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Carnival’s Plan to Get You on Their Ships

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Believe it or not, only about 20 percent of people in North America have ever been on a cruise… a fact that Carnival Cruise Line would love to change. But how do they go about convincing people to step aboard for the first time? “That’s a great question,” admits Mike Julius, managing director of sales for the line, “because we know that once they’ve experienced cruising, they’ll come back. Cruising has the highest satisfaction rate, and it offers a superior value when compared to land-based vacations.”

Familiarity Wins

But of course, before folks can come back, they have to take that very first cruise. And one way that Carnival tries to ease them into the experience is by making sure that as passengers venture off into the brave new world of cruising, they are surrounded by at least a few things that will be familiar to them. “Think of places like Guy’s Burger Joint,” says Julius, “or George Lopez’s Punchliner Comedy Club. These are Main Street names that guests are familiar with, so they can come on board and feel like they know these experiences. But the biggest challenge is that we have to continue to innovate if we want to get people to give cruising a try.”

Carnival Vista

Enter Vista, the ship that’s had people buzzing for months and will begin sailing in May. “That ship will have the first IMAX at sea,” says Julius. “The Havana cabanas have people excited. There’s something unique about having your own lanai with a hammock. What better place to enjoy cruising?”

And heck, the ship is even the first Carnival vessel to have… her own Twitter feed (@CarnivalVista)! “She has her own personality,” laughs Julius. “She comes out with updates about her progress and shows videos. It’s really created a buzz with not only the consumers, but the travel agent community, in that people feel as if they know her already.” (One recent tweet from Vista warned, “I’m gonna show embarrassing home videos in my IMAX theater. For no other reason than because I can.”)

Travel Agents Win

Just like in pretty much every other aspect of life, social media is playing an ever-increasing role in the travel industry. “We can use it to get great information out there,” says the exec, “especially to cruise rookies. We can start insightful conversations about the experience, help people get familiar with what the ships have to offer.” The one thing it can’t do, he insists, is replace a knowledgeable travel agent. “We truly believe that’s the best way to make sure you’re getting on the right ship for your ultimate vacation. The Web is great for researching and looking into what different ships offer, but when it comes time to book, we definitely recommend using a travel agent.”

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