Don’t mention the C word

BY JOHN HONEYWELL – CAPTAIN GREYBEARD

Travel agents have been told that the way to sell more cruises to holidaymakers is to avoid mentioning the word cruise.
Lynn Narraway, UK managing director of Holland America Line and Seabourn, and the chair of the Cruise Lines International Association (CLIA), would also like to get rid of references to port and starboard, and decks, and to stop referring to cruise ships by tonnage.

Speaking at CLIA’s annual dinner – on board Cruise and Maritime’s 46,052-ton Magellan at Tilbury Docks – she said:

“Our key to more growth in the UK is our ability to attract new-to-cruise guests. There are so many people who don’t yet know about cruise, or have pre-conceived ideas about what a cruise holiday will be like.

“Why do we still use marine language and not holiday language, when new ships, initiatives and innovation mean we can now use completely different holiday language? Surely we are selling holidays that just happen to be on a ship.

“We can talk about world class dining, award-winning spas, and inspiring destination experiences – many of them superior to those offered on a land-based holiday.”

She adapted W.H. Auden’s Stop All The Clocks – the Funeral Blues poem recited by John Hannah in Four Weddings and a Funeral – to implore her audience:

“Silence the vessels, muffle the aft,
Kick out those cabins and reference to draft.
Kitchens not galleys, waiters not crew
When it comes to language, let’s have a review.”

There was more, and I have to say my first reaction was to think that this was not only a speech in questionable taste, it also amounted to an admission of defeat from a senior executive at the very heart of the cruise industry.

Try to imagine Boris Johnson promoting a holiday that includes staying at the Savoy, spending an afternoon at Tate Modern and the evening at White Hart Lane, without mentioning that it involved a visit to London.

But it could be that I’m in the minority here. I’ve long been an advocate of cruise holidays, whereas Lynn is keen to appeal to guests who have never sailed before.

She has an ally in leading travel agent Edwina Lonsdale, managing director of Mundy Cruising, which has specialised in selling cruises since 1970.

She told me: “I agree that there is a load of baggage associated with the word ‘cruise’ which means that many people will go into hands-over-ears ‘la-la-la’ mode the minute you mention it, so convinced are they that this is not a holiday for them.

“They do this to an extent I find quite insulting – dear friends who would trust me with their children’s lives are so convinced they know what a cruise is all about and would hate it. The only way is to creep up on them and talk about things they are passionate about (whether dining, spa, fitness, extraordinary trips) and then leap out and surprise them with the truth!”

Royal Caribbean’s latest TV advertising campaign, with the strapline “Where extraordinary happens” focuses on destinations and experiences rather than the ships. Carefully avoiding the C-word, marketing director Tamara Strauss says that after conducting market research, the company felt it was important to focus “on the experiences and memories we want our guests to have on our holidays.”

 

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