Travel advisors make up one of the important sales channels for ocean cruise lines. If you ask any cruise line executive, the majority will explain that between choice of itinerary, cabins, inclusions, and more, travel advisors are able to get the right client on the right ship at the right time in the right place, more often that a consumer would be able to do themselves.
That’s important because the cruise industry philosophy has always been that if a consumer is placed on the right ship, the odds are they will fall in love with cruising as a vacation mode, and will turn into often repeat cruisers.
As part of TMR’s latest Outlook on Cruise Trends, we asked over 850 travel advisors to tell us which cruise line brand is their top-selling one. The results, which are below, show that those that serve the contemporary and premium markets, and those that have the largest ships, tend to be the most popular brands among travel advisor clients. More niche cruise lines, with smaller fleets, fell outside of the top five.
Here are the results:
1. Royal Caribbean International
The cruise line with the biggest ship in the world (Wonder of the Seas), Royal Caribbean was ranked first by advisors with 81% of advisors saying they sell the brand. Royal, with its massive fleet, benefits from being able to avoid some of the most cited challenges that advisors face when selling cruise vacations, including the itinerary or schedule not matching a client’s vacation time (39%), available inventory not matching a client’s needs (35%), and more.
Royal is also able to offer onboard amenities that tend to help draw in that first-time cruiser, including rolling out over 40 dining, drinking, and entertainment options on its newest ship, Icon of the Seas, which is slated to debut in January 2024.
2. Celebrity Cruises
Royal Caribbean Group’s premium cruise line Celebrity Cruises is the second most popular line amongst advisor clients—78% of advisors said their clients opt for Celebrity when they sail.
Celebrity earns high marks for its all-inclusive pricing—more than 7 in 10 travel advisors say their clients prefer all-inclusive pricing—and its premium onboard offerings.
Recently, Celebrity became the first ocean cruise line to earn Forbes Travel Guide (FTG) Award. It joined an exclusive group of fewer than 20 land-based properties with more than 1,000 rooms in the world to receive the award. The line earned Star Ratings on five of its “resort at sea” ships: Celebrity Apex, Celebrity Edge, Celebrity Flora, Celebrity Millennium, and Celebrity Summit.
3. Norwegian Cruise Line
With 73% of advisors saying their clients opt for it, Norwegian Cruise Lines is the third most popular ocean cruise line among the 850 respondents. Norwegian earns high marks for its Freestyle Cruising promotion, which is important for advisor clients—a majority said that both drinks/beverages, along with Wi-Fi, two options in Freestyle Cruising, are incredibly effective when selling.
Norwegian recently unveiled a new commission payment policy where it would pay commissions on NCFs to agencies who have created marketing plans that receive approval from the cruise line. According to Norwegian, the response to that from the trade was “overwhelming.”
4. Princess Cruises
At 70%, Princess Cruises is the fourth most popular cruise line among travel advisor clients. Just like Freestyle Cruising, Princess’ Plus 7 Premier Cruise Packages, which includes perks like drinks and Wi-Fi, score high among advisor clients who are looking for more inclusive options. Advisors told TMR recently that they find the packages help them close more sales and provide their clients with better onboard experiences. At the same time, the packages also reward advisors for the upsell.
Princess most recently floated out its next-generation Sun Princess ship. The 4,300-guest Sun Princess is scheduled to debut in early 2024. It will be the largest ship in the Princess fleet and be the first to feature The Dome, a cutting-edge day-to-night entertainment space “inspired by the terraces of Santorini.”
5. Holland America Line
Wrapping up the top five is Holland America Line, a cruise line that 63% of the 850 advisors said their clients book.
The cruise line, which operates under the Carnival Corp. banner, scores big when it comes to its destination focus, something that 76% of advisors said was important when selecting a cruise vacation, a factor that was only second to price/cost at 79%.
For 2024/25, Holland America is introducing a number of longer Caribbean cruises, including options from Boston and the line’s return to Bermuda. The longer itineraries are part of the line’s new focus on longer sailings.