With the inaugural cruise of Dolphin Cruise Line's 734-passenger OceanBreeze this past month, along with three-and four-day cruises commencing aboard the 1,056-passenger Royal Majesty in September, Dolphin Cruise Line is no longer one of "the little guys."
Dolphin's capacity is more than doubling within a time frame of three months from 111,100 passengers annually to 253,400. Prior to 1989, Dolphin was a one-ship operation.
According to Ed Mass Jr., Senior Vice President of Sales and Marketing, "We were experiencing very good loads aboard the Dolphin IV and the SeaBreeze and saw the opportunity to broaden our market scope."
The OceanBreeze is the former Azure Seas of Admiral Cruises and was purchased from Admiral's parent company, Royal Caribbean CruiseLine. Dolphin spent $3 million to refurbish the ship, which included stateroom remodelling, adding 10 cabins, brightening the decor, and installing pullman beds for family use in select cabins. The OceanBreeze sails out of Aruba every Sunday for Bonaire, St. Lucia, Barbados, Martinique, and Curacao. On the last Sunday of the month, she sails from Aruba to Cartegena, San Blas Islands, Curacao, and partially transits the Panama Canal. In 1993 these itineraries will alternate every other week so that there are more opportunities to combine the two for a 14-day sailing. Mass said that the OceanBreeze's itinerary is one of her strong points, citing a fine mix of less-frequented ports.
Another draw of the OceanBreeze, according to Mass, is that it is a "classic cruiser" with two of the teak decks covered for shade in the hot Southern Caribbean sun.
Mass said that passengers tend to initially cruise on the Dolphin IV, then graduate to a seven day Eastern and Western Caribbean itinerary on the SeaBreeze, and now can diversify further by sailing on the OceanBreeze. He said that while the passenger mix varies on the OceanBreeze, it attracts a more mature yet active market.
However, Dolphin's newbuilding, the Royal Majesty, according to Mass, is attracting more new cruisers compared to the Dolphin product, which has a strong repeat clientele. The Royal Majesty is the first ship of Majesty Cruise Line, which is designed to be Dolphin's premium market product.
Dolphin got involved in the Royal Majesty last year when a European company bailed out of a newbuilding project at Kvaerner Masa shipyard after only the hull was laid.
Mass pointed out that the on board experience is very different on the Royal Majesty compared to the budget-oriented Dolphin IV product.
The price difference is $150 to $200 between the two. Per diems are $175 to $180 on the Dolphin IV and $225 on the Royal Majesty.
One of the major selling points being stressed in the Royal Majesty advertisins campaign is gourmet dining. Since Mass pomted out that "gourmet cuisine" and "deluxe" are perhaps the most over-used words in the industry, he is trying to create awareness and understanding of the product through more than advertising. Therefore for two months prior to her inaugural cruise out of Miami on September 18, the ship will be showcased on the East Coast to travel agents, press, and passengers through one- and two-night cruises to nowhere. After a month of short cruises from New York from mid-July to mid-August, the ship will call in Boston, Philadelphia, Charleston, and Port Canaveral for promotional cruises.
Mass said the line is devoting this time and money to the Northeast since it is Royal Majesty's primary market. On the other hand, the Dolphin IV draws primarily on the three-day market in Florida while four-day cruises attract passengers from Chicago, Los Angeles, Atlanta, and Detroit. The SeaBreeze also derives its passengers from a broad national mix while the OceanBreeze is focused more on the East Coast, in part due to air connections.
Positioning and Marketing
Mass said that price is a big competitive factor, noting there is a good sized price gap between the fares for Dolphin IV's three- and four-day sailings and RCCL's Nordic Empress.
Dolphin also boasts solid group business, according to Mass. "We're specialists in groups and we get them to return year after year," he said. Group and incentive business is also being pursued on the Royal Majesty, which has conference and meeting space on board.
While Dolphin is doubling its capacity, Mass said that due to its existing marketing presence, it is not increasing its marketing budget twice as much. Mass said the line stresses consumer advertising much more than trade.
This month, Dolphin is beginning its relationship with Turner Home Entertainment, whereby it has exclusive rights to utilize any of the Hanna-Barbera cartoon characters for its hospitality and marketing promotions. "By having the Hanna-Barbera cartoon characters on board all four ships, it gives us a hook to build from," Mass said. All ships will now have year-round children's programs, as well as feature Hanna-Barbera products, ranging from videos to logo-wear, in the on board shops.
Majesty Cruise Line will be using the same concessionaires used by Dolphin. Catering and bars are serviced by Apollo Ship Chandlers, and an outside consulting firm, Dick Kleva Associates, is responsible for fitness areas. All other major areas - housekeeping, casino, entertainment, and photography - are done in house.