Bermuda, which last year instituted a cruise policy limiting regular calls to four ships, is seeing cruise passenger spending at the same levels as before, with a higher quality of passenger, according to Gary Phillips, Director of Tourism.
Last year, 131,000 cruise passengers spent an estimated $25 million in Bermuda, about the same amount as 158,000 passengers spent in 1987. This year, Phillips expects about 120,000 to 125,000 passengers to spend the same amount. He also expects around 25 percent to return by air as land visitors.
Phillips explained that Bermuda's cruise policy was arrived at from a number of factors. He said that the overall financial impact of cruise passengers was significantly less than that for land tourists. He also said that the intention was to enhance the quality of life for Bermudians and hotel guests. Thus, ships' calls have been eliminated during weekends, and only four ships have been given ten-year contracts for regular calls.
Chandris Celebrity Cruises, Royal Caribbean Cruise Line and Royal Viking Line have been granted 10 year contracts for the Meridian and Horizon, Nordic Prince and Royal Viking Star respectively.
Phillips admitted that the introduction of the policy last year had met with some level of concern, especially by shopkeepers who were concerned about their earnings. He said that he believed that the intent of the policy had been justified when overall passenger spending remained the same.
Phillips said that the key was in the "quality of the cruise passenger" that he felt was attracted by ships demanding higher per diems.
According to the annual survey of cruise passengers, carried out by the tourism board, the cruise passengers visiting Bermuda became significantly more affluent in 1989, with 41 percent earning at least $50,000 versus 32 percent in 1988; 15 percent earned more than $75,000 and seven percent more than $100,000.
The survey also showed that 45 percent where employed in white collar positions and that 36 percent were retired.
In addition, more than half of the passengers had taken another trip that involved either sea or air travel in the past 12 months. They also tended to be loyal cruisers; almost 64 percent had cruised before, and 44 percent had previously cruised to Bermuda.
Likely to Return
Phillips also said that since ships that call regularly in Bermuda tend to stay for three to four days, the community has a much better opportunity to show off Bermuda in the best light.
According to the survey, 63 percent of the cruise ship passengers said they intended to return, while 27 percent of the air visitors said they intended to return; only 10 percent were undecided.
The survey also found that 92 percent of the cruise passengers rated Bermuda from excellent to very good, and 89 percent rated their cruise from excellent to very good.
Yet, there were surprisingly small groups who, according to the survey, rated any specific element of their cruise vacation to Bermuda as excellent. The survey stated that 86 percent of the cruise passengers had favorable comments about Bermuda, but the highest single factor agreed upon was the friendliness of the people which 28 percent of the cruise passengers found to be excellent; 22 percent said Bermuda was clean, seven percent said the beaches were excellent. Meanwhile, 61 percent had favorable comments about the cruise from service being rated excellent by 29 percent to the food being rated excellent by 20 percent, to eight percent who found fellow passengers friendly.
Only 26 percent had any unfavorable comments, with most - 10 percent - saying that Bermuda was expensive. Nine percent complained about transportation.
The survey included four ships which while referred to by code letters, appeared to be the Royal Viking Star, the Nordic Prince, the Galileo and the Amerikanis.
According to the survey finding, the Royal Viking Star had the most affluent passengers, with 29 percent reporting annual incomes exceeding $75,000; they were also the most educated as well as the oldest, with 41 percent being retired; 83 percent had cruised before. The passengers, who were from all over the country, were most likely to live in the North East/Central States. They were equally attracted by Bermuda and the cruise itself; 69 percent were females, and 78 percent said they would like to come back.
The Nordic Prince attracted a somewhat younger passenger who was more likely than passengers on the other ships to come from New England; they were less educated with half being only high school graduates or less; they had a lower level of household income, with 19 percent reporting an income level under $30,000; 61 percent had cruised before and 44 percent had been to Bermuda before.
The Amerikanis attracted the youngest passenger and best educated passenger, most of whom were attracted by Bermuda rather than by the cruise; 52 percent had a college degree; they were more likely to reside in New York or New Jersey; 51 percent had cruised before and 30 percent had been to Bermuda before.
The Galileo attracted passengers nearly as old as the Royal Viking Star's passengers, but with slightly more - 42 percent - being retired; 32 percent were employed in white collar positions and 25 percent in blue collar positions; 51 percent said they were likely to return. Galileo passengers were more likely than passengers on the other ships to come from the South Atlantic region. Fifty-five percent had cruised before and 54 percent had been to Bermuda before.
The passengers on the Nordic Prince rated Bermuda highest with 82 percent finding the island "excellent" compared to only 37 percent for the Galileo, which docked at the West End; 74 percent on the Royal Viking Star and 61 percent on the Amerikanis rated Bermuda "excellent". Combining the "excellent" rating with "very good" nearly all passengers rated Bermuda highly.
Nearly all of the cruise passengers used a travel agent in conjunction with their trip; 98 percent of the passengers aboard the Nordic Prince; 92 percent aboard the Royal Viking Star; 87 percent on the Amerikanis and 83 percent on the Galileo. The rest used "cruise tour packages."
The major influence in the decision to visit Bermuda differed some by ship. Past experience was most important for passengers on the Royal Viking Sky and Nordic Prince. Passengers on the Amerikanis and Galileo were most likely to have been influenced by friends and relatives.
Travel agents had little influence on the passengers on the Amerikanis and Galileo, only 15 percent reported that a travel agent was the major influence in their choice; while 33 percent of the passengers aboard the Nordic Prince and Royal Viking Star said travel agents were a major influence.
The survey also reported that 1989 cruise passengers were much older and more likely to be retired and have lower incomes than 1989 air visitors.
Phillips also said that Bermuda has an ongoing upgrading program of its cruise port facilities in Hamilton, St. George's and at the West End. "By managing our environment, we are also creating a very comfortable environment for cruise passengers," Phillips said. "No one wants an untidy or unsafe place when they are on vacation, or unfriendly people.
"We are in the business of fulfilling dreams, and we must make the dreams realities and not myths," he said.
"I believe people want to get away from the frenzied every-day life and that they seek peace and tranquility. In addition, we believe that the aging population in North America is looking to destinations that can provide more than hot sand and surf."
"We are all helping each other," Phillips said, "every time we place an ad we are helping to promote cruises. It all works in synergy." He said that Bermuda has a $16 million marketing budget.
In 1989, Bermuda enjoyed 550,000 visitors of which 85 percent were Americans, eight to nine percent were Canadians, and five to seven percent came from Northern Europe, according to Phillips.
Phillips said that the strongest marketing tool for Bermuda was word-of-mouth. "We have been exploring how to capitalize on that ever more," he said, pointing out that Bermuda enjoys a 40 percent repeat factor. According to the survey, 73 percent of returning visitors had previously visited by ship.