Face-to-face: Phil Evans, MD of Cruise Nation

Face-to-face: Phil Evans, MD of Cruise Nation

The managing director of cruise OTA Cruise Nation says the popularity of cruises is rising among British holidaymakers

The managing director of cruise OTA Cruise Nation says the popularity of cruises is rising among British holidaymakers

Recent ABTA research found a quarter of Brits have been on a cruise holiday while 40% have not, but are interested in booking one. How do these findings tally with booking trends identified by Cruise Nation? i.e. new-to-cruise bookings 

Phil Evans, CEO of Cruise Nation.
Phil Evans, CEO of Cruise Nation.

There’s definitely been a shift in perceptions of the cruise industry and we’ve seen huge growth in the number of new-to-cruise bookings being made. Demand for our cruise holidays has risen by around 65% this year. One of the key reasons behind this is the flexibility that cruises are now able to offer the customer. Whether it’s a one-week escape in the Mediterranean or a longer, destination-focused trip in stunning locations such as Alaska or the Far East – you can literally cruise anywhere these days!

We all like to discover new things and holidaymakers are no different. They are looking for a new generation of holiday that isn’t restricted to just one destination, but at the same time they don’t necessarily want the hassle of having to arrange it. Cruise makes it easy.


What factors are driving first-time cruisers to book? Innovative cruise ship features, value for money?

It’s a combination of both, really. We’ve come a long way from the images of cheesy cabaret shows and karaoke that some people conjure up when thinking of cruises. It’s a competitive market and all the cruise lines are desperate to stay ahead of the curve. Nowadays it’s not unusual for cruise ships to be fitted with spas, zip wires, rock-climbing walls, waterpark-like attractions and even full sized sports courts. It’s this huge range of attractions to suit all ages that is one of the biggest pulls of a cruise holiday.

Customers have a lot of choice when considering a holiday, so price plays an important factor when making that final decision. When you consider what’s included in your cruise fare – food, culture, entertainment, atmosphere and facilities; it’s no wonder cruise holidays have been able to attract a new audience of holidaymakers.

Aside from these two main factors, cruise holidays enable you to visit a multitude of destinations in one holiday, which in itself is an attractive prospect. As a nation we’re increasing the value we see in having memorable life and travel experiences. Cruises present a way for guests to get the most out of their holiday by giving the opportunity to explore several exciting locations in one journey whilst still remaining affordable.


How is the cruise offering evolving to appeal to a wider audience in terms of packages and itineraries offered?

Keeping up-to-date with the demands of the modern traveller has certainly been a factor in the boom the cruise industry is experiencing. Cruises can now offer various types of holiday packages which appeal to a wide spectrum of clientele, from young couples and families to singles and groups of friends. The cruise lines themselves are at the centre of the modernisation – adding new and exciting features and interesting itineraries as they bring cruising into the 21st century.

The modern customer no longer wants to be stereotyped like in the past so cruise lines and operators have to provide a little bit of something to appeal to everyone. Travellers want to make the most of their precious time off and the cruise industry is now able to offer packages that are both convenient and packed-full of wonder, whether that’s learning about the history of chocolate along the Mexican coast or exploring Alaska before taking a train down America’s west coast towards California.

Cruise lines are increasingly becoming more responsive to travel trends and popular destinations. Royal Caribbean is basing the Quantum of the Seas in Shanghai from May 2016 following increased demand for more Asian routes, while the MSC Opera will begin to sail from Havana this winter. Both these locations present new opportunities outside the traditional cruising destinations like the Mediterranean or Caribbean.

Families are welcomed on cruises and the Kids Go Free packages available from Costa and MSC are an example of cruise lines developing unique and competitive offerings for the family market.


How are cruise specialists and the cruise lines helping change perceptions of what a cruise holiday entails and what more needs to be done?

Cruise holidays certainly got lumped with the ‘newlywed, overfed and nearly dead’ tag, but everyone in the industry has been working hard to overturn this. As a response to outdated cruise myths, cruises have stepped up their entertainment offering. For example, the newly renovated Norwegian Epic will now include a reproduction of Liverpool’s famous Cavern Club, Royal Caribbean has hosted renowned Broadway shows such as Chicago, Saturday Night Fever and Hairspray, while Cunard have long-standing partnerships with the National Symphony Orchestra, the Royal Academy of Art and Juilliard School of Performing Arts.

The majority of cruise lines now offer kids clubs in order to encourage families with young children to book a cruise. Many of the liners have different options available depending on the age group, ranging from adventure and water park facilities to science clubs and arts and crafts sessions.

It can still be frustrating when you hear the public describing cruising as a holiday for older generations but I can safely argue that this is no longer the case. Cruises can take you to the four corners of the world, offering Alaskan adventures, South American odysseys and Caribbean voyages at fantastic prices. That’s not to say that cruises still aren’t a good opportunity for the older traveller but innovation has really helped to grow the industry – there’s a lot of optimism now amongst operators and cruise lines.

At the end of the day it’s the quality of the product that has helped to cause a shift in perceptions. Cruise lines can talk all day about wanting to attract a younger and more varied customer base, but unless they have the attributes to make it happen they won’t be able to convert new customers. I really believe cruising has the potential to challenge the fly and flop package holiday.

Operators and cruise lines have also embraced social media in order to encourage their guests to share the story of their time on-board, produce high-value user generated content and ultimately contribute to the change of perceptions indirectly within the wider public.


What booking incentives and campaigns are you offering?

We’re consistently planning and developing new incentives for our customers to offer them great value. Our Smart Packages can offer flights, free city breaks, drinks packages, balcony & cabin upgrades and all-inclusive trips. There are some great deals available for families as well!

Earlier this year we introduced a brand new concept to the Cruise Nation brand: Club 30. The aim is to bring 30-somethings into the world of cruising and to spread the word that cruise holidays are a real holiday option for younger people. On these trips, travellers can soak up the sun, party the night away and meet new friends – all while aboard some truly amazing ships.

We hope Club 30 can open the door to a whole new generation of travellers, showing that cruising can be affordable and fun and offer a genuinely attractive alternative to the traditional package holiday. For example, a week-long Mediterranean trip could see you visit multiple European destinations and experiencing different food, cultures and landscapes along the way. Compare that to a traditional one-destination package and I know which one would be top of my list.


What are your top five selling points for customers considering a cruise holiday?

Destination – The huge range of itineraries available is one of the best things about a cruise. Unlike land-based holidays, you can wake up in a different city, country, or even continent, every morning.

Price – It’s a common misconception of cruising that it’s only for the rich or retired! That couldn’t be further from the truth, there are some incredible deals out there for the UK traveller, in fact UK prices are generally lower than anywhere else in Europe.

All-in-one package – When people initially hear the phrase ‘package holidays’, they might think their holiday is restricted in some way. Cruise Nation’s Smart Packages were introduced to change the perception of ‘package holidays’. Our Smart Packages are designed to be flexible and include the full-board cruise, flights and a choice of complimentary pre or post cruise hotel stays in exciting destinations. This means we can offer our guests more choice, more time to relax and most of all, more bang for their buck.

A Little Something for everyone – Some people think they’ll be bored on a cruise but the entertainment on these ships is second to none. From Broadway shows, comedy clubs, boutique shopping, slides fit for a waterpark, on-board ice skating, aqua theatres, casinos and cinemas, you’ll find a little something for everyone. And that’s before we even mention the land-based day trips where you could rock climb, scuba dive, or simply explore a new city.

Stress Free – A cruise package allows you to make the most of your time off. You can visit a multitude of destinations without the hassle of organising the itinerary yourself.

Gary Marshall
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Gary Marshall
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