Can hotel brands create cruise lines?

Ritz-Carlton cruise ship

With the news that Sandals, Ritz-Carlton and Virgin Voyages are set to enter the cruise market, we ask, can hotel brands create successful cruise lines?

Andy Harmer, SVP membership & director, UK & Ireland

With the number of British cruisers continuing to grow and global cruise guest numbers rising each year to over 27 million for the first time ever, it is little wonder that the industry is attracting new entrants. Already known for incredible repeat bookings, and for the fantastic service, dining and experiences offered as standard, for many companies, the cruise industry is increasingly being seen as an obvious place for its own brands – either on board existing ships or as a new cruise line. The arrival of Virgin Voyages, Ritz-Carlton and Sandals into the industry speaks volumes about how cruising is setting the agenda for holidays, and how the old views and misconceptions cruising has fundamentally shifted. The hotels, with their high levels of brand recognition and standards of service, are bound to succeed, but only if they are able to understand the very different challenges posed of creating holidays at sea.

Simonne Fairbanks
Simonne Fairbanks

Simonne Fairbanks, Chief operating officer, cruisingexcursions.com

The huge growth in the cruise market shows no sign of abating, with new ships launched every year – each one with something wonderful and different to attract the cruisers. All cruise ships are in fact floating hotels and each cruise line has its own identity, USPs and target audience. I believe if the hotel and resort companies planning to launch cruise ships are just looking to recreate their brand at sea, this may not have a wide enough appeal outside their existing customer profile. Certainly, they will struggle if planning anything larger than a small, niche cruise ship – the market is very competitive and already crowded with established players.

Scott Anderson, General manager, The Luxury Cruise Company

Hotel brands can indeed create cruise lines. Look at Regent – they have a global hotel business as well as an ultra-luxury cruise brand and have been successful since rebranding from Radisson. It’s great that these hotel brands are entering the cruise market, however I don’t think that just transplanting their land-based experience on to a ship will be enough to make them a success. They need to offer something that is not currently in the market – brand loyalty with existing clients will only carry so much weight. Smaller ports of call have been mooted too – however, other luxury cruise lines already visit these places, so these brands really need to up their game to stand out in an increasingly crowded marketplace.

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