Industry comments on Carnival's upscale market aspirations ranged from "When Carnival talks people listen," to "it's a lot easier to say than do" 'and "Carnival's passengers will not upgrade." Most people questioned by CIN, however, reacted positively to "Project Tiffany."
"Joe Watters, president of Royal Viking Line, whose luxury cruise product was used by Carnival to describe the type of product it would market at a "Holland America price," had his reservations about the idea and the comparison.
"We seem to be getting a lot of people trying to emulate RVL these days," said Watters. "They are welcome (Carnival), but providing a high-quality product where service levels are extremely critical is easier to say than do."
"It's a little like a beginning actor saying he will become a Robert Redford. A little amusing in that way. We just have to wait and see if it happens," said Watters.
Watters pressed the point that RVL had worked hard over the years to attain its current position of exclusivity and quality. Potential competition from the proposed Carnival product would not worry him, he said. "We are not concerned with competition, our business is maintaining the high-quality product we offer. They are welcome, but we'll be waiting for them," said Watters.
Sitmar, offering a different up-market luxury cruise product at a lower cost than RVL, is closer to what Carnival intends to charge.
They are not worried according to Julie Benson.
"We have a strong position. The new Carnival product is just part of the continuig growth of competition in the industry," she said.
Benson has little doubt that Carnival can sell upscale as well as mass market. "It will be a challenge for them, but Carnival is successful at what they do. Those cruise lines that have been able to grow their fleets have been successful. They can do it. Kloster is doing the same thing with NCL and RVL," she said.
Bright Marketing Move
Jay Lewis, president of Miami-based Marketscope, a cruise-intensive market research firm, called Carnival's plan "a very smart marketing move."
Acknowledging the move to be a unique venture for the mass-market company, he said it was a product line expansion that made good logical sense.
"Carnival has a stronghold on the mass market with many repeat cruisers," said Lewis. "And there's gold in them thar hills," he said. "They are going to provide an upscale product to people who have sailed on them before who want a little something more," said Lewis.
"Plus Carnival is skewed toward the younger passenger and they get wealthier with age. Someone who sailed with them at age 35 for $150 a day could be convinced to sail with them for $250 a day at age 40," said Lewis, using the argument of brand loyalty to back his assertion.
When asked if the new Carnival product would steal passengers from other upscale lines, Lewis responded with a wait-and-see attitude.
Jo Kling of Landry & Kllig, said the new product would be an interesting one to watch develop. It will not be easy for Carnival, she said, but the line has its advantages also.
"They have the budget, many happy clients they can try to sell it too, strong distribution channels - won't have the Carnival name - but the industry will know it's a Carnival product and Carnival enjoys a wide recognition among agents and consumers," said Kling.
"Other lines in the luxury category will have to keep on their toes if this product works," she said.
She also said Carnival, which runs mostly seven-day cruises from the same ports each week, would have to change its operation drastically to make the new product successful.
"It's a different story to supply and man a ship never in the same place each week," Kling said.
Barth Worrall, president of Worrall Travel, the Indiana agency chosen Carnival's agency of the year for 1986, says he has a market for the new product.
"I have plenty of middle-range passengers who have sailed on Carnival and are ready to step up. A lot will come from RVL, Sagafjord and Vistafjord passengers too," he said. "Mostly people looking for suites instead of cabins," said Worrall.
Worrall is optimistic about the new venture, saying Carnival's timing has always been perfect with other ventures like TV advertising, the "Fun Ships" campaign and the company's "SuperLiners."
The company management is certainly capable of handling Project Tiffany, according to Worrall.
"Carnival is the only travel-related vendor with a complete sales and marketing force that gets it right the first time. They are the benchmark for the industry," he said.
Trade Press Comment
One trade press editor said that Carnival's passengers are unlikely to want to upgrade. Their (Carnival) typical passengers love the product," he said. "They would not want a more refined or sophisticated cruise."
"If that is true," he said, "it means that Carnival will have to go for the passengers of the other upscale lines..."