Last updated: 12:00 PM ET, Thu July 14 2016

Are Cruise Line and Brand Partnerships Enough to Satisfy?

Cruise Line & Cruise Ship | Crystal Cruises | Jason Leppert | July 14, 2016

Are Cruise Line and Brand Partnerships Enough to Satisfy?

 Photo courtesy of Royal Caribbean International 

Partnerships are all the rage among cruise lines these days for the sake of brand association. The thinking goes that someone may not know a cruise line but they may be familiar with a brand, and that brand might help entice that person to perhaps come aboard for the very first time and then return again and again.

On cruises, brands include anything from companies like Billboard and Hasbro to celebrity chefs such as Guy Fieri and Thomas Keller. The question, of course, is which partnerships resonate the most and are they enough to sustain interest?

Take celebrity chefs, for instance. Some partnerships have been around for far longer than others. Among luxury lines, Crystal Cruises has maintained a partnership with Nobu Matsuhisa for years, but Seabourn Cruise Line has only just recently teamed up with Thomas Keller. Both chefs are highly acclaimed and certainly add perceived value to two companies that are lauded on their own merits.

Whether or not dining associated with celebrities is included in the cruise fare may also make a difference to longevity. Guy Fieri and Carnival Cruise Line have served up gourmet grill items at Guy’s Burger Joint for free across the fleet for awhile now, whereas Norwegian Cruise Line charges for its premium cuisine from Iron Chef Jose Garces at Bayamo on the new Norwegian Escape. To be fair, the type of food offered at each venue is decidedly different, and a surcharge for Garces’ is well justified over the cost of burgers, no matter how gourmet.

 READ MORE: MSC Cruises Partners with Chef Roy Yamaguchi of Roy’s Fame 

However, it does make one wonder if money had anything to do with the reason Norwegian abandoned its former partnership with another Iron Chef, Geoffrey Zakarian, who was once similarly featured on the Norwegian Breakaway and Getaway. It likely comes down more to contract renewals than anything, as other collaborations have also been short lived at Norwegian including ones with Blue Man Group and Nickelodeon.

Why are entertainment partnerships so important? Well, take a look at Disney Cruise Line, which has the good fortune of built-in success thanks to its coveted in-house synergy. As an entertainment company first and foremost, Disney will always have a wealth of properties and franchises to draw from onboard its ships, and that brings guests onboard. We’re talking huge brands like Pixar, Marvel and Star Wars after all.

That’s why Norwegian pursued Nickelodeon for a period of time and why Royal Caribbean International has teamed up for the DreamWorks Experience (pictured above), MSC Cruises with Cirque du Soleil and Carnival Cruise Line with Hasbro and Dr. Seuss. The approach even extends to premium lines like Holland America Line and its collaborations with BBC Earth, Lincoln Center Stage and Billboard.

 READ MORE: Royal Caribbean Going Green With WWF Partnership 

One might wonder if lines are beginning to reach a saturation limit, however. Princess Cruises is filled to the brim with great partnerships: Discovery at Sea, The Voice of the Ocean, chef Curtis Stone, chocolatier Norman Love, chef Ernesto Uchimura, composer Stephen Schwartz and even Dr. Michael Breus' and HGTV designer Candice Olson’s The Princess Luxury Bed. And this article lists just a few of the pairings that exist between cruise lines and brands.

In the end, it’s important that companies don’t lose sight of what still matters most at the core, and that’s a solid product that can stand on its own two feet before anything else is added to the surface. If brand partnerships exist solely to fill in gaps, then that’s not a good strategy. Specialty dining from celebrity chefs is only delicious if the complimentary main dining room can still satisfy, and enhanced stateroom amenities are only luxurious if the remainder of the cabin is still comfortable.


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