AMENITIES ESSENTIAL TO LUXURY CRUISING
All Inclusive Pricing 69%
24-hour Room Service 63%
Low Guest/Staff Ratio 61%
Cultural Enrichment Programs 59%
Master Chefs 58%
Live Entertainment 49%
Fitness Facilities 45%
Wi-Fi Access 38%
Private Butler 37%
Flowers and Fruit in Suites 34%
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When it comes to luxury cruise travel, new trends are emerging on a continual basis. That’s why TravelAge West commissioned a survey of travel agents to find out what their clients are asking for in the luxury cruise market. The results — derived from over 1,500 agent responses — provide an interesting look at today’s luxury cruiser.
At the outset, the encouraging news is that luxury cruise sales are bustling, and the outlook for 2008 looks pretty positive. That coincides with the latest data from the Cruise Lines International Association (CLIA), which shows that cruise sales in general are expected to reach record numbers this year.
“We anticipate that the unparalleled diversity of cruise experiences offered by our members will result in another record year for the industry,” said Dan Hanrahan, CLIA’s marketing committee chairman and president and CEO of Celebrity Cruises and Azamara Cruises.
CLIA’s optimism is supported by early reports from CLIA member travel agents on this year’s Wave Season, the period between January and March traditionally known as the heaviest booking period of the year.
“With consumers typically booking at least five to six months out, Wave Season gives us a good indication of the year to come and it’s looking positive,” said Terry L. Dale, president and CEO of CLIA.
Is the CLIA optimism reflected in our luxury cruise survey? Here’s a look at some of the agent responses.
Cruise Booking Boom
Nearly 40 percent of the agents responding to our survey reported that at least half of their 2007 bookings were cruises. Twelve percent reported that cruise bookings constituted less then one-tenth of their 2007 bookings, while some 39 percent of responding agents indicated that cruises constituted between 11 and 50 percent of their 2007 bookings.
Analyzing Luxury Bookings
Breaking the responses down further, we asked agents which percentage of their cruise bookings were in the luxury market. A quarter of the respondents indicated that luxury cruise bookings constitute the majority of their cruise business. The responses indicated that Crystal Cruises and Regent Seven Seas are the most frequently-booked luxury cruise lines. Cunard Line and Silversea also ranked highly in the survey.
As for length of the cruise, agents responded that the most popular luxury cruise itineraries are between seven and 14 days. And, “midsized” ships (251-500 passengers) were the most popular ship size for luxury cruising.
Important Luxury Amenities
We asked agents to describe the amenities that are essential to luxury cruising. The number-one response: balconies. Some 85 percent of respondents indicated that balconies were a luxury cruising must-have. The second-place response: spa facilities, which garnered 70 percent of the votes. All-inclusive pricing (no extra charge for tips, alcohol, etc.) ranked very close to spa facilities, at 69 percent. Other attributes considered essential to the luxury cruise experience include a low guest-staff ratio (61 percent); 24-hour room service (63 percent); cultural enrichment programs (59 percent) and master chefs for culinary adventures (58 percent).
Additional factors cited by agents as essential to the luxury cruise experience were live entertainment (49 percent); state-of-the-art fitness facilities (45 percent); casino (39 percent); Wi-Fi access (38 percent); private butler service (37 percent) and fresh flowers and fruit in suites (34 percent).
In addition to listing essential luxury amenities, we asked agents to tell us which element best describes or distinguishes luxury cruising from other segments of the market? Individualized service ranked highest, at 35 percent. Next came luxury itineraries, at 25 percent; premium amenities, 18 percent; exotic destinations, at 12 percent; and extensive on-ship experiences at 10 percent.
Luxury Cruise Sale Forecast
Finally, we wanted to get a good look at the future of the luxury cruise market. We asked agents if their luxury cruise sales increased, decreased or remained the same in 2007. By a whopping margin (92 percent), agents said that their sales either remained the same or increased.
Similarly, when we asked agents what their predictions are for 2008, the majority (52 percent) indicated that they expected their luxury cruise sales to increase.
That’s good news for both agents and luxury cruise lines.