Cruise line pays would-be passengers to watch TV

Cruise line paysNorwegian Cruise Line’s episode of the hit reality series Undercover Boss was first broadcast last January. But it’s summertime now and that brings reruns. The Undercover Boss episode featuring Norwegian’s CEO Kevin Sheehan replays July 17. In an interesting twist on summer TV viewing options, Norwegian Cruise Line pays an on-board cash bonus to anyone who books a cruise between July 16 and 18.

“While I may not have performed the tasks as well as our amazing crew during the experience, we’ve received a tremendous amount of support from guests and travel partners as a result of our Undercover Boss episode” said Sheehan.

The show, which first aired on January 2, 2011, was seen by more than 14 million people in the US and has also aired in Canada, Australia and Norway. Norwegian Cruise Line’s episode of Undercover Boss was also the most-recalled brand appearance in a prime-time broadcast show in January.Viewers will have the chance to relive everything from the awkward moment when Sheehan’s cover is blown by a waitress in a restaurant on Norwegian Epic to leading a crowd of 1,000 guests in a line dance. Watch as Sheehan attempts to work alongside a deck repairman (and fellow New Yorker) who was frankly critical of his performance. One of the best parts of the episode comes when Sheehan agrees with a crew member that what looked to be a great new feature on Norwegian Epic in the boardroom played out to be a dismal failure in real life. That segment alone is worth the watch.

As an exclusive offer for the rebroadcast of the episode, guests who book a Norwegian cruise vacation between July 16 and July 18, 2011 will get up to $200 to spend on board and a reduced deposit.

“I think the viewers were in awe of our amazing ships and phenomenal hard working crew and truly felt a connection with us” Sheehan added.

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.

Undercover Boss can be seen July 17, 2011 at 9 p.m. ET (8 p.m. CT) on the CBS Television Network.

Flickr photo by Stephen & Katherine

Old cruise ships get new features

Old cruise ships get new features

When a new cruise ship comes out, it has all the latest features and what cruise ship designers hope will provide the best, most relevant experience for today’s cruise passenger. Later, after those new features turn out to be of an enduring nature, cruise lines often add them to older ships. Sometimes this process adds value to older ships that would otherwise be lacking in features by comparison. Other times when old cruise ships get new features it only makes a good ship better.
Royal Caribbean’s (@RoyalCaribbean) Freedom of the Seas, one of the most popular ships in the fleet, just completed a series of upgrades at the Grand Bahama Shipyard. This is a ship that was already popular and selling well so new features, many made popular on the newest Oasis-class ships, will be a welcome addition to an already successful operation. Here is what has been added:
  • Royal Babies and Tots Nursery
  • Large 18.5-foot video screen overlooking family pool area
  • LCD wayfinder system
  • Cupcake Cupboard restaurant
  • Vintages lounge will be redone
  • DreamWorks Experience
  • 3D movie screen
  • Imaginocean! puppet show
  • Outdoor LED video walls

It’s not like Royal Caribbean got a special deal on giant TV screens so they needed someplace to put them either. Fueled by passenger response, the line is giving them what they want. Called the Royal Advantage program, the line is investing $70 million to keep older ships current.

“The outdoor video screen installed aboard Liberty of the Seas in January has already been so well received that we have decided to deploy it aboard all the ships scheduled to undergo the Royal Advantage revitalization in 2011.” said Royal Caribbean vice president of hotel operations Lisa Bauer said Royal Caribbean blog. (@theRCLblog)

Sometimes a bit of tweaking is done after that new ship launches but cruise lines know their passengers well and most often they get it right. Still, there are always some people who just don’t like change.

Princess Cruises
(@PrincessCruises) found that out when they invented Movies Under The Stars several years ago when Caribbean Princess debuted. The new feature was wildly popular with most guests but some did not care for the new feature. When the line (logically) announced it would be added to other ships in the fleet, tempers flared and cruise message boards were afire with heated debates.

Occasionally, cruise lines do get it wrong though and have to figure out what to do with/about features that don’t pan out to be everything they dreamed or are what they dreamed but just did not catch on.

In their ongoing efforts to be innovative, Norwegian Cruise Line (@NCLFreestyle) tried adding a mock-ice skating feature to new Norwegian Epic. When CEO Kevin Sheehan looked at shipboard operations from a different angle on the CBS television program Undercover Boss it was clear: this is not a good idea. That idea did not make it and was scrapped but you have to give them credit for trying something different. Still, popular features like Cirque Dreams and Dinner (the best at-sea entertainment I have ever seen), Blue Man Group, Legends in Concert and more get rave reviews on Norwegian Epic. The first-of-their-kind solo studios are the answer to solo traveler’s prayers.

Sometimes cruise lines take spaces already on existing ships that may under-utilized and do something different as multi-use spaces become more popular on new ships.

Carnival Cruise Lines (@CarnivalCruise) recently added Punchliner Comedy Clubs to every ship in the fleet after testing revealed them to be wildly popular with guests. Located in the ship’s aft lounge, each Punchliner Comedy Club offers guests loads of laughs with five 35-minute shows on multiple nights during each voyage, with at least two comedians performing each night. The two early-evening shows offer fun for the whole family while the later performances will feature adult-oriented comedy.

Cruise passengers are finding out that older ships can be some of the very best values too. With new ships demanding the premium “I wanna be on the newest ship” price, older ships which may indeed have some of the newest features, are almost always less expensive.

Flickr photo by Monica R

New cruise ship coming to New York in 2012, but at what price?

new cruise ship coming to new york

There is a new cruise ship coming to New York in 2012 and its a real pearl. Or should I say “gem”? No, Pearl is right. Norwegian Pearl will replace older Norwegian Jewel and make her New York debut in October, 2012. That’s good news. But poking around the New York cruise market I was reminded of something not so good. New Yorkers pay a premium price to sail on mostly older ships from the area. In other words, cruise lines really stick it to New Yorkers.That’s pretty much industry-wide with all cruise lines. Compared to sailing from a southern port like Florida where all the new ships are, prices are much higher sailing from New York, on mostly older ships.

Norwegian Cruise Line is about to change at least one of those concerns when it sends a newer ship to New York for the winter of 2012-13.

“With the arrival of Norwegian Pearl in New York, we will have two of our newer and larger Freestyle Cruising ships sailing from this very popular homeport,” said Kevin Sheehan, Norwegian’s chief executive officer and former star of TV’s Undercover Boss.

That’s good, a newer ship is better than an older ship. Norwegian Pearl is a great ship too.

But what about that pricing?

Sailings from New York average much more than from southern ports like those in Florida. Let’s work though that with some actual numbers based on today’s pricing. Not to pick on Norwegian Cruise Line who is bringing the newer ship to the table, let’s look at a different line to see what is going on here.

new cruise ship coming to new york

In the dead heat of the Summer peak season, Royal Caribbean’s Explorer of the Seas sails from Bayonne on July 7th for a 9 day Eastern Caribbean sailing starting at $2109 per person + tax. That works out to $234 per person, per day.

Royal Caribbean’s Freedom of the Seas, a newer, bigger ship sailing from Florida sailing for 7 days on July 10th starts at $1049 per person + tax. That works out to $149 per person per day, about 50% less.

Even shiny new Allure of the Seas, sailing from Florida, sells for less than Explorer of the Seas from New York at a starting price of $1349 per person for 7 days on July 10th. That’s $192 per person for the largest, newest cruise ship in the world.

Not to pick on Royal Caribbean either, all the cruise lines do this. Some more than others but it’s the nature of the game. Supply vs. Demand. There are a LOT of people who want to sail from New York and few ships to serve them.

What drives that price? One really good reason would be the need/desire/fantasy to get out of the city in the heat of the Summer for a cool, relaxing cruise. Another might be the assumed high price of airfare flying to Florida or just the hassle of the flights. Still, prices per person, per day are much higher sailing from New York as you can see.

Is there something you can do about that? You bet there is. Go in October.

Brave it through the Summer and go in the Fall. There, you will find relative bargains in cruise vacations like Carnival Miracle sailing to the Caribbean on October 5th starting at $639 per person for an 8 day cruise. That’s $79 a day on one of their most popular ships.

new cruise ship coming to new york

Giving credit where credit is due, Royal Caribbean has Explorer of the Seas, that same ship that was going for $234 per person, per day in the Summer sails in October starting at $549 +tax per person for a 5-night sailing to Bermuda. That gets them down to less than half the per person, per day Summer price.

Back to Norwegian, they too have Fall bargains offering Norwegian Gem for $499 per person + tax on the October 2nd sailing. On seven days, that works out to $71.28 per person. Way better.

So let’s amend that claim that cruise lines really stick it to New Yorkers.

Cruise lines really stick it to New Yorkers in the Summer, not so much in the Fall.

Yes, much more accurate.

When Norwegian Pearl comes to New York in October 2012 she will be sailing a seven-day itinerary that calls on Orlando & the Beaches (Port Canaveral, Disney World if you hurry, blah blah blah); Great Stirrup Cay (Norwegian’s private island paradise) and Nassau in the Bahamas.

Norwegian Pearl will also sail three 12-day Southern Caribbean cruises, on January 6, January 20 and February 3, 2013 that include stops in San Juan, Puerto Rico; St. Thomas, US Virgin Islands; Philipsburg, St. Maarten; Castries, St. Lucia; Bridgetown, Barbados and St. John’s, Antigua; as well as five relaxing days at sea. If you have the time, those are good ones.

new cruise ship coming to new york

Not sure if Norwegian Cruise Line is for you? Norwegian Pearl will also offer three opportunities to experience Freestyle Cruising on a two-day getaway sailing from New York on January 18, February 1 and February 15, 2013.

Continuing to homeport in New York, the 2,394-passenger Norwegian Gem will sail two newly extended itineraries to Eastern Canada and Quebec and the Eastern Caribbean. Norwegian Gem will begin her four 10-day sailings to Canada and Quebec on September 8, 2012; calling on Halifax, Nova Scotia; an overnight in Quebec City, Quebec; Corner Brook, Newfoundland; and Sydney, Nova Scotia. From October 20, 2012 to April 18, 2013, Norwegian Gem’s nine-day itinerary to the Eastern Caribbean will stop in San Juan, Puerto Rico; Philipsburg, St. Maarten; St. Thomas, US Virgin Islands; and Samoa, Dominican Republic.

“New Yorkers love Freestyle Cruising because it suits their needs” added Sheehan. “With two of our Jewel-class ships in New York, we are giving guests more choice and the opportunity to sail longer cruises to the Caribbean.”

…you just have to be willing to pay the price.

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Flickr photos by Rodneykeene, Jmazzola ,Jemmingway and Pink Dispatcher

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