A battle is escalating in the Caribbean between two of the cruise
industry’s largest lines.
In recent weeks, Princess Cruises has announced plans to
dramatically increase its capacity in the region, a longtime
stronghold of Royal Caribbean International. The campaign even has
spilled into the agent arena with dueling trade ads by both
Princess and Royal Caribbean.
The public back-and-forth in the media is noteworthy because
such pointed campaigns are rare in the cruise industry.
“It’s all intended to be a light-hearted play on words designed
to draw attention to our growth in the Caribbean,” said Dean Brown,
Princess executive vice president of customer service and sales.
“We want to highlight how competitive we are.”
Princess is increasing its Caribbean capacity by 75 percent in
the winter 2004-05, basing six ships in the region. Royal Caribbean
will have 11 ships in the Caribbean that season.
The Caribbean remains the No. 1 cruise destination in the world,
with 47 percent of the industry’s capacity, according to 2002
figures from the Cruise Lines International Association.
Carnival Corp.’s flagship brand, Carnival Cruise Lines, and
Royal Caribbean International are the top cruise lines in the
region, but the expansion of Princess gives Carnival Corp. a
high-profile premium product in the still-growing market.
In recent years, there has been one other ad campaign in the
cruise industry that went head-to-head with a competitor.
That, too, was Princess, which took aim at its main Alaska
competitor, Holland America Line.
At that time, Brown was the president of Princess Tours, the
company’s Alaska division.
Brown maintains the Caribbean campaign is intended to point out
how Princess differs from its competitors, but not to attack Royal
Still, the first Princess ad highlighting those features
included a new tagline: “Princess. The only truly Royal experience
in the Caribbean.”
Royal Caribbean apparently took note of the “Royal” reference
and responded with a series of three-page spreads in the
“You’d think our being the best in the Caribbean would have the
competition climbing the walls,” the Royal Caribbean ad read,
alluding to Royal Caribbean’s rock-climbing walls on their ships.
“It would, if they had one.”
The next word from Princess in July was also a three-page
“Because while rock walls are fine for rock climbers, Princess
knows you prefer features everyone can get excited about,” the ad
The Caribbean invasion by Princess got under way last April,
shortly after the Los Angeles-based premium line was acquired by
industry behemoth Carnival Corp. At that time, Princess launched
the first trade ad along with a series of travel agent seminars in
Both were designed to gain attention among traditionally strong
Caribbean markets, and showcase the differences between Princess
“and its primary rival, Royal Caribbean/Celebrity.”
Still, Royal Caribbean’s Dan Hanrahan downplays the Princess ad
“When we saw the first ads where Princess compares themselves to
us, we were very flattered that they see us as the cruise line they
want to emulate,” said Hanrahan, senior vice president of sales and
“But we have no intention of getting involved in a war of words
with Princess. If they want to keep running ads, fine, that brings
attention to us.”
Royal Caribbean’s three-page ad was just “a message to the trade
in general that there are things Royal Caribbean has that no one
else has,” he said. Hanrahan said Royal Caribbean will continue its
“Get Out There” television campaign with the catchy “Lust for Life”
“I don’t see the Caribbean as a battleground,” he said. “We’re
competing against other vacation options, such as beach vacations
and ski vacations, not the other cruise lines.”
But Princess’ increased deployment in the Caribbean makes sense
to Joe Hovorka, a leisure analyst with Raymond James and
“Princess has never really had a big presence in the Caribbean,
so it always seemed logical to move along those lines, even before
its acquisition by Carnival Corp.,” Hovorka said.
“Carnival is very savvy in deploying their assets in the best
way possible,” he observed.
“The proof will be how these things perform in the revenue