Sometimes the reasons people cruise can’t be found in any catalog or sales brochure. The passenger who took 33 consecutive cruises aboard the Carnival Elation earlier this year is an extreme example.
Mark Fosselman found himself on the same itinerary over and over again following the loss of his wife, Becky. She had been in ill health, and the two had shared numerous cruises on the Elation before she passed away in April.
Fosselman told Carnival that the ship held special memories for him and that cruising was very therapeutic in helping him mourn his wife and come to terms with her death.
There are many conventional selling points to a cruise. But often it isn’t the size of the cabin, or the itinerary or the food that people care most about when they’re on a cruise.
When I asked a man on a recent cruise why he was on the ship, there was no hesitation: “I wanted to spend time with my brother,” he said. The passenger lived in Tennessee, his brother in Michigan. They didn’t see each other regularly, and a weeklong cruise was a chance to catch up.
More than marketing slogans or ad campaigns, the human need for connection and recognition often drives the choice of a cruise vacation. One passenger on another cruise I took recently was astonished to be the center of attention after his family surprised him with a cruise for his 90th birthday.
Another person on the cruise was aboard with someone who had started to show signs of memory loss. She said she took the cruise because she wasn’t sure in a year or two if her traveling companion would even be the same person.
So it is fine to have the latest and greatest technology on a ship, hot new entertainers or interesting new shore excursions. Onboard spending credits or free gratuities may be the way to seal the deal if someone is close to making a purchase.
But just as often it is the soft things, the human things, that start passengers thinking about taking a cruise. Cruise lines have started to pick up on this in their advertising, for example in Carnival Cruise Lines’ “Moments That Matter” spots or the Princess Cruises “Come Back New” campaign. They’re definitely not hard sell, but effective in the long run, it seems to me.