The one-day cruise market is proliferating rapidly on the Eastern seaboard, and is just beginning to be tapped, according to several operators in the market.
Introduced just three years ago, one-day cruises now depart from Boston, Miami, New York, Philadelphia, Port Canaveral and Tampa, offering those who have never cruised before the opportunity to experience, in one day, many of the activities and amenities provided on longer sailings.
The operators of one-day cruises do not see their products only as stepping stones to longer cruises. They see them as an important component of a city's overall tourist attractions, as well as part of a consumer's menu of leisure activities in the same way that movies, restaurants and other entertainment activities are.
Chandris Cruises to Nowhere
Chandris fantasy Cruises offers one-night cruises from New York, Boston and Philadelphia, aboard the 1,100-passenger Galileo and the 650-passenger Amerikanis - all of which do extremely well, according to Haralambopoulos, executive director of the line.
By the end of 1986, Chandris will have offered 42 one-night cruises and 12 two-night cruises to nowhere, carrying a total of 34,000 passengers, Haralambopoulos reported. Most of the remaining one-night cruises are sold out, he added.
"The market is tremendous and completely untapped," Haralambopoulos said. "There are a lot of young urbanites - everyone from students to professionals - who want to take a short trip for fun. Many of them come back again and again," he said. According to Haralambopoulos, most of the passengers are from the metropolitan areas and surrounding suburbs. The line does not market to tourists.
Haralambopoulos believes that the one-day cruise market does "a tremendous job initiating people to the cruise concept. We give them good food, orchestras, swimming pools, a casino - everything they would experience on a longer cruise - and many people come back to do just that," he said.
SeaEscape's "Getaway Days" in Florida
SeaEscape first pioneered the one-day cruise market in Florida in mid 1982, with one-day cruises to Freeport, and will carry its two millionth passenger within the next 30 days, according to Michael Zacchilli, executive vice president of the line.
SeaEscape currently operates one-day cruises aboard three 1,000-passenger ships - Scandinavian Sun, Scandinavian Star, and Scandinavian Sky - out of Miami Tampa and Port Canaveral, respectively. The Scandinavian Sun offers daily sailings to Freeport and the other two ships feature one-day cruises to nowhere.
The Scandinavian Sun has sailed full every day since June, and has seen an annual growth rate of 25 percent, Zacchilli reported. The Scandinavian Star and Scandinavian Sky have sailed with load factors of 85 to 90 percent.
Priced at $99 from Miami and $79 from Tampa and Port Canaveral, the ships offer "13 hours of fun, sun and relaxation," Zacchilli said. Three meals, bus transfers, and Broadway shows are among the packages' elements.
According to Zacchilli, local residents comprise about 50 percent of the clientele; tourists account for the other half. Forty percent of the locals repeat at least two times a year, he added.
In general, the cruises attract people between the ages of 25 and 50, with annual incomes of $20,000 to $25,000. The crowds tend to be younger on the weekends, and the from the West Coast (of Florida) appear to attract more senior citizens, Zacchilli reported.
Noting that the company's tag line is "SeaEscape: the Number One Day of Fun Afloat," Zacchilli said that everyone is a candidate for the company's product.
"Anyone who has a leisure day is a prospect. We compete with the movies, other tourist attractions, beaches, golf courses and restaurants," he said. "That means there is a potential local market of 12,000,000 and a tourist market of 40,000,000."
In keeping with the idea that SeaEscape is a "getaway day'' rather than a vacation, the company confines its advertising to Florida, offering its product as a part of tour packages, Zacchilli explained.
While he did not have any figures regarding how many passengers go on to take longer cruises, Zacchilli said he believes that there are many who do.
"It is a fact that 30 percent of our passengers have never cruised before," he said. "After they have sailed with us, many of them inquire about longer sailings, and I assume that most of them follow-up."
Crown Pioneers W. Palm Beach
Crown Cruise Line, which operates one-day cruises out of West Palm Beach - also advertises its product as a "great, affordable getaway day," according to Linda Michaels, director of marketing.
Featuring the 700-passenger Viking Princess, Crown offers one-day cruises to Freeport every Monday; evening cruises to nowhere on Fridays; and daily cruises to nowhere the rest of the week. Rates for the daily cruises are $79, including continental breakfast, and sit-down lunches and dinners. The Friday evening cruises are $59, and a five-course captain's dinner and midnight buffet are served.
On board, there are two dining rooms, three lounges (one outdoor), a casino, a movie theatre, a disco, a swimming pool, a sauna, a beauty salon, and a gift shop. For entertainment, there is an international cabaret show, psychic performers, two bands, shuffleboard, skeetsheeting and deep-sea fishing.
Since January, Crown has carried about 80,000 passengers - or sailed at 57 percent occupancy, according to Captain Hagerup, vice president operations. "That is a lot better than we were doing in San Diego," he said, noting that the line originally started up service in that city. "There, we carried 60,000 passengers the whole year."
Hagerup believes the line has been more successful in Florida because the consumers are more aware of cruising there.
"Florida is the mecca of cruising," he said. In San Diego, we were the first cruise ship to be based there, and we had a lot of educating to do," he said.
The West Palm Beach market spans Dade, Broward, Palm Beach and Marin Counties, Hagerup said. "We are well saturated in Palm Beach, but we have some ways to go in Broward and Dade."
As has been the experience of the other one day cruise marketers, Crown finds that its Friday night sailings appeal to young professionals "who are eager to celebrate the end of the work week." Many repeat as much as 13 or 14 times a year, Hagerup said.
No Activity on the West Coast
While one-day cruises appear to be booming on the East Coast, they have not even begun in the West - a situation that may be largely attributed to a California statute that prohibits gambling.
According to Don Harrison, the issue first arose when Crown Cruise Line wanted to start up cruises to nowhere.
"At that time, the state attorney general said that unless the ship went to a foreign port, it would be considered within state territory, and be seized upon return if gambling occurred. That's why Crown decided to go to Ensenada during the tune it operated from San Diego," he explained.