InsightThere are 11 million households worldwide with incomes of $1 million or more, and 4.7 million of them are in the U.S., according to a global wealth report discussed during the Luxury at Sea panel at last week’s Seatrade Cruise Shipping Miami.

Richard Meadows, the longtime Holland America Line executive who now is the president-designate of Seabourn, started off the discussion with some compelling data drawn from the report.

With all those upper-income households, the global penetration by luxury cruise lines is just 1.2%, Meadows said. He noted that in the U.S., “wealth income” starts at $210,000 per year. And in 2009, just 136,000 households in the U.S. cruised at the luxury level. It means there’s an enormous market out there to attract onto luxury ships.

The luxury lines are getting their messages across to retailers: According to Meadows, 25% of CLIA agents reported they sold 40% more luxury cruises last year.

Along with Meadows, panel participants included: Sebastian Ahrens, managing director of Hapag Lloyd Cruises; Gregg Michel, president and COO of Crystal Cruises; Barbara Muckermann, head of corporate marketing for MSC Cruises; Peter Shanks, president and managing director of Cunard Line; Alex Sharpe, executive vice president of Signature Travel Network; and Kenneth Watson, COO of Silversea Cruises. Cruise industry analyst Tony Peisley moderated.

Cunard’s Shanks had some interesting observations about the value of brand partnerships. Alliances between luxury cruise lines and certain consumer brands can raise the prestige of all concerned. For example, Cunard partners with Wedgwood, the English fine china company, and with Canyon Ranch Spa. One of Cunard’s alternative restaurants is Todd English, owned by the celebrity chef and entrepreneur of the same name.

Onboard Cunard ships, he said, guests have access to Mac computers, iPads and iPhones. “It contemporizes us, and now, we are selling iPads and iPhones onboard,” Shanks said.

In some cases, he said, “cruise lines can work with their partners’ databases” for marketing purposes.

And Cunard, he added, has perhaps the most famous brand partnership in the world: the British royal family. Queen Elizabeth II was godmother to Cunard’s Queen Elizabeth 2 and Queen Mary 2. 

It’s hard to beat that.

JDS Travel News JDS Viewpoints JDS Africa/MI