What’s the reality of getting the cruise message across on TV?

//What’s the reality of getting the cruise message across on TV?

An item on the BBC breakfast news this morning claimed that today was the busiest of the year for holiday bookings, as people wake up to the fact that Christmas is over, and it’s time to start making plans for travel in 2011.
The cruise companies all have their new advertising campaigns and their special offers lined up, and will be looking forward to achieving, or even beating, the forecast increase of eight per cent in UK passengers booking a holiday at sea.
The Passenger Shipping Association expects that 2011 will see 1.77 million Brits taking a cruise – an increase of 130,000 on the 2010 figure – and is looking forward eagerly to the day when the number hits two million.
The PSA’s Bill Gibbons says: “Year after year the cruise sector reports impressive growth and 2011 will be no exception. Cruising is again likely to out-perform all other areas of the holiday market … the all-inclusive nature of a cruise holiday continues to make it a compelling choice.”
Gibbons and PSA chairman Peter Shanks, who is also president of Cunard, take encouragement from American statistics, which show that the popularity of cruising among US holidaymakers grew from 500,000 passengers in 1970 to 14.3 million in 2010.
However, they – and the whole of the UK cruise industry – could be doing more than waiting for British cruisers to catch up with their American counterparts.
The US marketing machine never sleeps, and it has been particularly busy in the past few weeks, cranking up sales and reaching out to the 80 per cent of the population who have not yet set foot on a cruise ship.
Royal Caribbean gave away hundreds of cruises on their newest ship, Allure of the Seas, to the audience for Oprah Winfrey’s “Favourite Things” show. The same ship hosted America’s Today show for a morning, and was a location for scenes from Adam Sandler’s latest film, Jack & Jill, generating even more publicity when co-star Katie Holmes took daughter Suri Cruise on set.

The New Year’s Eve celebrations in New York’s Times Square – a bigger event by far than the revels in London’s Trafalgar Square – will be part-sponsored by Carnival Cruises, who are paying for the ton of confetti which cruise director John Heald (above) will be dropping on the crowd, and also get their message aired on big screens during the party.

Also on television in the States this weekend, viewers will see Norwegian Cruise Line’s CEO, Kevin Sheehan (above), taking part in an episode of Undercover Boss. He grew a beard to disguise himself as he took on jobs including waiter, entertainment host and deck cleaner, but clearly realised the back-breaking work and potential humiliation could be worth millions of dollars in publicity and sales.
So where are our UK cruise line bosses? What are they doing to generate sales, other than spending a fortune on advertising on TV, in newspapers, and online?
A long-forgotten episode of Lord Sugar’s The Apprentice featured contestants spending a week on board a Princess cruise ship. Sky TV made three series on board Stelios’s easyCruise, and there was a mini-series filmed on board Island Escape eight years ago.
None had the same impact as The Cruise, which made a star of Jane McDonald, and must have sold thousands of cruises on Celebrity’s Galaxy back in the late 1990s.
John Sergeant walked straight off the set of TV’s Strictly Come Dancing in 2009 on to a P&O cruise in the Caribbean; David Seaman made the most of his time on Dancing on Ice to take his family skating on a Royal Caribbean ship.
Apart from the local news programmes from BBC and Meridian going overboard for ship launches in Southampton – and there won’t be much opportunity for that in 2011- and an all-too-underexposed contest for amateur chefs which took place on a P&O ship (and was hidden away by breakfast TV) this summer, that’s about it.
So I have a suggestion for the marketing teams at Celebrity, Cunard, Fred Olsen, Holland-America, MSC, NCL, P&O, Royal Caribbean, Thomson, and the rest of the UK cruise market: make it your New Year resolution to get cruising seen on TV and talked about by potential passengers who might otherwise be thinking of booking an apartment in Alicante or a fly-drive in Florida.
Don’t just book airtime BETWEEN television shows; find a way to make your ships and your holidays the centre of attention. Make them news, make them star-studded, make it happen.
Don’t just sign up a failed X-Factor contestant to do a couple of shows – work on convincing Simon Cowell that his jibes about “cruise ship entertainers” are way off the mark.
There’ll be no Big Brother series filling hours of prime time on Channel 4 this summer; how can cruises fill the gap?
And I have another message, this time for Bill Gibbons and the PSA. While you are helping your members make the most of the publicity opportunities, take another look at your statistics.
Because hidden amongst them are two nuggets of information – one rather more palatable than the other.
Americans generally have much less holiday time at their disposal than we do in Britain, so most of the 14.3 million who take a cruise are at sea for seven days or less.
We take fewer cruises, but we have a wider choice of longer voyages – two weeks from Southampton to the Mediterranean, for example; six weeks to South America and back, and for the lucky few, three months on a world voyage.
How does that affect the statistics in terms of the number of days spent at sea?
On the other hand, the PSA’s own figures show that six out of 10 UK passengers take more than one cruise a year, and one in every 25 takes more than six cruises a year. So there are not really 1.77 million cruising Brits; the number must be smaller.
All the more reason to boost the number by coming up with some innovative schemes to generate more publicity.

By | 2017-06-15T16:00:13+00:00 29 December 2010|Cruise News|6 Comments

About the Author:

John Honeywell is a travel writer specialising in cruise ships and cruise travel. Winner of CLIA UK's Contribution to Cruise award 2017.


  1. carol vorderman's brother 29 December 2010 at 11:39 am - Reply

    I’m not very good at maths but if more than half (6 in 10) cruises are taken by people who have already been on one cruise, then does that mean that more than a quarter of all cruises are taken by people who have already had one in the same year? which would reduce the figure of total cruise passengers to about 1.3 million. thats 1.3 million people taking 1.77 million cruises. Is that right? Or is there even more doubling up? I’ll have to check with me sister

  2. the passenger 29 December 2010 at 11:45 am - Reply

    Not sure I want to book a cruise if there’s a chance I might find myself in the same boat as John prescott

  3. JANE PARKER 29 December 2010 at 12:58 pm - Reply

    While cruises are quite popular among single travellers (despite the sometimes swingeing supplements charged by some operators) most cruises are taken by couples and families.
    So if, by the industry’s own figures, 1.77 million people took a cruise in 2010 (or taking your commenter’s figure at face value, 1.3 million) then the number of households who take a cruise has got to be less than half that number – we are looking at 800,000 or less.
    That must be a dissappointing number for the cruise bosses you have mentioned, and for the industry.
    As a frequent cruiser, I know what fantastic value a cruise holiday represents compared with a decent hotel or an all-inclusive resort.
    Cruise companies have got to start thinking of ways to attract new customers, and not just rely on slow but steady growth and repeat business from loyal customers.

  4. Kevin Piper 29 December 2010 at 3:24 pm - Reply

    Are you sure TV documentaries and reality shows are the right way to go? From what I remember, life on board Island Escape was rather chaotic as portrayed in the TV series. And where is the ship now? In dry dock until February after a series of recent problems if my information is correct. I’m amazed that Cruising With Stelios series was allowed to continue for three series because early impressions of the ship were of complete unpreparedness and chaos on board. But the Airline series went on for ever, and that didn’t seem to harm Easyjet although the cruise ship is no longer operating. I can’t remember much of The Cruise but perhaps it did more for Jane Mcdonald than it did for the ship. Also you have forgotten Cruise Ship Diaries which was about a Costa ship on one of the satellite channels this summer. Anyway they should do X-Factor on the Eclipse the Celebrity ship I saw in Southampton this summer it already has a big X on the funnel if I remember properly.

  5. John Honeywell 29 December 2010 at 8:29 pm - Reply

    Thank you for reminding me about Cruise Ship Diaries, a six-part series broadcast on the National Geographic channel, which followed life on board Costa Serena. I agree that neither Cruising with Stelios or the series set on Island Escape showed cruising in a particularly good light. But you have to remember that one film which did a huge amount to attract people to cruising was, surprisingly, Titanic.

  6. songanddanceman 29 December 2010 at 9:46 pm - Reply

    You seem to have missed the news that Sky TV is preparing a 20 part series based on a talent show search for cruise ship entertainers which will be broadcast in 2011. Isn’t that exactly the sort of X-Factor style show you are looking for? There was a story about this in The Stage at the beginning of December, but I do not think it said whether a cruise company would be collaborating in the production.

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