One of the best things about cruising is how easy it is to visit multiple ports of call without having to unpack your suitcase more than once. It seems so effortless. But is it really? There’s actually a lot that goes on behind the scenes when a cruise ship company plans an itinerary, and that planning starts many months, if not years, in advance.
A Delicate Balancing Act
A cruise line has to fine tune an itinerary so that all of its priorities are equally and satisfactorily met. That means the sales and marketing team has to be on board as does the ship’s crew, operations team, and number crunchers. A sailing needs to be marketable, attractive to passengers, affordable to run, and manageable to staff and operate.
Making All of the People Happy All of the Time
Itineraries are also planned to visit places that mix old favorites and “undiscovered” gems. As much as people like visiting new and exciting places, they also enjoy returning to destinations where they’ve enjoyed themselves before and have happy memories of visiting. According to Terry Thornton, Carnival Cruise Lines senior vice president, one of the goals of any itinerary is to think broadly and make as many people happy as possible, and that includes attracting prospective travelers who’ve never been on a cruise before.
And the linchpin in any itinerary is whether or not it’s actually attainable. It’s one thing to want to go to a particular port but if the infrastructure isn’t there, that’s not do-able. Cruise lines have to know if they can dock some of these new and bigger ships in ports; if not, what’s the feasibility of anchoring off shore and tendering passengers to the pier? Has local tourism been built up enough for thousands of guests to find something to do? Are there enough bars, restaurants, beaches, and other amenities for passengers to explore and enjoy? If not, then a port might get ruled out.
Planning a cruise line itinerary is a challenge even in the best of times. As cruise ships get bigger and the popularity of cruises increases, it can get harder and harder to fit the puzzle pieces together. But as cruise lines book farther out and make even greater commitments to developing ports of call and their own private islands, there’s no doubt that itineraries will continue to attract new and returning cruise vacationers.