You know your cruise ship offers best-in-biz amenities, entertainment, and dining. But does your audience know it too? Cruise ship marketing is tricky, and if you’ve found yourself looking for ideas that perform like those of your competitors, then this article is for you.
In this post, we explain what top cruise brands are doing right now to appeal to unique and complex audience needs. From messaging to offers, and everything in between, follow along as we combine expert advice with industry trends to bring you cruise ship marketing and strategy tips to rock your peak season.
9 trending strategies to improve the ROI of your cruise ship marketing campaigns
1. Hire AI influencers
You’ve heard of human influencers, but now there are AI ones, too. Many artificially intelligent bots are garnering hundreds of thousands of followers on platforms like Instagram. Kyra, India’s first Meta-Influencer, is one such AI. She already does travel content so cruise ship marketing will be right up her alley.
Realistically, AI influencers aren’t overtaking the market yet. But the possibilities are exciting enough to entice potential cruise goers into checking out your brand if you have one on your team.
2. Offer sustainability data
This cruise ship marketing example comes to us from Carnival Cruises. Their team has made advanced efforts to share sustainability data in recent years. Offering reports, analytics, and a mission statement spanning the next four decades, Carnival Cruises is leading the way in environmentally-friendly practices for the industry. And with a little transparency, your brand can too.
The brand was able to reduce carbon emissions through improved equipment, operations, and mechanics. But even if your cruise ship doesn’t have the specs that they do, sharing cold hard numbers on your own sustainability efforts will likely build trust in your brand and attract a younger demographic of holidaymakers.
3. Focus on the destination
With a cruise, it’s less about the journey. At least that’s how Carnival Cruises sees it in their marketing. Instead of focusing on the port of call, the brand has shifted to destination-forward offers. Nowhere is this strategy clearer than in their website metadata; their Google result boasts, “Carnival cruise deals and cruise packages to the most popular destinations.”
As you can see, the brand has chosen to highlight that they focus on the destination. They even mention a bit later in their metadata what we can only assume are their most popular destinations: the Caribbean, the Bahamas, Alaska, and Mexico.
Even their search layout showcases this strategy. Instead of displaying the search options as leaving from and going to, like most airlines and other forms of public transportation do, Carnival flips the categories and to showcase the destination first.
You can follow in Carnival’s footsteps by using your destinations as your main selling point in future cruise ship marketing campaigns.
How? Check out Silversea Cruise’s YouTube series “Behind the Lens”. The destination-first travel series displays stunning footage of their most popular and new routes. Less than a minute long, this video titled “Surreal Iceland” highlights all there is to love about the country and what cruisers can look forward to when they go. A simple travel series of your own created by a professional production company, an in-house host, or a best-of series of guest videos are all you need for destination marketing.
4. Try brand collaborations
Not sure how a cruise ship can collaborate with another brand? If Taco Bell and Stranger Things figured out how to collaborate with Forever 21 and MAC Cosmetics, respectively, then your cruise ship marketing campaign can easily tack on brand collaborations too. The creative possibilities with this are endless. From food to cosmetics to television shows, brand collaborations offer cruise ship marketers more opportunities to draw fans of other companies into their own audience.
In fact, one recent example of a successful brand collaboration with a cruise line is the Viking and Focus Feature’s Downton Abbey: A New Era partnership. Among their many promotions, a pop-up on their landing page showcases the collaboration for all site visitors to see.
5. Share tech details
When the Le Commandant Charcot, a hybrid prototype ship built by Ponant, joined the fleet in July it quickly became the industry’s hottest new technology. The vessel is the culmination of a six-year project that involved extensive design, construction, and testing. The final product features both battery and LNG propulsion, making a big impact on travel and just a small impact on the environment.
Even if your cruise ship line doesn’t have a brand-new ship, you can still share your technology with your patrons. Information on how the ship works, what technology is used to run it, and what fail-safes are in place has the potential to remedy any worries potential guests may have. But if you do have a cool new addition to your tech offerings, be sure to highlight it in your cruise ship marketing!
6. Push plant-based
You’ve heard about plant-based burgers and chicken nuggets. But what about plant-based lobster or shrimp or salmon? In Cassandra Daily’s analysis of the future of food, the trend-watching publication detailed three of the hottest trends they saw at The Fancy Food Show this year.
Not sure what this means for cruise ships? As vegan and vegetarian alternatives to meat continue to be popular, more and more people will be curious about other plant-based options you’ve got on board.
But don’t worry—even if you still aren’t serving carrot-based lox and capers toasties, your cruise ship marketing campaigns can still share details on expanded menu options for the meatless travelers out there.
7. Prioritise audience education
In this video from Princess Cruises, the marketing team goes into detail about how they think about targeting their primary customer base: first-time cruisers. For Princess Cruises, cruise ship marketing is all about teaching people how to cruise and why they should do it. That means creating content around itinerary planning, cruise benefits, and what to expect. They do this by using targeted communications that appeal to people on an individual level.
“It’s really important that you set a digital foundation,” says Shelley Wise, Director of Brand Marketing at Princess Cruises, “so that you can take advantage of this long-term investment and really make the most of it.” Follow their lead by creating a content marketing strategy built around customer education through the lens of a first-time cruiser.
8. Follow the crowd
There is only one hotly searched cruise-related term your brand does not want to be associated with, and that is coronavirus. In the wake of ever-changing regulations and fluctuating case numbers due to new strains, many cruise ship marketing campaigns are focusing on discounts.
The discounts themselves may vary. Some are for healthcare workers, others are for slow season dates, and still others reward guests for also booking a friend. Whatever the terms and conditions may be, it’s worthwhile to follow the crowd on this one.
Take a look at this example from Costa Cruises. Not only do they have specials for their newest ship, but they also offer discounts on beverages, a themed route, and members-only benefits.
9. Celebrate maritime traditions
So much of what goes viral on TikTok involves trivia and stories about interesting things that viewers have never heard of before. That’s why we love the idea of making maritime traditions a pillar in your cruise ship marketing plan. Incorporating fun facts about the human experience at sea will always attract eyeballs on social media.
And, if you follow Royal Caribbean’s example, adding in a contest element may even make it go viral. When the new Royal Caribbean ship, Wonder of the Seas, was named in December of 2022 in Port Canaveral, the company advertised that the new Godmother will be someone who you can find on TikTok. To find the ideal candidate, the line launched a search for a Wonder Mom.
As you may already know, the role of a Godmother is a longstanding maritime tradition that recognises the contributions of mothers. According to Michael Bayley, president and CEO of Royal Caribbean International, the company's new ship is designed to inspire awe and wonder in children and adults. All of this combined with the opportunity to win first-class airfare, hotel stays, and a 7-day cruise make this cruise ship marketing idea a well-rounded success.
The A’s to your most important cruise ship marketing Q’s
How do cruise ships advertise?
Like any other travel-based business, cruise ships use traditional, digital, and physical marketing channels. Social media is considered a must these days, due to its high chance of discoverability and effective paid advertising models.
What is the target market of cruise ships?
According to Cruise Critic, cruise ships are generally geared toward adults. Most cruises target retirees, but more and more are looking to reach elder Millennials in their mid-40s.
How can you promote a cruise on social media?
Promoting cruises on social media is not only an important aspect of cruise ship marketing, but it’s also fairly straightforward. Videos of on-ship amenities, destination guides, and behind-the-scenes of cruise life are popular on TikTok, and indicate that audiences are at the very least curious about these subjects.