Monday, November 13, 2006

New markets for cruise ships

Cruises expand into new markets

We have many clients in the Caribbean and I was amazed to discover that Cruises are now competing with business travel. The sheer numbers of megaships plying the turquoise seas are mind-boggling, and we recently noticed three ships docked at USVI on a single day. Janet and I cruise frequently, and it's great that it's now cost-effective for business travel.

The high-end cruise passengers are demanding larger and more glamorous ships such as the new Noordam and the Royal Caribbean Freedom-class monster ships, with their ice skating rink and giant shopping malls, gleaming 21st century cruise experiences, like this photo from my favorite, Geek cruises:

These mega ships have everything imaginable, but most of all they provide “cruise ship envy”, as they are clearly the coolest ships in the ocean right now. Gladly for us, this demand has lead to amazing cruise bargains, as the lines try to keep the less-attractive older ships full:

Tiered cruising

This creates a multi-tiered cruise market, and we see these “classes” of cruising, and "cruise ship evny" from those aboard on the less-fancy ships:

First Class – Lines such as Cunard and Crystal Cruises offer-up first-class cruising and more than double the price of the “economy” class cruises.

Moderate – Royal Caribbean, Holland America and Celebrity are next on my list, with huge, amazing ships, pay-extra restaurants and great service.

Economy – Carnival cruises low cost less than staying in a Holiday Inn, and the Costa ships are designed for the economy-minded traveler, with very few balconies, just portholes:

Now, the really cheap cruise rates are on the older ships, the 1970’s “Love Boat” style ships that your grandparents enjoyed. Cruising has been going-on since ancient days, and they are regularly replaced by new models. This is the “original” Noordam:

New Cruising markets

I’ve noticed three areas where cruising has become an amazing bargain, especially for technical training, assisted living and for business travel. Now, these are the “classic” cruise ships, the smaller ships that have a classic charm. They still have skeet shooting, on-deck driving ranges and roulette wheels with a bias that Forrest Gump could figure-out:

Classroom Cruises - Our good friend Neil Bauman at Geek cruises spends his days on cruise ships conducting some great technical seminars at-sea. They are great and we have been on two so-far.

Business travel – It’s amazing that cruise prices are now lower than business class airfare. Today, one of our people is visiting a client in the Caribbean and for less than the price of one plane ticket they were able to get a great 5-day cruise (with a nice veranda room). The client is happy that we saved them money, and the consultant is ecstatic for the free vacation. I like to go to Chile in the winter (It’s summertime there), and for the cost of a plane ticket we can take a 11-day cruise and visit ports along the way! It’s also cheaper than flying to cruise to the south pacific, but you are stuck on a 20-day trip, visiting ports like Bora Bora, Tahiti and Samoa. Bummer:

Assisted Living – Grandma and Grandpa can live on a cruise ships for less than $5k a month, far cheaper than the average cost of assisted living homes. It’s perfect. Grandpa thinks you are spoiling them (and mention you in their will), and you save thousands of dollars a year while you have the peace of mind of knowing that Granny has Bingo every single day as they float-away their golden years.

“Living on a cruise ship provides a better quality of life and is cost effective for elderly people who need help to live independently, according to a study published in the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society”

Staying Connected while cruising

Janet and I rent a satellite phone while cruising, the giant brick phones like we used back in the 1980’s:

They only cost about $100 per week to rent plus $1.75 per minute (call anywhere in the world), so they are not prohibitively expensive. Col. John was even able to hook-up his laptop to the sat phone to server a client from the middle of the ocean.

Being cheap, I use the same technique that we used back in the 1990’s with TAPSYS, a CompuServe tools that would quickly connect, upload and download your e-mail and then quickly disconnect, saving cash on connect time and allowing you to answer your e-mail at a leisurely pace.