Cruise Lines: Stunning Audience Insights Based on Pre and Post-COVID Consumer Analysis

 

Category Analysis – Cruise Line

Region: Global 

Globally, the ocean cruise industry has witnessed an annual passenger CAGR of 6.63% from 1990 – 2020.  Cruise Lines International Association (CLIA) projected 32 million passengers to travel on cruise ships in 2020, which is up from 30 million in 2019. Unfortunately, due to COVID, many cruises have been suspended. When the time is right for cruise ships to sail once again, cruises are going to come back with all efforts to protect passengers’ health and safety. 

Methodology 

The analysis is based on customer reviews and conversations online in the segment. The analysis results presented are completely unbiased and not based on any subjective judgement. The source data used for the analysis are user conversations available publicly online like public forums and social media.

34,420 

May 2019 – Nov 2019 Pre-COVID

20,925 

Mar 2020 – Apr 2020 Post-COVID

Total number of customer conversations analyzed

Executive Summary –  Key Takeaways

Cruise Industry Overview

Cruise Industry Overview

Source:  Statista Number of ocean cruise passengers worldwide from 2009 to 2020

  • Significant growth in cruise ship passengers since 2009 – 17.8 million to 30 million, an annual growth rate of 5.4%.
  • Revenues growth rate of CAGR of 7.2% – from 15.7 billion in 2010 to an estimated 31.5 billion in 2020
  • 278 ocean cruise line ships operating across 55 cruise companies 

6 Key Adoption Drivers Based on Customer Experience – Pre-COVID

Cruise travel offers a unique way to see the world. With relaxation and laziness, passengers wish to experience sea, adventurous days, and discover new places. Discovering what’s inside the gigantic vessel that floats across the sea is an adventure by itself.

When a cruise line offers a good customer experience, customers are more likely to come back and become repeat customers, thereby improving customer retention. 

Cruises have something for everybody. There are thousands of things to do and see while on a cruise. But what are those top few things that are expected by a cruise passenger? 

Through a detailed analysis of 32,420 online consumer conversations, Clootrack has listed down the top 6 drivers for cruise lines pre-COVID.

What are the key drivers for cruise lines pre-COVID?

Source:  Statista Number of ocean cruise passengers worldwide from 2009 to 2020

  • Significant growth in cruise ship passengers since 2009 – 17.8 million to 30 million, an annual growth rate of 5.4%.
  • Revenues growth rate of CAGR of 7.2% – from 15.7 billion in 2010 to an estimated 31.5 billion in 2020
  • 278 ocean cruise line ships operating across 55 cruise companies 

6 Key Adoption Drivers Based on Customer Experience – Pre-COVID

Cruise travel offers a unique way to see the world. With relaxation and laziness, passengers wish to experience sea, adventurous days, and discover new places. Discovering what’s inside the gigantic vessel that floats across the sea is an adventure by itself.

When a cruise line offers a good customer experience, customers are more likely to come back and become repeat customers, thereby improving customer retention. 

Cruises have something for everybody. There are thousands of things to do and see while on a cruise. But what are those top few things that are expected by a cruise passenger? 

Through a detailed analysis of 32,420 online consumer conversations, Clootrack has listed down the top 6 drivers for cruise lines pre-COVID.

What are the key drivers for cruise lines pre-COVID?

1. Common Areas

Experiences around common areas is a top driver significantly impacting the customer perception of the brand. This encompasses aesthetics in common areas, crowding in common areas and various facilities in common areas. A large number of customers are looking for open space, beautiful and enjoyable areas and scented air.

For example, see how a customer expresses his satisfaction over the common areas. 

“Because of the placement of the common areas, it did not seem crowded most of the time even though the ship was at capacity”

At the same time customers lay emphasis on scented air, and how this can change opinion towards the entire cruise experience.  “Common areas and stairways should be vented more with scented air as they were a bit stuffy at times”

But when common areas are not given enough attention it can lead to frustration among customers as expressed by a customer. “Stairs, hallways, common areas were flooded with people growing increasingly frustrated,”

2. Gaming

For example, see how a customer expresses his satisfaction over the common areas. 

“Because of the placement of the common areas, it did not seem crowded most of the time even though the ship was at capacity”

At the same time customers lay emphasis on scented air, and how this can change opinion towards the entire cruise experience.  “Common areas and stairways should be vented more with scented air as they were a bit stuffy at times”

But when common areas are not given enough attention it can lead to frustration among customers as expressed by a customer. “Stairs, hallways, common areas were flooded with people growing increasingly frustrated,”

2. Gaming

Choice of games & experiences around gaming is the second key driver. This encompasses a variety of games such as the laser tag, virtual reality games, fun games for all age groups, high-tech futuristic games, skate shows and super bowl on TV. 

Laser tag seems to be a big hit and customers enjoy it the most. “The ship had a laser tag it had go karts they had movies at the in the atrium as well as movies at the pool that the ship was just absolutely beautiful!” 

“Live music, pools, jersey boys, race track, laser tag, lots of restaurants and bars, arcade center among other things made an excellent week” 

Customers are looking for games that can engage kids, men and ladies across all age groups. Customers do not mind paying a little extra charge for additional activities. 

“Norwegian charges for many of the extra activities that you want to do on the ship, such as the go-karts, the laser tag, painting classes, wine tastings, some of the game shows, etc.” says one passenger.

Customers get disappointed when the games and shows are closed early in the evening, and if they cannot see their favorite games or TV shows. “Also, the staff closes every game except casino after 7 pm, which makes the rooftop deck a lot boring.”

3. Staff Behavior

Passenger interaction with the staff is leaving a strong impression – this is the third most important driver significantly impacting the brand perception. When the staff is friendly and the cruise director is good, it becomes a deadly combination to offer great customer experience – an experience that makes customers come back again and again.

“Great cruise overall great service very friendly staff will go again” says a customer who is pleased with the staff behavior on cruise.

Staff behavior is something that the passengers will not forget for a long time as they are very instrumental in making their journey pleasant and enjoyable.

The cruise director is equally an important factor for the passenger’s overall cruise experience. A passenger says “Cruise director was high energy and very funny.” This has definitely left the impression on the passenger.

4. Room Services

Room service is the fourth top driver that is impacting the customer perception of the cruise brands. This includes dining room service, good service and free room service.

There is no doubt that dining on a cruise has become a major aspect of the entire cruise experience.  Room service available onboard should range from simple to extravagant to please all guests. 

Passengers are impressed when the cruise offers room service that is available 24 hours a day. Just like room service at any restaurants, passengers wish to call room service and place their order so that they can enjoy the food in their room.

Look at how excited a guest could become when they get excellent room service. “I have never had room service answer the phone that quickly on any princess ship!” 

Room service can change the whole cruise experience for a passenger. 

5. Food and Dining

Experiences around food and is the fifth most important driver that impacts the customer perception of the brand. Food and dining include good food, quality of food, clean food and delicious food. 

Passengers have expressed their satisfaction when they see good food served with cleanliness. “The food quality was very good and there was always a clean table to sit at”, says one of the passengers on the cruise. 

Cruises can go the extra mile to delight the customers by offering some freebees. “Awesome ship, first time ever seeing a cruise line dispensing free upscale ice cream with multiple flavors for free in the garden café with your meals,” expresses a happy customer.

Passengers get disappointed when they see that food quality is sacrificed for either drinks or any other services.

6. Entertainment

Onboard entertainment and the experiences around entertainment occupies the 6th position. 

Cruises need to offer a good mix of old as well as new lines of entertainment. They need to design multiple entertainment options for every kind of cruise traveler. This encompasses a variety of entertainment such as the spa, hot tubs, shows, musical shows, pools, comedy, theater and night parties. 

Guests want to see entertainment that connects to all age groups. “Good entertainment, plenty of activities for my teen son” says a passenger who was happy to have her teen son stay engaged with the entertainment on the cruise.

Brand Equity for Cruise Lines Pre-COVID

Customer-based brand equity (CBBE) is built on the concept that to build a strong brand – it is important to understand how the customers think and feel about your product. 

For a customer to love your product, you must build pleasant experiences around your brand. If they experience positive thoughts, opinions, feelings, and perceptions about your product, then it signals positive brand equity.

Below is the brand equity of 3 different cruise lines. It shows how customers feel about a particular brand for each of the category drivers. 

Common areas are considered the best in Royal Caribbean followed by Princess cruises in second position. Norwegian cruise line is leading in gaming experiences followed by Royal Caribbean & Princess Cruises. For staff behavior and room services Royal Caribbean is the leader followed by Princess Cruises. Food and dining and entertainment is offered the best in Princess and Norwegian.

Top conversations taking place on pre-COVID

Customer sentiments can be positive or negative around a particular topic. Cruise owners can deep-dive into conversations to capture the positive emotions to further strengthen their offerings. But at the same time negative sentiments offer numerous opportunities for improvement.

Clootrack conducted data-driven customer analysis to derive consumer insights. Here are some of the conversations that should draw attention of a cruise provider. 

“Again, a great short cruise with a lot to do, friendly staff, food, good entertainment warm weather, cocoa cay nice relaxing by the ocean plenty of lounges umbrellas and food was good.”

“Awesome ship, first time ever seeing a cruise line dispensing free upscale ice cream with multiple flavors for free in the garden café with your meals.”

“Ship layout is amazing, shows are great, super friendly staff.”

“Great benefits for loyal cruisers, excellent food, good entertainment and friendly, enthusiastic crew members.”

“I felt common areas were too small for the amount of people on board.”

“Laser tag, escape room, ice skating, and sky pad were basically never open or available.”

“My one criticism would be lack of interaction from cruise director, usually you here from her/him from the moment you get on.”

“The only thing i can say to the negative, is the dining room needs to change up their menus a bit more.”

3 Key Adoption Drivers Based on Customer Experience – Post-COVID

What are the key drivers for cruise lines post-COVID?

As cruise lines are embarking to reinforce improvements to save their business, a lot of changes are going to emerge in the face of cruising. When the pandemic ends and people feel ready to take their next cruise, what are they going to be thinking about? 

Through a detailed analysis of 20,925 online consumer conversations, Clootrack has listed down the top 3 drivers for cruise lines post-COVID:

1. Beverage

Beverage packages is the top adoption driver in the post-COVID scenario. Whether to buy a beverage package on cruise is one of the most commonly debated questions on the Cruise Critic forums. 

Sometimes passengers are unaccepting of the price tag that seems very steep while making a bulk payment. And other times, passengers are worried that they will never get good service from bartenders when they opt for a beverage package.

Most of the passengers are happy when they get the best beverage package that is worth every penny.

See how passengers seem to be happy about the beverage packages. 

“Excellent value with the purchase of the basic alcohol beverage package and all the complimentary dining options.”

“We had the unlimited drink package which is a good value.”

While the packages seem to have delighted few passengers, cruise lines need to pay attention to the price, clarity on charges, online process of booking and changing the orders, and most importantly the refund process.

“Still waiting more than $1000 to be refunded for my drink package”. Passengers could be put off due to the refund process,”

2. Health Protection and Hygiene

The second most important driver is health and hygiene during the post-COVID times. This encompasses the circumstances of Quarantine & related scenarios.

Passengers are giving higher importance to having a quicker and easy boarding with all measures to limit issues amid the corona virus.

A cruise line which is putting the safety of crew and guests first is the most sought-after cruise for all passengers. 

“Nothing will be more critical to resuming sustained and profitable long term operations than making cruising the safest option in (the) travel and leisure space and providing cruisers with peace of mind,” Frank Del Rio, CEO of Norwegian Cruise Line Holdings Ltd., said on an earnings call Thursday

Passengers are happy when the cruise is taking all measure to keep their cruise safe. “Honestly so glad to see that you are taking the health of travelers and the people that work on the ships so seriously” says a very grateful passenger.

3. Ease of Cancellation and Refunds

With all cruise lines cancelling the schedules during this period, the ease of cancellation & refund process is the third key driver in the post COVID scenario.

Passengers will appreciate if there is an email or any other form of communication about the refund process giving them clarity on the options and the timelines. 

When a passenger sees quick and prompt action from the cruise lines, their loyalty towards the cruise is bound to shoot up. 

“Less than 48 hours later, they cancelled the cruise and refunded money to passengers who had not yet cancelled”

Passengers can become extremely disappointed with the customer service relating to the cancellation and the mode of refunds. Many passengers would be unhappy when cruise lines give future cruise credit. 

See how some cruise lines have gained the confidence of their passengers. 

“They provided a full refund (including the cost of upgraded flights) which we received within 2 weeks, we have also been offered 25% off a future cruise as a goodwill gesture.” 

With the sudden COVID pandemic, major cruise companies have suspended activities, thereby leaving millions of passengers with an option to claim a refund or to reschedule their cruise. 

While in an pre-covid situation, refunds and cancellations would take about 45 days, the post COVID situation is delaying the refunds due to the sheer volume of refund and reschedule requests coming from passengers. 

Brand Equity for Cruise Lines Post-COVID

Below is the brand equity of 3 different cruise lines. It shows how customers feel about a particular brand for each of the category drivers.

Royal Caribbean leads in beverage packages followed by Norwegian cruise line. Passengers perceive Princess Cruises to be the best in Health protection & hygiene followed by Royal Caribbean. Royal Caribbean is the leader in providing easy cancellations and refunds.

The cruise lines have been hard hit by the Covid-19 pandemic. Cruise ship owners are working on plans to keep their vessels safe. Cruise owners are considering a range of options to maintain safety of their passengers. 

Cruise lines that can handle this unprecedented global crisis with precision, grace, and class along with safety and security of every guest, crew member and their extended families is considered the best. 

Top conversations taking place on post-COVID

Customer sentiments can be positive or negative around a particular topic. Cruise owners can deep dive into conversations to capture the positive emotions to further strengthen their offerings. But at the same time negative sentiments offer numerous opportunities for improvement. 

Clootrack conducted data driven customer analysis to derive consumer insights. Here are some of the conversations that should draw attention of a cruise provider. 

“The food was good for what we paid for and the drink package was totally worth it.”

“Still waiting for drinks package refund and full refund for cancelled cruise April 9th, no communication at all!!”

“Honestly so glad to see that you are taking the health of travelers and the people that work on the ships so seriously.”

“They should be able to spot sick people, and people who aren’t following safe social practices, like hand washing.”

“A couple days later, royal Caribbean announced that due to the dangers of the current virus they would be allowing people to cancel their cruises for a full refund or honor a credit for future cruising with an incentive due to the fact that they, themselves had to postpone the cruise.”

“You all clearly know we aren’t sailing anytime soon so instead of keeping us in limbo, you need to start refunding us. not a credit at this point but money that we need.”

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