Tuesday, 5 January 2016

Viking, Crystal and navigating new waters

Viking, Crystal and navigating new waters

Less than one year after Viking launched into ocean cruising with the delivery of the Viking Star in March, Crystal Cruises announced that it would go from ocean to rivers, with the launch of its first river cruise ship slated for 2016.

So what are some of the potential advantages and disadvantages of each approach? Of bringing your past river cruisers onto new ocean ships and of introducing your ocean cruisers to your new river program?

The key to success in these ventures is likely the fact that ocean and river cruising are just similar and different enough to offer something both distinct and yet familiar to the other. They are products that complement each other perhaps more than they compete with each other. Yes, they’re both a form of cruising. But that’s just about where the similarities end.

And yet, it’s still a bit of a risk, right? If you’re Viking and you introduce your past river cruise passengers to ocean cruising and they realize they like ocean cruising more — maybe you’ve just lost some river cruise customers. Ditto Crystal introducing ocean cruisers to the rivers with the chance of converting some customers away from the company’s core product.

It’s hard to say whether that risk is higher in one direction or the other: Avid river cruisers might say ocean cruisers are bound to be courted by the central docking locations and intimate environments on river cruise vessels, and ocean cruisers might feel that once river cruisers come onboard they’ll never go back to smaller vessels with fewer amenities and shorter itineraries.

But clearly for Viking and Crystal, the benefits outweigh any potential drawbacks. Perhaps rather than lose their customers to other companies, they’d rather keep them within their fold by offering river cruisers ocean vessels and by offering ocean cruisers river vessels — keeping them in the family, so to speak.