New year – not so new discount

John Honeywell

John Honeywell takes a look at the tactics used by some of the biggest names in cruising to encourage customers to book their holidays during the so-called Wave season.

Consumers like me, who maxed out their credit cards in the run-up to Christmas, can’t start to think about planning the summer holiday until Easter at least.

But there must be people with cash to spare, otherwise cruise lines would not find it worthwhile to place so much emphasis and reliance on the so-called Wave season to kick-start their sales.

Saga Cruises

There are so many discount deals, two-for-one offers, included drinks packages, onboard credit and other incentives, it’s difficult to work out which offers the best value.

The same sort of high-pressure selling is also packed into the annual National Cruise Month, and can be found at cruise show events up and down the country.

You might wonder whether customers will one day realise that there is no point booking at any other time of year unless money really is no object.

But the fact is that cruise lines are little different from the furniture stores advertising every week on television. There’s always a sale. Every. Single. Week.

Come on! Does anyone really rush out to Oak Furniture Land or DFS because they believe the sale ‘must end’ on Monday? We all know that more cut-price deals will be on offer from Tuesday.

And it’s the same with cruises. If interest starts to flag, it’s been a quiet week with sales failing to match the targets, or a particular itinerary looks like it’s failing to generate excitement, out will come the flash sales and more bargain offers.

Talking about television though, at least the Wave season brings a new batch of cruise advertising commercials to our screens and onto our laptops.

And they are all so different.

P&O continue to rely on roguish Rob Brydon, who you might think has been on one long cruise since Christmas Day 2014. Talk about This is the Life!

He keeps going back for a refresher though, and the latest versions see him soaking up Greek culture, embarrassing himself by smashing a plate, and being greeted by P&O’s pin-up captain, Robert Camby.

Royal Caribbean has crafted an artfully-shot travelogue which looks beautiful but says little. There’s no voice-over and only a brief view of anything related to cruising – an aerial shot of the stern of Navigator of the Seas.

The beautiful images are identified only by their geographical coordinates. For the record, they include a deserted beach in Tenerife, a stained glass rose window in Barcelona, a rocky coastline in Lanzarote, a waterfall in Croatia’s Krka National Park, and a speedboat and parasail off the coast of Santorini.

Cunard has gone to town with a new brand promotion titled ‘Everything you wanted, nothing you expected’.

Two versions have been produced; the 30-second edit has a voiceover from Emilia Fox, star of TV’s Silent Witness and Sky’s Delicious, while the full one-minute-43-second version relies only on a sotto voce “Welcome aboard”, drowned out by a big-band soundtrack.

I’m not sure whether there are any potential customers who would not have expected a Cunard cruise to come with views of the ocean, Champagne by the bucket-load, afternoon tea, massages, more sea, jogging on the Promenade Deck, beer in the Golden Lion pub, fine dining, a night at the theatre, yet more Champagne and finally an arrival in New York.

It all looked very familiar to me, but then I have been fortunate to cross the Atlantic with Cunard a number of times.

What do the commercials say about the brands? What’s the hidden message behind the high production values?

P&O’s happy smiley approach makes me think they want to come over all Love Actually. Let’s just hope they are never tempted to replace the lovely Rob with the dastardly Hugh Grant.

Royal Caribbean treats us to some stunning images, but it’s a bit like a show reel from Planet Earth with the David Attenborough commentary edited out.

By contrast, Cunard’s tale of the unexpected looks like a modern-day Downton Abbey: The Director’s Cut.

Wouldn’t it be fun to see all three occupying prime-time slots during the current series of ITV’s documentary series The Cruise, filmed onboard Royal Princess?

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