The Challenge: How to Fill a Cruise Ship

The Old Rules of Marketing Apply Online

A number of years ago, we took a terrific Norwegian Cruise Lines tour of the Baltic—St. Petersburg, Tallinn, Stockholm, Oslo, Helsinki and Copenhagen. The company kept us on its roster of customers. We became “Latitudes Insider” members.

On her office computer a couple of years later, my wife Peggy received a last-minute “Latitudes” offer from Norwegian Cruise Lines at a time when we seriously needed a break. Clicking on the offer, she discovered not only a 7-day Bahamas cruise, but also an upgrade to a suite for very little additional money—tiny bedroom with separate sitting room and balcony. She booked it. If one of us wanted to read while the other slept late or napped, the layout was perfect. What’s more, Norwegian Cruise Lines treats its suite buyers to extra services: exclusive access to private dining areas, concierge service, mini-bar, etc. We returned to New York from the Caribbean thoroughly refreshed.

Over the years, we have booked Club ABC Tours, a company that can buy all-inclusive upmarket travel at very good prices and pass the savings on to its customers.

On April 12, I found identical offers four hours apart from both of these companies—a one-day sale for myriad cruises on Norwegian Epic.

Of course, I opened them.

The ABC offer was off the wall—gibberish.

I noodled around the Norwegian Cruise Line offer and felt the offers were so-so.

“The right offer should be so attractive,” said the great Claude Hopkins, “that only a lunatic would say no.”

I abandoned the hunt.

The Massive Challenge of Cruise Ship Marketing
Cruise ships are huge and costly. According to my arithmetic, the average Norwegian Cruise ship has a capacity of 2,394 passengers and an operating cost of $3.4 million a week.

The operating cost of Norwegian’s entire fleet of 11 ships—with a total capacity of 26,334 passengers—is an estimated $37.5 million a week.

Denny Hatch is the author of six books on marketing and four novels, and is a direct marketing writer, designer and consultant. His latest book is “Write Everything Right!” Visit him at dennyhatch.com.

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