Despite tough economic times, the cruise industry is surviving the recession better than most travel industries.
Part of the reason is that travelers are looking for good value for money in their vacations, and cruise lines are offering that, at rates that haven't been this low in 10, even 20 years, in some cases.
Now, this week cruise lines will be offering even bigger discounts, starting today and running until Friday, Oct. 23, to mark National Cruise Vacation Week.
Sponsored by Cruise Lines International Association (CLIA), which represents 26 cruise lines (or 95 percent of the North America cruise industry), over 5,000 travel agencies in the U.S. and Canada will team up to offer sales on worldwide cruise destinations.
I spoke with Christine Duffy, president of the Cruise Line International Association (CLIA), which is sponsoring National Cruise Vacation Week, and asked her why she thought that the cruise industry is surviving the recession better than other travel industries.
Duffy: As a trade association CLIA doesn’t focus on other types of travel. But we do know (from surveys of travel agents and consumers) that compared to other vacations the public is giving cruises the highest marks for value and as a vacation experience overall.
Fox News: Why is the cruise industry particularly able to offer this value?
Duffy: The cruise industry is uniquely adaptable to all kinds of changing conditions; regional, economic, weather, natural disasters - and it has had to adapt a great deal in the last few years. For example, if a certain region loses its appeal for any given reason you can’t move a resort or a hotel, but the cruise industry can move its "product" around the world in almost a moment’s notice.
Fox News: Another aspect I have heard is a completely different approach to marketing. While the airlines decided to take some planes out of service rather than fly them half full, the cruise lines have continued adding capacity - even after the recession started - and the cruise lines still manage to fill their ships.
Duffy: That’s right. By offering irresistible incentives for the public to book cruises, CLIA member lines sailed at full capacity - 103.1 percent actually - in the last year, and consumers received outstanding value.
Fox News: Isn’t 103.1 percent physically impossible?
Duffy: To be clear, the capacity of a cruise ship is defined by the number of permanent berths, but anytime you sell out the berth capacity, plus add a third or fourth person in pull-down or sofa-beds, that puts the cruise capacity over 100 percent. Now, it is important to note that by keeping their operations going at full speed --keeping cruise ships in service and filling them throughout this recession, unlike many other segments of travel -- cruise prices in general are the same right now, or in some cases are even less, than they were 20 years ago, so they really are a great value.
Fox News: Aside from low cruise fares, where do you find the comparative value in a cruise?
Duffy: In a nutshell, the inclusive pricing of cruises is a major factor. The typical cruise price includes accommodations, meals, entertainment, the use of most of the ship's facilities like fitness centers, game rooms, children’s programs, water parks, enrichment programs and travel from port to port. Then, there is additional value in the comfort and convenience factors. Cruise guests have a home away from home for the duration of their vacation; they unpack only once and have no worries about hotel or restaurant reservations or any trains, planes or taxis to catch. Cruisers spend more waking hours seeing the destinations, while relocation from one destination to the next largely happens while they sleep at night.
Fox News: CLIA is sponsoring National Cruise Vacation Week from Oct. 17 to 23. This means every CLIA cruise line has a special offer this week. What do our readers need to know?
Duffy: Twenty-five CLIA member cruise lines will offer exceptional values on cruises in every part of the world. For online shoppers there will be an entire month of value offers and other incentives to cruise. Click here find a National Cruise Vacation Week deal. Also in this site is a CLIA travel agent locater where you can enter your zip code to find a CLIA travel agency hosting a National Cruise Vacation Week event close to home. You can book directly with a cruise line or through a travel agent; the cruise fare is the same and sometimes travel agents offer even further incentives than booking directly with the cruise lines.
Fox News: Is this the first National Cruise Vacation Week, or is it an annual event?
Duffy: National Cruise Vacation Week was previously a single night called “World's Largest Cruise Night” (WLCN) for the last seven years that in 2010 generated over $40 million in cruise sales.
Fox News: $40 million in one night? There must be some very good deals. Finally, tell me some of your personal background in the cruise business, and where you see the cruise industry headed in the next few years?
Duffy: CLIA was founded by Warren Titus, the man who invented luxury cruising with Royal Viking Line and many of the former CLIA spokespersons were cruise line executives. I served as president and CEO of Maritz Travel Company, one of the largest meeting and event companies in the world. In February of 2011, I joined CLIA as president and CEO. For the future, in 2011 the CLIA fleet will welcome 14 new vessels;, in 2012 another 10. These range from river boats carrying 100 passengers to mega-cruise ships carrying over 3,500 guests.
Paul Motter is the co-founder and editor of CruiseMates.com cruise travel guide.
Check out other Cruisin for Deals Content
Paul Motter is the editor of CruiseMates.com, an online cruise guide. Follow him on Twitter @cruisemates.