What's in a name? Why some cruise lines are changing course

What's in a name? Why some cruise lines are changing course

Are cruise lines sailing away from their traditional seafaring terminology? Jane Archer reports

A recent colourful P&O Cruises 'Caribbean Like Never Before' television ad campaign shows people having a great holiday on the beach, but then, as the camera flies towards the ship near the end, you realise it is a cruise. 

A Cunard ad is similar, though there are a few more blink-and-you-miss-it ship shots. It’s almost as if they are trying to distance themselves from the idea of cruise holidays, much like the lines that have dropped the very word from their name. The reborn Crystal is one; Viking and Celestyal are two others. 

Royal Caribbean and Silversea dropped the word cruise in 2020, while Virgin opted for Voyages instead of ‘cruises’ when it launched at Richard Branson’s behest. The word maintains links with the sea, but Branson reportedly said he didn’t want to go on a cruise but did want to go on a voyage. 

For years, Lynn Narraway, Seabourn’s vice-president for the UK and Europe, has urged companies to stop focusing on the cruise aspect and to sell the experiences and destinations they offer, as it could have a much wider appeal. “At last, they are listening,” she laughs.

March cruise big issue

They certainly have been listening. Explaining the rationale behind its ads, P&O Cruises talks of showcasing its “unique experiences” and land-based appeal.

“We wanted our latest campaign to reach beyond the cruise category,” says Robert Scott, the line’s vice-president for brand, marketing and sales.

Cunard is a little more reluctant to shift away entirely from cruise talk. Its TV ad mentions its “voyages” and “experiences at sea”, in addition to flashing up a fair few ship images. 

A spokesperson for the company says: “Since debuting the advert on TV in summer 2022, our approach has proven successful, with significant growth in brand preference.” 

Narraway’s call for the industry to focus on the holidays it delivers rather than the nautical stuff is based on negative perceptions that persist about cruising, which only became worse during the pandemic. 

8 new ships planned for NCLH fleets
NCL named World's Best Cruise Line
NCL puts 2025-26 sailings on sale

“After Covid, loyal guests came back, but new-to-cruise were more reluctant, so as an industry we all had to go back to 2019,” she says. “I have always shied away from having pictures of ships on the front of Seabourn brochures. It’s not that we are embarrassed to be a cruise line, but we need to talk the language of the customer and draw them in with images they understand.”

Seabourn’s promotional materials talk about boutique hotels, oceanfront suites and the plethora of places its ships visit. Narraway urges agents to do the same. “People still don’t understand the concept of a cruise, so agents need to do their research and use their experience to talk to clients. Talk about the places they go. With expedition, highlight that it’s often the only way to get to some destinations, plus the wildlife they will see. Leave the fact it’s a cruise until you have got customers excited about the destination.” 

The resurrected Crystal, which is now part of the A&K Travel Group, says it dropped ‘Cruises’ from the former name because they feel it is no longer needed. 

“Chanel doesn’t need to say perfume, simply because of the brand’s reputation and legacy,” says global marketing senior vice-president Jacqueline Barney. “In the cruise industry, Crystal represents that same high watermark. We no longer need to say ‘Cruises’ because our exceptional reputation fills in the blank. Crystal is more than just a cruise; it’s a lifestyle brand creating memories through extraordinary experiences at sea.” 

Cruise show

The word ‘cruise’ hasn’t fallen entirely out of favour. Among those bucking the trend are Riviera Travel and Fred Olsen Cruise Lines, which have adverts that scream cruising.

The latter is focusing on its ships and crew as it celebrates its 175-year anniversary, with the company happy to declare: “We are very proud of our maritime heritage.” 

Azamara, meanwhile, is somewhere in between. It dropped Club Cruises from its name in June 2019, saying it “reinforced [the brand’s] commitment to destination immersion beyond cruising”. 

It has since expanded its destination focus with new AzAmazing Days ashore and partnerships with National Geographic, yet in January this year ‘cruises’ crept back into its logo, even though the line is continually referred to as just Azamara. 

Narraway, however, has no doubt on what the selling focus should be. “Agents will lose their clients if they use cruise language,” she says. “Instead of how they get there, these days it’s the destination that truly matters to passengers.”



Share article

View Comments