Overall, clients fall into one of three categories: will never cruise, will cruise once to say they’ve done it, and avid cruisers. Although some avid cruisers will book other forms of travel, there are some that will only cruise. If a ship doesn’t go there, they aren’t interested. Among the avid cruisers, I have found some are “ship collectors”, while others are “port collectors”. Simplified, ship collectors are focused on ships they have not previously sailed. Port collectors are those that pick their cruises based on the itinerary, wanting ports they haven’t been to in the past.
Assuming budget isn’t an issue, the ship collectors seem to be easier to work with. With hundreds of ships out there, and more being built every year, you can keep them cruising on new ships easily.
The port collectors, however, seem to be more challenging. I have a client that is an ardent port collector. He insists that any cruise he books must include a new port he’s never visited before. Fortunately he doesn’t insist that ALL ports on an itinerary are new. But it is becoming harder and harder to satisfy his requirement in some destinations.
Some destinations are more challenging the others, like Alaska and New England/Canada. Once they’ve cruised that area, finding new itineraries with new ports of call for them can be difficult. Europe and the Caribbean are large regions, but cruise lines sometimes fall into a slump relying on tried and true ports of call. That doesn’t work for a port collector.
The Caribbean has proven to be a challenge for my client, especially when cruise lines cut back on the ships they have sailing in the region. As I pointed out recently, the Caribbean is making a comeback with more ships being deployed there, especially during the busy summer season. With more ships comes diverse itineraries. The Eastern Caribbean is no longer just St Thomas and St Maarten. San Juan is not only an embarkation port, but it’s being added more often as a port of call on Eastern Caribbean sailings. And St Kitts, usually relegated to Southern Caribbean itineraries, is sneaking into some Eastern Caribbean itineraries as well.
Celebrity Cruise Line is pushing the itinerary boundaries in the Caribbean this year and next year, with ships staying over night in some ports on their itineraries of 10 nights or longer. Several cruise lines are now adding non-traditional ports as well, like Barbados, Antigua, the ABC islands, Cartagena, and Martinique.
The cruise lines are always surveying their past passengers, looking for the magic formula that will keep them coming back. From the looks of it, ship collectors and port collectors are seeing a response from the cruise lines: constantly building and innovating new ships, as well as looking for new ports of call to add to their itineraries.
Susan Schaefer is the owner of Ships ‘N’ Trips Travel located in Tennessee, and specializes in leisure travel with a focus on group travel and charity fundraisers. Through their division Kick Butt Vacations, she focuses on travel for 18 to 23-year-olds. Susan can be reached by email at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at (888) 221-1209.