Cruising Among 8 Best Business Startups

Demand for cruises is up, in particular, themed and specialty cruises. Aside from a cruise like Seabourn’s “World Cruise“, most cruises focus on a particular geographic region and thus could be considered ‘specialty’ (even so – ‘The World’ seems like a valid theme too). Navigating the waters (sorry) of this space can be overwhelming for someone just looking for an exciting vacation, so demand for cruise specialists is up – and has named cruising among the top 8 eight industries for starting a business. What…did you think we were going to say you should start your own cruise line? (via Julie Strickland) explains that demand is up for travel professionals well briefed in specialty cruises and there are few barriers to entry. However, that business environment also tends to be very competitive, with new travel agencies popping up every day. There will always be competition with big travel sites, but someone looking to drop $10,000 or more on a cruise likely prefers a more personalized service with an expert in cruises.

The low-end market is well taken care of through the major travel sites, it’s the high-end, luxury market that has the most potential for business growth. Also, differentiating your business as one that provides extraordinary customer service through extensive product knowledge (e.g. If there are 3 cruise lines that have cruises to the Galapagos Islands, who is the best and why?) and personal treatment (e.g. If I like caviar after watching island turtles all day, which line is the best of both worlds?).

Lots of travel agencies try to set themselves apart, but very few actually do.

What does your agency do in order to cater to potential cruisers and set your company apart?

8 Ways to Sneak Alcohol onto Cruise Ships and into Stadiums

It’s 2013, soon to be 2014, and security getting onto cruise ships and into stadiums/concerts is tighter than ever. Luckily, the research and development teams throughout the world are developing new products to help you sneak alcohol onto cruise ships and into stadiums without getting caught. $15 signature drink in a Carnival glass? $10 beers at the stadium (some college stadiums don’t sell any booze…the nerve)? All problems of the past thanks to these 20 ways to sneak alcohol onto cruise ships and into stadiums. Mind you, some of these are more clandestine than others – be wise when smuggling your hooch and use common sense on whether it’s worth the heat from security. In most cases, they’ll just toss out your booze.

1) The Rum Runner Flask Tried and true – especially for cruise ships. Put a few of these among your liquids in your checked bags, and 9/10 times they’ll sail through the security checkers. They have only a few hours to check thousands of suitcases that even if they do see it, they probably won’t remove it. However, your blatantly obvious 1.5L Jack Daniels bottle is sure to get confiscated – so put it in a Rum Runner Flask Also – no metal – in case you’re at a pro-sports game and they have the wands or the walk-through metal detectors. Yeesh.

2) Shambooze Bottles Unless you’re a weirdo, you’re not going to bring shampoo to a concert or ball game – so this one is for cruises only. The great thing about these bottles is that they never contained shampoo. You can try to remove the soap smell and flavor, but unless you want your rum to taste like Pert Plus – you should just get these instead of the DIY version. The ad claims they are better than the Rum Runners, but we’re not so sure. Just like your retirement portfolio, we recommend diversifying methods to ensure at least SOMETHING gets through to your stateroom.

3) Fake Binoculars Flask – Binoculars? Or Beer Goggles? Whatever you want to call them – they’d work for cruise ships, stadiums, and concerts. Granted, if you’re over 60, you’re more likely to be packing a set of sight extenders than a trio of 22 year old frat guys at a Nickelback concert (oof..they’ll need the booze), so beware that it’s easier to pull this one off if you look the part.

4) The Sunscreen Flask – Great for cruises and outdoor concerts and sporting events. These in particular would be great for re-filling in port, loading up on tax-free liquor, and getting it back on the ship! Our main concern is whether or not these leak as much as sun tan lotion bottles always seem to do. BUT – you could put it in a Ziplock bag with a squirt of real suntan lotion to complete the ruse.

5) The Camera Flask – They actually call this the BevCam – but it’s great for any event or cruise ships. I remember some concerts were real strict on small cameras, but I haven’t seen them scoff at a camera this size in years. I’m also pretty sure that the women with the huge purses that get ‘searched’ for a millisecond could actually smuggle in a large Nikon DSLR with a 70-200mm lens – which if a flask, could probably fit nearly a liter. I’m sensing a new product here…

6)The Wine Rack – Ladies what better way to add distraction to your booze smuggling portfolio than with a device that both distracts AND sneaks in alcohol? I give you the Wine Rack. It holds a whopping 750ml! Amazingly, it has good reviews too; “While the bra is machine-washable, the bladder must be hand-washed, but that hardly deters me from using it every day.” Bottoms up! Or maybe tops up? I’m not really sure here.

The Beer Belly Flask – Men, don’t think we forgot about you. While the beer belly flask seems like an excellent idea, the reviews are pretty terrible – from booze tasting like the bladder, drinks being warm from snuggling with your real beer belly, and finally – a few reports of leakage which makes you look like you peed your pants. No matter where you’re trying to go with this, looking like you wet yourself is a real good way of attracting more attention – probably the kind that gets you caught.

8) The Tampon Flask I almost didn’t include this on the list because it weirded me out. That’s also what makes them brilliant. What security man would ever take a closer look at these? In fact, one look and he’d promptly shut your bag and wave your entire party through the gate without another word. Just don’t ask me to take a shot out of them.

What about you? What’s your favorite method of sneaking alcohol?

Carnival Announces New Cruise Ship Name: Carnival Vista

Carnival Cruise LogoCarnival Cruise Line announced the first details today about it’s next ship on order – the Carnival Vista.

The Vista will debut in 2016 and have a passenger capacity of 4000.

“We’re starting to use the ship names as a touchstone for how we think about the design,” said Carnival Chief Marketing Officer Jim Berra, pointing to the fact the Vista will have several lookouts around the ship.

Company officials were largely mum on the details, only adding that there would be many similarities to the Carnival Breeze, but that it would also be a unique ship and look different than the Breeze.

New Cruise Ships in 2013, 2014 and Beyond

Norwegian Breakway New Cruise Ship 2013

During the last several years of economic recovery, a few cruise lines were betting on the future with the planning, designing, and construction of new Cruise. The entire process can last between 2 and 4 years, and thinking back 2 or 4 years ago, these ships were gambles – and they should payoff as we slowly climb out of the global recession.
We noted on last-year’s list that mega-ships were noticeably absent.

The outlook over the next few years also indicates ships that carry over 6,000 passengers may have been a phase – and one that wasn’t overly profitable – since neither Royal Caribbean or Norwegian Cruise Line, two lines with mega-ship experience, have any plans of expanding their mega-fleet size.

Below is a list with some details the new cruise ships in 2013, 2014, and Beyond. Continue reading “New Cruise Ships in 2013, 2014 and Beyond”

Carnival’s Faster to the Fun Program Causes Loyalty Uproar

Before Carnival announced its Faster to the Fun program last week, the only way to get priority boarding and tendering was earning your way to the top tier of Carnival’s loyalty program or booking one of the limited number suites on board. With the new program in place on some ships, anyone can now get this particular service for a fee of $49.95 per cabin. Many long-time Carnival customers that have reached the very top tiers of the loyalty program are upset, and marketing experts aren’t surprised.

CarnivalVIFPClub“The outrage of the elite cruisers is to be expected,” says Roger Dooley, author of Brainfluence
and the blog Neuromarketing. “One key motivator for humans is social status. Being a “diamond” member signals prestige to other cruisers, and this status was attained by spending tens, or even hundreds, of thousands of dollars on cruises. When any joker in a John Deere t-shirt and cargo shorts can board at the same time by paying fifty bucks, the elite members will feel a lot less elite.”

Some passengers, mostly those who have not reached high levels of loyalty status, welcome the program. Having faster access to your luggage after a red-eye flight, or lessening the time spent wrangling multiple children can be extraordinarily valuable to a select group of passengers. Likely a value higher than $49. They also say the program is similar to the airline experience of first-class. Some like to pay for it, and some are bumped because they are frequent flyers. Dooley says that cruise-lines shouldn’t necessarily model their loyalty programs on airlines.

“It’s no surprise that airlines tend to be unpopular brands, as they have evolved from a seamless travel experience into one where everything has a price tag attached to it,” says Dooley. “The one airline that IS a well-liked brand is Southwest. JetBlue also scores with women. It’s no surprise that these airlines have many fewer random charges and tend to treat their passengers more equally.”

The new policy suggests that Carnival is focused more on providing options to the masses of new or relatively inexperienced cruisers rather than their most fiercely loyal customers. It isn’t uncommon for a business to focus on the majority of its customers – but it would be wise for the Carnival brand to create programs that cater to both segments as each have significant value.

Loyal cruisers are brand advocates – that is – not just someone who will tell you what a great cruise they experienced when asked, but those who will go out of their way to share experiences and stories with friends (friends likely able to afford such luxuries), promote their experiences on online forums and message boards, comment on blogs, and even defend the brand against unfavorable comments in any of the above situations. Advocates are extremely valuable, but policies like this can leave them feeling hurt or unappreciated.

If Carnival decides to keep the policy or expand it to other ships, they should strongly consider adding a perk of significant value for its loyalty members, above and beyond extending the Faster to the Fun benefits at no charge. Currently, when one reaches the Diamond level of Carnival’s VIFP Loyalty Program (meaning they’ve sailed over 200 days with Carnival), cruisers get a one-time complimentary meal for two at a specialty restaurant. Instead of one-time, perhaps Carnival could reward its most loyal customers with this perk on every cruise, or every other cruise. Or maybe even an exclusive group-dinner with the captain at a specialty restaurant that is only available for the highest tiers. It’s a small investment to the company(around $50) that may help cushion the perceived dilution of perks to brand advocates.

Pay to Play: Carnival Cruise Line Offers Fee-Based Early Boarding, Priority Tenders

Carnival Liberty Ship 2012Regardless of cruise line, one of the largest annoyances of the cruise experience is the embarkation. For what it’s worth, herding thousands of passengers through what seems like miles of rope-line through the registration and security process – in the time that they do it – is no easy feat. But Carnival is testing a new pilot program to assess the viability of offering a fee-based perk program that allows passengers to experience an expedited process and quicker access to the ship.

Carnival Cruise Faster to the Fun

The program is being called, “Faster to the Fun,” and is being piloted on two Carnival ships. For a fee, passengers will be able to enjoy the benefits previously only awarded to experienced Carnival Cruisers in the Diamond and Platinum level programs (Don’t worry Diamond passengers, you’ll still have a separate line).

Participants will be eligible to bypass many of the long lines during embarkation through a priority line. And, instead of waiting until the afternoon for your stateroom to be ready, and sometimes late evening for your luggage to arrive – your stateroom will be among the first available to enter and your luggage will be hand-delivered inside your room.

While the fast embarkation is getting most of the attention, the program also includes priority dinner times and faster access to ship-to-shore tenders.

Carnival Cruise Early Boarding Price

All these benefits come at a price – and that price is $49.95 per cabin. So, if you’re traveling as a family of four, it means for 12 dollars and some change per-person, you can avoid many long lines throughout your voyage. (Maybe….one day…there will be priority access to the buffet lines….)

Availability and how to sign up

Undoubtedly Carnival is using the pilot program to see how many cruisers want to take part in such a program and if the logistics are feasible (read: profitable). At the time of publishing, Carnival Cruise Line had declined comment on just how many passengers would be able to purchase the “Faster to the Fun” package, only that there is limited availability.

To book the early boarding package, passengers can access the excursion area of

Two ships will host the pilot program. The Carnival Imagination will begin offering the program on August 20th sailing, and the Carnival Liberty a few days later on August 25th sailing.

Final Thoughts

This program will be a success for Carnival. Once they figure out the maximum number of cabins to which they can offer this service, it will likely be profitable. Aside from the person handling the luggage in the beginning (what Carnival is paying that person is a topic for another day) – there is very little company cost involved in a program facilitation.

A poll on indicated that a large number of people would rather spend this money on something else – but we suspect that those scouring message boards and cruise forums are savvier than the average cruise passenger and willing to sacrifice convenience to save a little cash.

We don’t blame them – but this program will be popular. Very popular.

Gay Cruise Ship Allegedly Banned From Casablanca, Morroco

MoroccoCruise2,100 passengers aboard an all-gay Holland America Line cruise were told that their scheduled stop in Casablanca, Morrocco – despite previous confirmations – was being denied entry by port officials.

The stop would have been the first of its kind in the Muslim country, though the Tourism Minister in Morocco is denying that any official decision had been made and the ship is welcome to come to port. “We don’t ban cruise ships here and we never ask our visitors about their sexual preferences,” he told Reuters.

Whether or not the ship ever makes it to Casablanca is unknown, but the country’s tough stance on same-sex relationships (it’s illegal, and one can be jailed for 3 years), begs the question why a group like this would choose to go there anyway.

Source: Reuters

Bringing Alcohol on Cruise Ships – A Rum Runner Flask Review

Update 2015: Genuine Rum Runner’sare still sailing through security. Several personal experiences and countless 3rd party success stories.

When you bring up the idea of bringing alcohol onto a cruise ship, that is, above the amount allowed by cruise line policy, you’re sure to run into two types of people.

There are those who say the practice is despicable – that cruise lines enact rules and guidelines for a reason and they should be followed. Any talk of circumventing these rules will often lead to questions pertaining to the offender’s moral character (an informal survey on CruiseCritic found 4% of travelers are hard-line rule followers, and another 15% say the rules are fair).

Then there are those who believe that the cruise line’s rules are well-intentioned, but choose to bring illicit alcohol on board for a number of reasons. These may include on-board alcohol prices, convenience, or even selection of alcohol offered on-board (the same survey found that 80% of travelers said the policies on alcohol were annoying or needed to change).

In fact – the only subject that brings more controversy when talking about cruise ship guest rights are the smoking policies, but that is a discussion for another day.

So for the moment, we’ll assume that if you’ve never even considered bootlegging booze onto a ship, you might be curious as to the techniques and their success rates.

By far the most popular and talked-about method of taking alcohol onto a cruise ship as of late is the use of small, strong, plastic bladders or bags. One brand in particular, Rum Runner Flasks, is the most widely-known brand for such products – and they even make a Rum Runner Cruise Kit and a Spring Break Cruise Kit. Both kits cost around $25 and shipping is reasonable.

For research purposes, we purchased the Cruise Kit, which comes with three large and three small flasks.

We filled the flasks with various types of liquor and distributed them throughout our checked bags that would be screened by security and then placed outside our staterooms.

One large flask was placed in with other large toiletry liquids, the other large flask was packed completely out in the open around some clothes. The smaller flasks were placed in several places around a garment bag.

The wait for our bags seemed endless – and every time we heard the rustle of the bags being delivered we’d open the door hoping ours would be there. Eventually our bags arrived (truthfully no later than anyone else’s, it just seemed that way) and the results were in.

All of the flasks had made it through without being confiscated. However, it wouldn’t be fair to say they weren’t detected.

Some fellow guests had also brought alcohol in their checked luggage – and made no attempt to hide it – other than putting the large (original) bottle of Knob Creek in some bubble-wrap and a kids-size life preserver, but that was mainly to protect the glass from breaking.

What we’ve found is that the season, time of year, and overall cruise clientele/age have more to predicting whether or not your alcohol makes it passed security rather than the vessel containing it.

You’ll notice that no cruise line’s alcohol policy mentions profitability of the cruise, even though alcohol sales can play a large role in profitability. Lines typically say their policies exist for purposes of controlling over-consumption which can lead to individuals being disruptive to other guests. Our research has shown that it looks like they’re telling the truth.

We’ve found the enforcement of the alcohol policies gets stricter during peak seasons for college spring breaks and even summer cruises. Enforcement will also be stepped up for theme cruises, such as a popular music act that may attract a rowdier-than-usual crowd.

So, if you’re going to try to bring alcohol onto a ship, using something like the Rum Runner Flasks hidden with similar-sized liquid toiletries is probably your best bet – but it’s not a guarantee – especially during ‘high enforcement’ cruises. Typically the worst thing that happens is it gets confiscated and you never see your booze or your flasks again, which depending on what you bring, could be a sizable gamble.

For more info, reviews, and price info – check out the Rum Runner Cruise Kit and the Spring Break Cruise Kit on Amazon.

Other Methods

These are some of the other methods we’ve heard of people using – some crazier than others.

Poor-man’s Rum Runner Can’t afford a rum-runner and want a couple liters of wine? Grab a box of wine and remove the box – Bingo! A bag-o-wine that’s designed to take a beating.

Fill a Listerine bottle with clear alcohol, add food coloring. This will get your booze on board, but no matter how much you wash it, the bottle will still impart the taste of mouthwash to your liquor. There are only so many drinks you can make with mint vodka.

Wine-bottle switcheroo Most cruise lines allow you to bring some wine in your carry-on bags. Not a wine drinker? Find an empty wine bottle, fill it with your favorite liquor, re-cork it (you can cut off the top if you can’t get it all the way), then buy some heat-shrink-foil tops to reseal the top and give it the appearance it hasn’t been opened. People brew their own wine, so these can be found online or in some liquor stores (Google shopping search: wine heat shrink capsules). This is probably the most guaranteed way as it gives the appearance of something the cruise lines condone, but may also require the most preparation and forethought.

Water-bottle switcheroo This used to be a decent method, but lately cruise lines have been known to shake the water bottles to see if they bubble or not. This approach is more often attempted (and failed) when getting back on the ship after a day in port.

Iced-Tea Sitcheroo This is one step up from the water-bottle switcherro – since ice tea bubbles when shaken, and dark liquors often give the appearance of tea, the line would have to conduct a smell-test, which we’ve never seen. Getting the plastic bottles to appear like they’ve never been opened is much trickier on these bottles.

Old-school flask/Traveler Bottle They’ve made plastic flasks for a long time, and traveler liquor bottles are made from plastic to be lighter weight. You can carry either on your person through security as metal detectors won’t uncover them. This method has long been perfected in the concert and sports arena world, and methods include sticking them in cargo shorts to actually taping them to your person. This method is actually where the term ‘bootlegging’ originated during prohibition.

If we missed one – let us know in the comments section!

We’ve included the newest alcohol policies (as of 2012) from some of the major cruise lines after the jump Continue reading “Bringing Alcohol on Cruise Ships – A Rum Runner Flask Review”

Mississippi River Cruise Line Adds Solo Cabins to New Vessel

American Cruise Lines announced today that 15% of the cabins on board its new river paddle wheeler will be designed for solo travel.

The river cruise line will offer cabins that are around 200 square feet – which is nearly double from what solo passengers find on ocean-going cruise ships such as the Norwegian Epic (the only major cruise-line to offer solo-traveler cabins).

The new vessel is called the Queen of the Mississippi and will be the newest overnight passenger paddle-wheeler on the river in over 20 years. It is schedule to be debut August 11th.

Interested more about solo-travel on cruise ships? Check out’s mention in the latest issue of ASTANetork Magazine (page 45-46).

Source: USAToday

Carnival’s Costa Concordia Cruise Ship Accident – Picture Gallery and Video

UPDATE: 2:30 US Central Time: The Italian captain of the Costa Concordia has been arrested. The Guardian is reporting that an announcement was made after the ship had collided with underwater rocks stating that it was just an electrical failure. Passengers are also alleging they were attempting to board life-boats but the crew wouldn’t allow them to since the Captain hadn’t given the order. Skynews is indicating the captain was arrested officially for abandoning ship hours before everyone was rescued and out of harm’s way as well as several counts of manslaughter.

Normally when we hear of cruise ships running aground, becoming half submerged, it’s typically an old, small ship from a non-leading company. That changed overnight when the Costa Concordia, a roughly $700 million ship put into service in 2006, ran aground off Tuscany Italy and forcing over 4,200 on board to evacuate in a panic.

As of this morning, nearly 70 people are unaccounted for and three have been confirmed dead, though local officials believe some of the missing are likely taking shelter in private residences on small island of Giglio where the ship made contact with large under-water rocks (as seen in the picture gallery below). Passengers who escaped the horror described the experience like a scene from the movie “Titanic,” with plates crashing and climbing around hallways that had been turned on their side.

Costa Cruise Lines is owned by Carnival Corporation, whose 10 cruise lines makeup nearly 50% of the world’s cruise market share. Costa is second in Carnival Corp’s book of business to Carnival Cruise Line, and closely followed by Princess, AIDA, and Holland America lines. Costa is also Europe’s #1 cruise line. In comparison, Royal Caribbean’s various lines (including Celebrity) only makeup about 24% of the world cruise market.

Costa and Carnival are so closely related, that the ship that just ran aground has a sister-ship in the Carnival Cruise Lineup – the Carnival Splendor. The Splendor is actually considered part of the “Concordia Class Ships,” but is a slightly smaller version.

To those who have cruised from the United States, you know that a safety drill is required at the very start of the cruise – but for some reason (whether it not be a priority or a breach in policy)- the safety drill was schedule for later in the day. Some of the U.S. passengers on-board joked, “what if something happened today?” What if.

We hope that the remaining missing passengers are safe and sound – since in this day and age, the largest cruise company in the world with a ship a little over 5 years old shouldn’t be running into islands.