With over 100,000 user reviews, Cruiseline.com helps customers more easily search and plan their cruise holidays. In the first part of our chat with Founder and General Manager Faraz Qureshi, we spoke about the website’s beginnings and how cruise companies are using technology to better engage with travelers.
In the second half of our interview, Faraz shares some of the best examples of innovation in cruise, and what we can look forward to in 2017 and beyond.
What are some of the best examples you’ve seen of cruise companies engaging with customers in new and interesting ways?
I’m really encouraged to see shorter cruise options. A few of the cruise lines have rolled out three- or four-day options. There should be a ‘try before you buy’ approach. People have apprehensions. A typical American gets two weeks of vacation a year, so a week long cruise is half of your vacation. It’s risky! The option to try a weekend cruise and see if it’s for you, is a great trend that’s happening more and more.
Some of the premium lines are doing overnights, which I think is fantastic. If you’re on a cruise in Barcelona, you don’t really want to pull away at 5pm when the city is just coming alive. You want to be able to spend the night there. That’s a very good option.
From a technology perspective, one specific example that I saw last year that I thought was really interesting, was Princess Cruises had a mobile app that let you swipe left and right, sort of like Tinder, to narrow options down to a cruise you’d want to go on. I don’t know how successful it was, but I really liked seeing the out-of-the-box thinking.
What cruises should be doing or looking forward to in 2017?
The internet and broadband is something I’m passionate about. It’s happening – I’d love it to happen faster, I’d love for every ship to have it, and I’d love for it to be free. I think it will have a sort of demand creation effect that a lot of the cruise lines are looking for.
Besides that, I think we’ll see more brands get involved with cruise lines. We’re already seeing celebrity chefs branding the dining experience. Personally, I’d love to see a Shake Shack on a ship, so if Danny Meyer reads this interview, please make it happen! On the entertainment side, you see shows, like Rock of Ages on Norwegian and Mamma Mia on Royal Caribbean. I think that will only continue to grow and expand.
Celebrity Cruises now has iLounges on their ships, so you can take a class on iMovie, on your vacation. I’m a little bit of a nerd and I love learning opportunities. People do want to learn while they’re on vacation, not everyone wants to just sit by the pool, so I think we’ll see more of those.
What are some of the biggest hurdles facing cruise in 2017?
I think the biggest one, like we talked about, is attracting millennials, and the focus should be on the mobile experience. Most people come to our desktop site, but mobile is becoming a bigger part of our traffic. Taking this complicated purchase, and optimizing it for a screen that’s only four inches across is really challenging.
From a meta standpoint, it’s about attracting new people to cruise. Carnival is backing a few television shows centered around cruising which is interesting in its approach to reaching people who have never considered a cruise.
Most exciting developments in cruise?
There are a few very exciting things. One is that Cuba is now a cruise market. Carnival’s Fathom Brand is currently the only cruise line sailing there at the moment. It’ll be interesting to see if the new US administration allows more cruises—the other cruise lines are certainly waiting. Consumers want to go. Growing up in Florida, Cuba’s been something I’ve imagined, but now it’s actually possible. And hopefully it gets rolled out to other lines so consumers have more choice.
The other thing that’s exciting is Virgin Cruises. Virgin always has a knack for doing things differently, and I think they could raise the profile of the entire industry. Branson obviously attracts attention, so I think that’s a good thing and I’m expecting big things from them.
What other things are you watching for?
The one thing we haven’t really discussed is China. China is probably the most exciting thing happening in cruise. The big three cruise lines are all committed to it. Norwegian is actually building a purpose-built ship just for that market. The whole industry is betting that China is going to be the largest cruise market in the world due to the growing middle class. It’s a very interesting experiment to watch, because the vacationing concept is already difficult to explain, so the cruise concept is even more difficult to explain. Seeing how that grows and matures is going to be super interesting to watch.
Do you think those major cruise lines face competition from local cruise companies?
Absolutely, that’s already happening. Genting already has investments in some of the other cruise lines. They have a brand called Dream Cruises, as well as more local brands.
China is also getting into shipbuilding as well. Traditionally, shipbuilding happened in Europe, in the traditional shipyards, but they’re participating in that today as well.
What are some of your favorite cruise holidays that you’ve taken?
The best one I’ve had was last year when we took 17 of our family members to Alaska. We had all three generations on one ship, everyone from a year-and-a-half to my dad, who was 78 years old. It was really fantastic for a few reasons. Firstly, Alaska is gorgeous, and really, a cruise is the only way to see it unless you’re into camping and hiking. Secondly, on a cruise, you can accommodate the varying preferences within a family, and everything is taken care of.
On my to-do list? I’d love to do a river cruise in Europe, and I’d love to do Antarctica.