Richard Turen
Richard Turen

Sometimes you just have to be patient. Sometimes you just have to give the marketing folks time to come along to your way of thinking. But when they do, it is wonderful to behold.

The cruise industry has determined that certain subjects are unmentionable when it comes to advertising. The published passenger space ratio has largely been one of those topics. Oh sure, ads talk about lovely, comfortable and "spacious" staterooms. But since our three major industry brands own both entry-level and five-star deluxe brands, careful comparisons of stateroom size has been a subject best left alone.

This has been a constant source of frustration for sellers of cruises because space ratios and the differentials between competing brands can make all the difference in the world on any voyage lasting more than a few days. It is also a subject brought to the forefront by social distancing concerns.

Cruise ships are described by opponents of the industry as crowded, high-density environments. As a seller, space ratios are tough to describe in ways that have meaning to consumers. You have to improvise. I have been known to compare stateroom stats with the size of mandated prison cells in my client's state of residence. 

How often, I wonder, have I sprung to my feet with guests seated across my desk and started walking around the room.

"Imagine you are on your ship," I would explain, "and everywhere you go you are surrounded by this imaginary box. If you were sailing on the Trailer Park at Sea, that box might have 23 square feet. But on the five-star Hedge Fund Queen, you will have 68 square feet of space."

Hotels have been eager to publish square-feet stats. Airlines are all about inches -- a half-inch of additional legroom with three-quarters of an inch more width in the seat are serious matters worthy of millions in advertising. But cruise lines have been reluctant to get too specific about the actual space provided in each category of their floating hotels.

But now that is changing. Regent Seven Seas has launched an across-the-board ad campaign with the phrase "Unrivaled Space at Sea." There is a new "space" video and a dedicated 30-page brochure. But what is particularly noteworthy is Regent's willingness to compare its new Seven Seas Splendor stats in a compelling chart side by side with something called a "Premium Cruise Line." They compare number of guests, 750 versus 3,046, and gross tonnage and arrive at space ratios of 73.9 on the Splendor versus 41.1 on the "Premium." They could have made the comparison even more dramatic.

But I want to compliment CLIA as well as Regent -- maybe even more so. It now has a section on its website dedicated to a large chart showing space ratios aboard every ship of every CLIA member line.

Which ships provide the most space per guest? Hapag-Lloyd's Europa 2 leads with a passenger space ratio of 83, followed by Silversea's Silver Shadow and Silver Whisper at 72.8. Rounding out the top five are Seabourn's Odyssey and Quest at 71.1.

I won't name names at the bottom of CLIA's list. You can easily look it up. But I will point out that two well-known ships come in at 29 and 30.

Industry trend analysts seldom agree. But one thing they do seem to agree on is that, going forward, space is "the new luxury." And finally, space is now out of the closet. 

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