Archive for December 11th, 2013

Reflections on the cruise life – while sipping cerveza in warm sunny, Puerto Rico

While reflecting on these past weeks in the Carribean I (we ) came to see that the cruise lines are doing themselves a disservice in the islands. They are not looking after maintaining /upgrading their smaller boats while  building bigger and bigger new boats.  This causes the companies ( Royal Caribbean and Carnival are the big two)  to down market their offers to increase their sell plus compete fiercely with each other. To compensate for not being able to increase fares ( for ten years I think) they are cutting back on many of the niceties that caused many people to be such regular repeat cruisers.  We took our last cruise three years ago, and noticed a big decline this time. We talked to several people on the boats and if they were long time cruises, they also  notice a decline.  The island’s tourist executives we met onshore decried the overall reduced spend of the customers, despite the number of cruisers going up.  They also note that the cruise lines are reducing/modifying  the length (and time of day)  each port stop, which impacts how much of an excursion that the cruisers are able to book while onshore – further reducing the offshore spend.   Our hotel in San Juan is across from the cruise port and we saw  each day some boats arriving about 5 pm and leaving at 10 pm – restricting the onshore visit to a limited number of still open Old San Juan shops and no tours.   Yet the boats are dumping several thousand people on a small space, during this time. Major islands are visited on Sundays when many destinations have few to limited hours. The intent may be to capture more of the spend on-board.  However since the advertising is pushing the product downmarket, these first time cruisers have less discretionary income to spend.    Still the first time cruisers, having no reference point will have a great time on a cruise, just not as good a one as a few years ago.  My wife is seeing her clients move to the smaller boats like on River cruises or small land tours, to recapture the traveling feeling of discovery.  If you are retired, the last thing one wants is to be in a big controlled group.  Clearly the big vessel cruse companies are messing with their product value.   This usually opens up opportunities for other players to scoop out the high value customers.