Forgive me for picking up on the Olympic theme of last week’s blog but it appears that the gun has gone and the latest wave of cruise brochure launches is upon us.
Celebrity Cruises looks to have powered over the finish tape first by issuing its 2013-14 Worldwide Cruise programme this week.
But do not be surprised to find others limbering up in the wings with the details of their plans for next year and beyond.
All the major cruise companies seem to have a cunning knack of having details ready for release at around this time of year, it’s just a question of who gets out there first.
The whole itinerary planning process alone is conducted at least a year ahead of the brochure production – which means two years in advance of ships actually setting off on the cruises.
For example, P&O Cruises is about to start planning for 2014 Europe and Mediterranean summer sailings which will appear in a brochure due out in December.
The company produced its January 2013-March 2014 brochure in April and is poised to follow that up with a worldwide programme.
It’s an exacting process for all companies and one that involves a huge amount of forethought into the kind of cruises and destinations to be offered.
There are always old favourites but each year itineraries are tweaked to keep them fresh and interesting to passengers. New ports of call need to be sourced while other less popular destinations quietly drop by the wayside.
Yet with all the crystal ball gazing in the world, it’s never possible to foresee political upheaval or natural disasters, which means that the whole system remains under constant review with the ability to make changes up to the point of departure where necessary.
Cruise companies also have to incorporate all that may be new on board each ship, such as new entertainment or dining options, as well as the extensive list of shore excursions.
They often have to include information on any newcomers to the fleet a year or 18 months ahead of the ship actually entering service.
So, while Celebrity has previously disclosed the news that it will be operating two ships from the UK for the first time in summer 2013, the release of the brochure – and equivalent information online – is the first time that information on all the cruises will have been detailed.
Celebrity is bringing six of its 11-strong fleet of ships to European waters next year. They will be operating 30 itineraries in the region to a total of 73 destinations from seven departure points. Six of the ports are new.
See what I mean? Try planning all that out on a spreadsheet 12 months ahead of publication.
Part of the equation
But Europe is just part of the equation, as the premium line operates around the world and will run 110 itineraries in total in 2013.
For example, the brochure includes a new Asia, Australia and New Zealand section and features details of a 20-night Machu Picchu adventure in Peru.
Special offers are all important at the time when brochures are published to encourage early bookings, and this year is no exception.
Free port car parking, coach transfers, reduced price regional flights to coincide with Southampton departures and savings of up to £400 per cabin on various cruises worldwide are available with Celebrity Cruises, for example, if booked by August 31.
With two ships dedicated to UK departures, including newly refurbished Celebrity Infinity making its debut in Harwich and Celebrity Eclipse returning to Southampton for its fourth consecutive season, the line has lots to shout about and plenty of cabins which need filling.
That’s where travel agents such as www.virginholidayscruises.co.uk play such a vital role in helping market and sell cruises.
It’s therefore vital that cruise companies keep agents up to speed with all the latest developments and provide ongoing training on any new ships, on board facilities and destinations covered.
For example, Celebrity’s worldwide brochure features planning guides for agents, including a new ‘Fleet Facilities’ grid outlining venues and activities by ship, a ‘Before You Cruise’ guide to help sell shore excursions and speciality dining packages and a section detailing the revamp of the cruise line’s Milllennium Class ships.
Celebrity’s UK and Ireland associate vice president and general manager Jo Rzymowska says: “The new 2013 – 2014 worldwide brochure includes everything agents need to know about our modern ships, itineraries and the great on board experiences in order to help them sell with the utmost confidence.”
Helping agents explain the differences between cruise companies, individual ships and which itineraries best suit prospective customers is a crucial part of the sales process.
The race for bookings starts now.
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