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The Diamond Princess -- ready for a meaningful cruise. Photo from Princess Cruises.

The Diamond Princess — ready for a meaningful cruise. Photo from Princess Cruises.

At the big annual New York Times Travel Show, held in frigid Manhattan over the weekend, it seemed a good time to think about cruising, preferably to tropical waters (though come the dog days of summer I’ll be pining for Arctic voyages, I’m sure).

So I crashed a seminar on what’s new in cruising aimed at travel agents, but open to the media. The panel had representatives from six of the largest mainstream and premium cruise lines that cater to the American market: Carnival Cruise Lines, Royal Caribbean Cruise Line, Norwegian Cruise Line, Princess Cruises, Celebrity Cruise Line and MSC Cruises.

In my next post I’ll talk about some of the new cruise ships and features for 2014 that I heard about,  but today I want to focus on the answers that the cruise line reps gave to a question the moderator asked toward the end of the session.

Namely, what one word best describes your cruise line? Not necessarily an easy question.

At least two of the answers were completely predictable and, well, easy.

The Carnival rep said: “Fun.” Carnival, of course, has been touting its “Fun Ships” for years, and, indeed, aims its marketing at a partying crowd. You don’t go on a Carnival cruise seeking peace and quiet.

Carnival goes for

Carnival goes for “fun” — end of story. Photo from Carnival Cruise Lines.

The Norwegian rep answered “Freestyle.” Norwegian pioneered the “freestyle” concept years ago — most notably flexible dining hours — and has based its marketing on that ever since. So Norwegian is understandably sticking with it.

Two other answers made perfect sense.

The Royal Caribbean representative picked “innovative.” And that’s an excellent term to describe that line’s annual parade of new features, which have been bringing things like climbing walls, ice-skating rinks and faux “Central Parks” with live trees to the high seas. You can add those features when your ships start to rival the size of the real Central Park itself.

The Celebrity panelist opted for “memorable,” explaining somewhat awkwardly, if I heard her correctly, “You don’t remember anything about your Celebrity cruise, you remember everything about it.” But point taken: A Celebrity cruise is memorable, a good strong word that you can drape a brand around.

The final two, however, lacked the other four’s panache.

The rep for MSC, an Italian line that has been heavily marketing to Americans for some years now, chose the word “new.” This was said to be based on MSC’s new ship, the MSC Divina, its first ship based year-round in the U.S, and offering a “whole new approach to the MSC Brand,” as the cruise line’s spokesman put it. But “new” is really just a lame variation on “innovative,” which at least has positive connotations. Just because something is “new” doesn’t make it good or bad. I’d go back to the drawing board on that one.

The MSC Divina -- it's new. Photo from MSC Cruises.

The MSC Divina — it’s new. Photo from MSC Cruises.

By the way, MSC — which stands for Mediterranean Shipping Company (the line has 500 cargo ships) — now wants its initials to mean “Mediterranean-Style Cruising,” at least for its cruise business. So why not keep”Mediterranean-style” as its one-word (albeit hyphenated) sum-up?

Finally, the Princess rep chipped in with “meaningful,” which turns out to be the buzzword behind an expensive new ad campaign, “Come Back New” — admittedly better than just “New” — hoping to appeal to people seeking life-changing experiences, even aboard a cruise ship.

“It’s all about the ‘meaningful traveler,'” the rep explained, “who wants to see new places and try out new foods and cultures.”

And believe me, I’m all for that. I love meaningful travel. I love new places, foods and cultures. Baby boomers in general, as I’ve written a number of times, often look for meaning when they travel. They want to “Come Back New.”

So I’m onboard with the basic concept. But “meaningful” doesn’t exactly trip off the tongue. Nor does it imply “fun,” which any cruise — not just Princess’ sister line Carnival — should provide.

I can’t easily picture an ad campaign touting “Princess: Your Meaningful Cruise Line,” or, for that matter, a travel agent selling a “meaningful” cruise to too many people. Not exactly the “Love Boat” for pithiness and allure.

Still, I’m sympathetic. Checking the thesaurus for synonyms to “meaningful,” the choices are limited.

The word “consequential” has a nice alliterative ring to complement “cruising,” but it’s even clunkier than “meaningful.” “Purposeful” might work, but “purposeful” and “Princess” are probably too alliterative. “Serious,” “substantial” and “worthwhile” are all worse, and “important” is way too self-important.

For now, if Princess really does want to get serious and dispel the old Love Boat image once and for all, I guess “meaningful” is as good a word as any. So if you decide to take a Princess cruise, have a meaningful time, “Come Back New” — and don’t forget to write.

But we’ll expect more than a text or a tweet.

Meanwhile, be sure to download my free report, “How to Ride the Coming Wave of Boomers.” It’s all about the best ways to market travel to baby boomers — the biggest-spending group of travelers the world has ever seen. It’s also the easiest way to subscribe to my blog, so you won’t miss a posting. Thanks!





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According to government and private surveys:

  • Leading-edge baby boomers (born between 1946 and 1955) and seniors account for four out of every five dollars spent on luxury travel today.
  • Roughly half the consumer spending money in the U.S.--more than $2 trillion--is in the hands of leading-edge baby boomers and seniors.
  • Baby boomers (born 1946-1964) travel more than any other age group.
  • When asked what they would most like to spend their money on, baby boomers answered “travel” more than any other category, including improving their health or finances.

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