Spa Cabins Add Buck$ to Cruise Sales
by Dori Saltzman /

Available on Costa select ships since 2006, spa cabins are now cropping up on the newbuilds of other cruise lines including Celebrity Cruises, Carnival Cruise Lines, Holland America Line and Norwegian Cruise Line. While most agents view them an added amenity to promote to some of their clients, other agents see them in a whole different light.

Savvy cruise sellers realize that the new spa cabins give them a new hook to upgrade current clients and reach a clientele they’ve never been able to reach before – destination spa goers.

All of the travel sellers Travel Market Report spoke with agreed that the spa market on cruises is expanding, and spa accommodations, as one agent put it, are “all the new rage.”

Holland America Line's spa cabin“Agents have always held that cruises are perfect for those who want pampering and these cabins take that to the next level,” said Amber Blecker, ECC, LCS of Aurora, CO-based Cruises Inc.

Frans Hansen, president of The Cruise Web, Inc., added that by rooting out a client’s need and knowing when that client is looking for some extra pampering has made it easy for The Cruise Web’s consultants to sell spa cabins, specifically Celebrity Cruises’ AquaClass.

However, according to Blecker, most travel sellers aren’t capitalizing on the potential these accommodations hold.

Spa accommodations are rarely requested by clients, the cruise sellers TMR spoke with said. Few clients are yet aware this option exists. So if agents want to sell this cabin category, they need to be proactive.

“More often than not it is up to me, as an agent, to create consumer awareness for this product,” said Ralph Santisteban of Miami CruiseOne.

He added that his clients who normally book within the premium and luxury market often have an affinity for spa use and “often seem delighted at the new type of accommodations and are inclined to book into them...” But only if we offer them, he stressed.

“I’m constantly trying to move clients up, within a brand and then from brand to brand,” Blecker said. “And this is a way I can get them used to increased amenities.”

She told TMR that while any clients she knows like spa services are a given for trying to upsell into spa accommodations, she actually is less inclined to market the spa services than she is to sell the added amenities.

Celebrity Cruises' blu RestaurantFor instance, when selling Celebrity Cruises new AquaClass to clients, Blecker said she stresses the specialty dining at Blu, the access to the relaxation room and thermal suite, the room amenities and spa shower.

“You never have to have a single spa service to still have tremendous value,” she said.

Most of the clients Blecker targets do not identify themselves as “spa people.” In fact, she has a family group sailing 100% in Celebrity’s AquaClass this summer who she said would never think of themselves as spa people, although they are a group that like to feel pampered.

When looking for which of her current clients to target, Blecker told TMR that she looks for those that tend to want a bit more service, that want to feel special but aren’t ready for the leap to a suite or to a luxury line.

“It’s people you have perhaps moved up over the years; who you’ve gotten used to better amenities,” she said.

Or it’s clients that may be sailing a more mainstream cruise brand in order to cruise more often but have country club memberships and therefore enjoy more refined experiences.

Attracting Spa Clients

By offering spa cabins, thereby expanding the spa atmosphere onboard their ships the cruise lines’ have created a niche market travel agents can take advantage of to try and reach destination spa-goers who may never have considered a cruise before.

“These consumers become approachable as the agent can now place a new spin on the cruise purchase,” said Santisteban.

But how do cruise sellers who have never had anything to offer spa-goers before find these prospective clients?

The most common way, both Santisteban and Blecker said, is to partner with a local spa, something both are now looking into.

Santisteban has actually been approached by a local spa in the past, but always deferred as he never felt he had the right product to offer. Now with spa cabins he told TMR he plans to call the spa back.

The spa partnerships are similar to what many agents do with local wine shops or restaurants in terms of pairing to offer food and wine themed cruise groups. Blecker said she has looked into such partnerships in the past but found that the market was well covered in her area. But the spa market is up for grabs, she added.

According to Santisteban, partnerships with spas entail a co-operative marketing campaign, giving both organizations an opportunity to increase their client base, while sharing the expense of doing so.

Such campaigns may also include incentives provided by each of the organizations. Examples of incentives are an onboard credit provided by the travel agency and a complimentary spa treatment provided by the spa for all booked cabins.

Furthermore, to make the partnership more appealing to the local spa, the travel agency might offer a complimentary tour conductor cabin and/or a finder’s fee for each cabin booked.

“It’s a win-win for both organizations, which might not only increase their community exposure, but also will also likely increase their revenue.”

For a quick round-up of which cruise lines offer spa cabins, and what these cabins include click here.