The number of travelers booking directly with cruise lines keeps growing, despite efforts by cruise lines to direct business to travel agents.
On a recent cruise aboard the Ruby Princess, I surveyed 25 passengers at random about how they bought their cruise. It was an unscientific sample of a fraction of the ship’s 3,000 passengers.
Ten of the 25 passengers I talked with had booked directly with Princess Cruises. Of the 15 that booked with a travel agent, nine had used agents they had some personal relationship with, while six booked through online agencies or non-traditional travel retailers, such as Costco.
So about 40% of my sample group booked direct. That’s a little higher than the most recent CLIA survey data, which suggests about 30% are booking direct, up from a 20-80 split 10 years ago.
In this report, I’ll address the passengers who booked direct and the reasons they gave for doing so. In next week’s follow-up, I’ll discuss the passengers who used a travel agent.
Donald and Erika Smith, of Melbourne, Fla., cited convenience as the reason they booked directly with Princess. “If you want to make a change, it’s easier than going through an agent,” said Donald Smith, who is retired from the aircraft parts industry and was on his 26th cruise.
James Wetherill, from Queensland, Australia, said that agents in Australia are “not knowledgeable” about the details of cruises in North America.
Another passenger said she knows someone who works for Princess and got a friends and family discount.
Mark from Las Vegas, who declined to give his last name, sang the praises of the Princess website. “You can see exactly what’s available very clearly. You can make an informed decision,” he said.
Some passengers said they used travel agents for previous or future trips but decided to book this particular trip with Princess directly. Others expressed an indifference that is remarkable to anyone who sells cruises for a living or knows someone who does.
It was basically six of one, a half-dozen of the other to Karen Brown, of Southern California, who bought the seven-day Mexican Riviera cruise from Princess.com. Brown shrugged and said, “Sometimes we use a travel agent,” citing a past cruise when an agent offered a free gratuities promotion.