Commodore Cruise Line has unveiled a new advertising campaign and brochure intended to create a new image for the cruise line which at best has had a low national profile. At the same time, Commodore is also undertaking a number of onboard product enhancements, according to David Christopher, Executive Vice President of Sales and Marketing.
“Get Out of Town”
The multi-million dollar campaign, the most aggressive ever for Commodore, is intended to portray the line as anything but boring and stodgy, and to position the line as the primary choice in the value end of the cruise market, according to Christopher.
Featuring the line “Get Out of Town,” the new program will encompass regional television commercials, consumer magazine, newspaper and trade advertising, as well as new collateral materials.
The 40-page brochure is a lively and non traditional presentation of Commodore’s new program. “From cover to cover, this brochure shows the festive, activity-packed vacation experience offered on a Commodore cruise,” Christopher said.
Complete descriptions of each destination, including ports of call and scenic highlights, are also featured. Itineraries for each ship are printed on insert cards, for agents or clients to pull out and keep at hand for easy reference.
The brochure also features a special blank rate column for each ship. According to Christopher, this space can be used by travel agents to fill in the special rates they may have with Commodore.
Christopher also said that they had conducted focus groups composed of travel agents and consumers, the latter representing cruisers, non cruisers and experienced cruisers. Among other things, participants were asked to comment on 12 consumer magazine ads from different cruise lines. Christopher said that the focus groups noted that the ads all looked alike and that neither the agents nor the consumers were able to identify most of the ads.
Commodore’s first-ever television advertising campaign began on January 5, initially in 15 major markets across the U.S. Two thirty-second commercials air on ABC, CBS and NBC. Christopher noted that the frequency would be similar to or exceeding advertising by other cruise lines in the same markets.
The two commercials feature a librarian from Peoria and an accountant from Boise, respectively. The librarian is day-dreaming that she is a countess from a tiny European principality and a mermaid on a romantic escapade. But reality brings her back to a seemingly grey and boring library setting in Peoria. The accountant is day-dreaming that he is a spy on a secret mission. But he is also brought back to a drab every-day. However, the commercial tells them (and the viewer) “to forget the real world, to get out of town and take a magical Commodore cruise.”
Christopher said that Commodore bas committed $10 million to advertising and collateral materials in 1992 for both Commodore and Crown Cruise Line. A television commercial for Crown will begin to air later this month.
The advertising agency is West & Co. of Tampa and the account executive previously worked on the Carnival account at her former agency.
Advertising on the Weather Channel, scheduled for 4,400 separate cable markets, will provide an opportunity for travel agents to tag Commodore’s ads in each of the markets.
Full-page, four color advertising in regional issues of People magazine will also offer agents an opportunity to tag on in Commodore’s 15 major markets.
More aggressive travel trade advertising is intended to to increase agents’ awareness of the Commodore product line.
To further capture agents’ attention, starting in February, Commodore will be introducing a new 3-D audio-visual product presentation to travel agents in its top markets. A regional newspaper campaign will compliment the television and consumer magazine advertising, and is intended to deliver more price pointed messages.
Christopher added that Commodore’s target audience consists of four consumer segments: active 55+ seniors, who are sophisticated travelers and experienced cruisers; younger professionals 30 to 50, with strong incomes and looking for an active, unusual vacation; younger, married couples 32 to 44, with strong dual incomes, who travel with their children; and active, young singles 25 to 34 with entry-level incomes.
“We have a commitment to clearly position our product in the marketplace for both the travel agent/cruise specialist and consumer, and to back that commitment with distinctive advertising, promotion and enchancements to our onboard product,” Christopher said.
According to the line, onboard enhancements will include everything from brighter embarkation and staff uniforms, to updated daytime activities, entertainment and special destination-oriented theme nights.
Christopher said that all three vessels will have similar programming, but that each ship will also offer entertainment reflecting its itinerary, making the destinations more a part of the cruise experience.
The Ray Kennedy Entertainers will be introducing three new production shows aboard the Caribe, one of which will be a Caribbean Carnival theme night. The Larry Alfor Entertainers will perform aboard the other two ships, the Enchanted Isle and the Enchanted Seas.
The Enchanted Seas will also be undergoing renovation during a three-week drydock this winter.
While Commodore offers its own “Lite Cuisine,” it also boasts of offering 28 multi-course meals on each weekly sailing, along with abundant snacks and nightly midnight buffets. Wet t-shirt relays in the pool and contests to see how many ping pong balls passengers’ bathing suits can hold are among the many activities featured.
Commodore handles its food preparation and catering in-house as well as marine operations. Onboard stores are operated by Greyhound Leisure.
Commodore and its affiliate Crown Cruise Line are owned by Effjohn International whose total fleet of cruise and ferry vessels comprise 22 ships. Commodore and its then parent company, Sally AB, were acquired by Effjohn in 1987. Two years later, Effjohn also purchased the sailing Bermuda Star Line, and in mid-1990, merged the two companies under the Commodore banner. BSL offices in New Jersey were closed.
Commodore, which was originally founded as a one-ship company back in 1966, today operates three ships, the 23,000-ton, 875-passenger Caribe I which was built in 1953; the 23,395-ton, 731-passenger Enchanted Isle, built in 1957; and the 23,395-ton, 731-passenger Enchanted Seas, also built in 1957.
All has not been smooth sailing, however. When Effjobn acquired BSL that cruise line had three ships but the Veracruz was taken out of service after failing to meet Coast Guard standards. The other two ships were refurbished, repainted and renamed.
A new management team that had been brought on board under William Smith, formerly with Princess Cruises, was suddenly terminated in February of 1991. Smith had been appointed President and Chief Executive Officer for Effjohn International Cruise Holdings in December of 1989, with responsibility for Commodore.
Ove Nordquist, President of Commodore before the acquisition of BSL, resumed the helm. Christopher returned to Commodore last spring after a stint with Costa Cruise Line. He had formerly been with Commodore from 1986 to 1988 and before that, with Ocean Cruise Lines and Norwegian Cruise Line.
In today’s competitive market, Commodore has also had to spread its operations to several ports. Commodore has been operating the Caribe I out of Miami for several years as a one-ship operation after selling the Boheme. BSL meanwhile lost its rights to call in Bermuda when that island instituted its new cruise policy of limiting calls to a few upscale ships. After the acquisiton, the BSL ships also suffered from a series of incidents from fires to groundings.
Today, the Caribe I sails seven-day Eastern and Western Caribbean itineraries year-round from Miami; the Enchanted Isle sails seven-day Mexican Riviera cruises year-round from San Diego; and the Enchanted Seas sails seven-day Western Caribbean cruises year-round from New Orleans.
Being unable to consolidate all or most of its operations to one port means increased operating costs, however, including airlift as well as sales and marketing.
Recently, the Effjohn Group sold the Caribe I to Regal Cruise which chartered the vessel back for continued cruise operations by Commodore. A spokesperson said she could not divulge the terms of the purchase, but underlined that Commodore was committed to continue operating the Caribe I.
1992 rates range from $845 to $4,195 per person, double occupancy, including air.
For 1992, Commodore will not be sailing New England/Canada cruises, the first time in many years that the former BSL ships will not be calling in New York. Instead, they will be replaced there by its affiliated company, Crown Cruise Line.
In July of 1991, Commodore entered into a joint venture agreement with Palm Beach-based Crown Cruise Line to operate its new 556- passenger Crown Monarch. Commodore purchased 50 percent of the Crown Monarch, 100 percent of the Crown Cruise Line name and 50 percent of Labadie Shores, Crown’s private Caribbean beach resort.
Two new 820-passenger ships are currently being built in Spain. The first, the Crown Jewel, will enter service in the summer of 1992, and her sister ship in 1993, bringing the Crown fleet up to three modern vessels. Crown Cruise Line will continue to operate from Palm Beach.
Commodore and Crown are both owned by Effjohn International whose parent company, Effjohn Oy AB, is listed on the Helsinki stock exchange. In 1991, the company’s combined fleet of cruise ships and ferries earned more than 55 million passengers.
For fiscal 1991, however, Effjohn reported a loss on cruise operations in North America. Until now, the company also seems to have lacked a clear strategy and “stumbled” in different directions.
Now, however, Effjohn seems poised to tackle the American market with two clearly defined and aggressively marketed products.
While admittedly not a very reliable bearing, a positive signal at least has come in a 52 percent increase in bookings for Commodore during the first week of 1992 compared to 1991, according to the spokesperson.