residence rates for various states, the patterns and deployments of each ship and its alternating itineraries.
A good agent will know the on-board facilities and the average age of passengers on a given vessel and itinerary. If you are planning a meeting, you will need to know the available conference space, the AV, concessions, amenities, etc. If you don’t know what to ask, you are unlikely to find the answers online.
We have been booking individual Leisure Travel, Meetings, Conventions and Conferences on cruise ships since 1976 and it is a daily challenge to be knowledgeable about every cruise line, vessel and itinerary and all of the other variables necessary to determine the best options given an individual or group desired Length, Time of year and Budget. If you are ready to start planning your cruise, contact us today at (561) 625-8807.
Travel Groups, of necessity must have a very different perspective than an individual planning leisure vacation travel. It is a common misperception that groups buy better. This is not true; groups pay more. The capacities of hotels, airlines and cruise lines are limited. And each must maintain an average yield in order to operate profitably. Cruise lines, hotels and airlines all offer discounted rates, but all are capacity controlled. An airline, for example may offer heavily discounted seats with advance purchase or based on certain dates of travel, but all are capacity controlled.
Therefore, an airline’s yield management department constantly monitors each flight’s load factors and yield and makes daily changes in the availability in all pricing categories. This provides an excellent opportunity for individual travelers who are able to be flexible on time and date, but most of these discounted fares are of no or little value for group travel. Travel groups have numerous obstacles to achieving the lowest airfares.
Group Travel Obstacles via Air
Travel Groups, of necessity, must book far in advance to secure hotel space. This is often prior to flight schedules and airfares even being available for the travel dates. Once booked, the dates cannot be changed without attrition penalties. The number of participants and the cities of origin are also often not known until much closer to the event by which time the lowest applicable airfares are sold out.
The airlines do offer zone fares, meeting and convention fares and group fares, but all are considerably higher than the published fares. Capacity is still controlled so it may be necessary to block space from cities of origin with a considerable number of participants originating. These group blocks require a deposit and have applicable penalties for dropping and/or reducing the block.
Group Travel Obstacles via Cruises
The cruise lines inventory management departments operate the same as airlines and hotels. Both hotels and cruise lines offer promotional rates, but again, the number of rooms or staterooms available at these promotional rates are extremely limited and they are not applicable to groups. Cruise lines do have an advantage because their overhead is low particularly due the labor costs and they are all-inclusive. They book and guarantee group rates years in advance and because they are all-inclusive, F & B, Entertainment, Audio Visual and the entire program other than transportation is locked in.
Group Travel Issues – The Bottom Line
The bottom line is that you can negotiate group travel and someone who does this for a living will be able to secure substantial rate reductions and negotiate more favorable agreements, but do not expect these planners to achieve rates for a travel group that are in any way comparable to the promotional, capacity controlled published rates.