Cruise line price scare: real or strategic plan?

Cruise Line Price Scare

Earlier this week, Norwegian Cruise Lines announced that at the end of March prices would go up. Noting high demand for their anything-goes “Freestyle” version of a cruise vacation, the line said it planned to raise prices ten percent. If that announcement has a familiar ring to it, there might be a good reason why says one industry expert. Let’s play along.

First, the line cushion’s the blow of a 10% price increase by extending their current promotional offers until the end of March in a “we’re tough, but we’re fair” sort of way.

“We wanted to give consumers and travel agents the opportunity to take advantage of these offers before the price increase.” said Norwegian Cruise Line CEO and former Undercover Boss Kevin (Sneaky) Sheehan.

“Thanks, we appreciate your kindness and the heads up.” should be the consumer response?

Not so fast says cruise industry expert Stewart Chiron, CEO of CruiseGuy.com “This is NCL’s 2nd Annual April Fool’s Cruise Sale. For some, it’s a message of don’t book NCL after 3/31 because you’ll pay more.”Indeed, cruise lines often promote a call to action for booking in a number of ways that seem to have a bit of strategic ambiguity built in. While accurate, the helpful announcement or glitzy promotion does not exactly match reality.

“NCL made the same comments last year, but (the timing) followed Carnival’s announcement that they were going to raise summer prices.” added Chiron reasoning “They may be trying to generate additional attention for their possible future IPO.”

A price scare tactic is one way to move buyers toward booking. But cruise lines don’t have to mislead the public, they do a great job of that all on their own.

The “cheap cruise” turns out to be much more when taxes and fees are added in. That’s no fault of the cruise lines, they do mention that those extra fees are not included. “Free upgrades” suggest that buying a cheap inside cabin might get you a luxurious balcony stateroom. Again, the fine print lines out the details, but buyers seeing a handsome couple standing on their balcony does suggest that upgrading to one is possible.

Still, most buyers learn quickly to read the fine print even though new strategies still throw them off guard.

Whatever the reason, it’s buyer beware as this year’s busy wave season winds down and the next round of promotions heat up. It might be a good idea to file this information away for later notes Chiron “Stay tuned for next year’s announcement. It might sound quite familiar.”

Flickr photo by markhillary

Cruise prices on the rise along with popularity

Cruise prices on the riseMiami-based Norwegian Cruise Line announced this week plans to increase cruise fares by 10% starting April 1st. Not because middle-east unrest might spike oil prices. Not because of cost overruns or shrinking bottom lines. Travelers are buying again.

“We’ve seen exceptional demand spurred by our Wave Season promotion, particularly for the popular summer destinations,” said Norwegian Cruise Line CEO and former Undercover Boss Kevin Sheehan.

Just to make sure there are plenty of great offers to take advantage of before the rise in prices, the line will also extend their current “Upgrades for All” promotion though the end of March.That deal gets up to a four-category upgrade on select sailings and on-board discount coupon books worth up to $400 off on-board products and services

“We wanted to give consumers and travel agents the opportunity to take advantage of these offers before the price increase.” added Sheehan.

Norwegian Cruise Line has 11 Freestyle Cruising ships and plans to build two new 4,000-passenger vessels for delivery in spring 2013 and 2014. The line’s latest ship, Norwegian Epic, debuted last Summer.

Flickr photo by cmerow

Janet Jackson as entertainment on a cruise ship?

entertainment on cruiseKinda.

On new Norwegian Epic, the popular Legends in Concert tribute show has changed some of the acts.

New to the ship will be Janet Jackson, Neil Diamond and Aretha Franklin impersonators doing six 45-minute shows over during a seven-day cruise.

Las Vegas’ famed standard of live tribute shows has rounded up the largest collection of live tribute artists and celebrity look-alikes in the world for over 25 years. At Sea, the performers are rotated every four months on Norwegian Epic, the latest ship from Norwegian Cruise Lines.

Among other entertainment options on a Norwegian Epic cruise including a Cirque Dreams and Dinner dining experience and a performance by The Blue Man Group, Legends in Concert has proved to be a popular option.

“The Legends in Concert show in the Epic Theater and Legends Unplugged (stars say naughty things) in the Manhattan Room are a favorite of our guests,” said Kevin Sheehan, Norwegian Cruise Line’s CEO and recent star of TV reality show Undercover Boss who recently impersonated crew members on the ship.

Replacing Britney Spears, Rod Stewart and Michael Jackson, the new performers will also do the Legends Unplugged show on three other nights in the ship’s supper club.

Replacing Kevin Sheehan on Undercover Boss will be Ronald Croatti, President and CEO of UniFirst, one of the nation’s largest producers of work-wear and uniforms.

Flickr photo by chvad_sb

Cruise line boss leaves boardroom, sneaks around ships

cruise line boss sneaks around shipsNorwegian Cruise Lines President and CEO Kevin Sheehan has worn a lot of hats in his professional career. From helping found Spanish-language television network Telemundo to taking several companies public, he built a reputation for a tell-it-like-it-is persona. A philosophy of leading by example might just be tested this week though as the native New Yorker takes on an episode of CBS’ Undercover Boss.

Since taking over as boss of Norwegian Cruise Line in 2008, Sheehan has overseen big changes including the launch of new Norwegian Epic last Summer. But on January 2, 2011 he will be at sea with some different hats on. Hosting one of the line’s signature White Hot Parties, he’ll lead more than 1,000 guests in a line dance. Working alongside a deck repairman we’ll watch as Sheehan sneaks around ships trying to look like everybody else.

CBS’s pseudo-reality series, Undercover Boss, features a high-ranking executive posing as an entry-level worker in the company they manage. Camera crews, lights and associated production stuff is passed off as part of a “documentary” about what it’s like to be the new guy at work. Previous companies featured include Frontier Airlines, Johnny Rockets, Subway Restaurants and Direct-TV.

The show airs January 2, 2011 at 9:00PM Eastern.