Whenever you read an article about family cruising, the chances are it’s written with the kids’ needs in mind – onboard activities such as water parks, children’s clubs and tasty food choices always get a good airing.
As a parent myself I know how important it is to make sure your little ones are kept entertained. Happy children equal happy parents. But when it comes to converting new-to-cruise families it’s not enough simply to talk about all the fun stuff the children can do. After all, adults need to be persuaded that time on a ship will suit them, too.
But what exactly are the key drivers to make mum and dad open the family wallet? For what it’s worth, here’s my suggested list of things to mention in any sales pitch.
1. Value, value, value!
OK, so this is pretty obvious – but it’s always worth underlining just what great value a cruise holiday really is. Modern, family-friendly ships offer an awful lot for the standard fare – fantastic Broadway-style shows, swimming pools and hot tubs, great bars with live music, gyms and an incredible choice of dining options. If guests have teens, highlighting the savings on food bills alone is enough to secure their business!
2. A moveable feast
It gets to holiday time and everyone feels the same – tired. The adults have had a bellyful of work and the kids are exhausted by school. But relaxation doesn’t have to be boring. The vast majority of folks want a break where they can relax and still see plenty. A cruise is the answer. You’re travelling in comfort without the hassles you’d experience on a land-based tour – no taxis, multiple hotels or surprising city taxes, just a seamless journey between great destinations. And with an endless choice of excursions on offer (or the chance just to do your own thing in port or stay on board and enjoy an empty ship), no day is ever the same
3. Measure by measure
With the value message high on the agenda, it’s only right that agents talk up the benefits of a drinks package during every consultation. Drink bills can quickly mount up for families, so all-inclusive deals such as MSC Cruises ‘Allegrisimo’ package make perfect financial sense. As well as covering alcoholic and non-alcoholic drinks, the standard cruise line drinks package often includes ice creams, fancy cocktails and speciality coffees. A beer round the pool, a wine or two at dinner and a G&T in one of the many lounges afterward… put it like that and it’s a wonder why anybody bothers to rent a car and stay in a villa. Who on earth wants to be the designated driver? Oh, and remember, pre-paid drink packages are commissionable so are a lucrative source of extra income for the trade.
4. Alone time
With the kids away, mum and dad can play. Even on the largest ships there is plenty of space for parents to unwind together. Private, adult-only sun decks are becoming ubiquitous, with many boasting intimate cabanas for secluded relaxation. Alternately, go the whole hog with a couples’ spa session or just settle for a quiet table for two in one of the speciality restaurants. Or get to the fully equipped gym and do a class or work out together to prepare for that first early evening cocktail!
5. Counter culture
Bargain hunting is often an essential part of the holiday experience and for serious shoppers a cruise delivers on all fronts. First off, moving from country to country means more shops to explore – very often cruise lines will build in time for shopping in city centres during tour excursions. But it’s also worth pointing out the superb onboard shopping on modern cruise ships. The words ‘designer’ and ‘duty-free’ mix in perfect harmony, offering up all sorts of irresistible deals on watches, jewellery, cameras, electronic gadgets, clothing, handbags and perfume. And when the pound is strong it’s even better, since prices are often in euros or dollars.
- Giles Hawke is executive director at MSC Cruises and vice chair of Clia UK & Ireland