With family cruising becoming an increasingly integral part of the industry how are the major cruise lines competing in a growing market? The answer: cartoon cruising.
Now I'm not talking about Wacky Racers-style ships, but with the growth of Disney Cruise Lines, and their character based environments, other major cruise lines are looking at ways not to miss out on this audience. Over the past few months we have seen NCL team up with Nickelodeon, and Royal Caribbean have just announced a partnership with DreamWorks Animation.
Does this mean cruise ships being taken over by 6ft cartoon characters or just a great way of entertaining the kids while the parents enjoy a relaxing afternoon by the pool?
Disney Cruises are in the process of building two new ships to add to their already popular Disney Magic and Disney Wonder. Whereas most cruise lines are aimed at a broad customer base these guys have gone for a niche market, familys and Disney fans. Now whereas the thought of a week of people dressed as cartoon characters and constantly excited staff terrifies me, Sarah from Iglu took her family on a Disney Cruise over Easter and loved it.
For Sarah the entertainment for the kids was outstanding. If you are a Disney fan you can meet your favourite characters, watch a whole selection of films on deck or in the theatre and for the younger children there is a range of character based entertainment within the childcare facilities. For the family market Disney have definitely hit the nail on the head, and the other cruise lines are trying to follow suit.
The recent big news is Royal Caribbean's tie up with DreamWorks Animation. The idea is pretty much to match Disney but better them at their own game. The new ships will be fitted with 3D theatres, and the Freedom Class ships will shortly also be upgraded, showing DreamWorks' latest and greatest films, there will again be character based entertainment programs, no doubt featuring a 6ft Shrek or Alex (Madagascar), and opportunities to meet the characters.
With Royal Caribbean offering three of the largest ships at sea, with the 5,200 capacity Oasis class ships and the 4,200 capacity Independence of the Seas, there is also incredible amounts of entertainment for the adults. You can drop your children off at kids club after dinner and enjoying Hair Spray on Oasis of the Seas or Chicago: The Musical on Allure of the Seas in the theatre, try your luck in the casino or spend an afternoon in the adult only solarium.
Now not to forget NCL who did manage to beat Royal Caribbean to the punch with the Nickelodeon partnership, my only question is can Sponge Bob Square Pants cut the mustard compared to Mickey Mouse and Buzz Lightyear? Again with the seemingly standard character based entertainment and their freestyle cruising you have another option that is essentially the same but different.
With three major cruise lines offering cartoon cruising are we looking at an animation war, or do they all offer something different enough to appeal to different audiences?
I don't know about you but I grew up watching '80s cartoons, He-Man, Thundercats and Transformers, these days kids have Shrek, Toy Story and Sponge Bob. Will the characters themselves dictate who people will cruise with? Will people choose their cruise by virtue of their favourite characters and films, the itineraries or the ship?
Disney, the original cartoon cruises, have mass appeal in terms of family based cruising but what will their appeal to couples and groups be? Royal Caribbean have some of the most iconic modern characters in Shrek, Woody and the Penguins (again Madagascar) since Optimus Prime and WilyKat, they have a huge amount of adult entertainment, and I'm fairly sure you could go an entire week without a encountering a single cartoon. Norwegian Cruise Lines and especially the Norwegian Epic can also offer the combination of children's entertainment, adult only escapism and are the more informal, and probably excitable choice of the three.
I may not have kids yet but I know which one of these three gets my vote, do you?
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