The cruise industry has experienced largely exponential growth since the modern age of cruising began in the early 1960s. Since 1980 the cruise industry’s largest market, North America, has experienced an average annualized growth of 7.4%, with annual passenger volume zooming 79% in the past eight years alone. Approximately 13.2 million people took a North American cruise in 2008, and global industry revenues surged to $22.8 billion.
While these historical statistics are encouraging, the news in 2009 is far more sobering. Due to the global economic recession, Carnival Cruise Lines, the largest player in the market, stated in a Reuters article last December that “… bookings for 2009 were running behind the prior year…and [they] expect net revenue yields to fall 6 percent to 10 percent in 2009.”
A downturn is usually a good time for affiliate marketers to make money; the cruise industry in its current state presents such an opportunity, though because most cruise lines do not offer travel affiliate programs, affiliate marketers may need to look elsewhere – principally to cruise-only resellers – to capitalize on the industry’s distress.
Therefore, given the unique structure of the cruise industry, here are our top picks for cruise industry affiliate programs.
Cruise Line Programs
Carnival Cruise Lines (CCL) – One of the two original pioneers of the modern cruise industry, Carnival Cruise Lines remains the largest cruise line in the world, and the only one that offers a travel affiliate program. With a fleet of 21 ships, they offer itineraries in most major markets, including The Caribbean, Bahamas, Mexico, Alaska, Hawaii and Europe.
It’s important to note that the other cruise brands that operate under parent Carnival Corporation – Cunard, Holland American Line, Windstar, Seabourn, Princess, Costa Cruises, P&O Cruises and Ibero Cruseros do not offer affiliates programs.
For more information about Carnival Cruise Lines’ program, go to Commission Junction, Carnival’s preferred affiliate network.
Cruise-Only Online Agencies
Similar to online hotel aggregators and bed banks, there are a number of ‘cruise only’ agencies that have negotiated deals with most, if not all of the cruise lines, and in turn, provide affiliate marketers with their own cruise affiliate programs.
In this niche, there are several dominant players, with World Travel Holdings (WTH), a holding company that has rolled-up several of the largest online and offline cruise-only agencies, leading the pack. Among WTH’s operations you’ll find: CruisesOnly, their premier cruise brand, along with Cruise411.com, CruiseOne, and Cruises Inc. Of these,
However, CruisesOnly.com is the only one of WTH’s brands that offers a travel affiliate program. Here’s a snapshot of their program.
CruisesOnly.com – Billing itself as ‘America’s Largest Cruise Agency’, CruisesOnly offers every major cruise brand among their extensive product offering. Moreover, they also provide in-depth information about each cruise line and cruise ship, as well as more than 9,000 customer reviews on many of the various ships these customers have sailed on. Their web site is designed so that one can browse by latest promotions and offers, shop by category, or compare prices.
To learn more about CruisesOnly’s travel affiliate program, click here.
Two Other Leading Cruise-Only Agencies with Travel Affiliate Programs
1. eCruises.com – Another leading cruise-only agency with a strong brand both among consumers and the cruise lines, eCruises.com boasts about its “cutting-edge technology [that] will diligently analyze the client’s perceived cruise value and needs, answer all their questions, offer suggestions and craft a price that’s both comfortable and meets their budget needs, to fulfill their dream vacation”, as well as having “over 40,000 satisfied clients.”
Click here to review and assess all of eCruises’ product and technology offering, as well as the details of their affiliate program.
2. CruiseDirect – Another major online cruise aggregator that positions itself as having superior technology at the heart of its business (e.g., they offer live pricing and availability), CruiseDirect also guarantees that the consumer will receive the lowest rate from them, or if a lower price for a cabin is found from a competitor site, they’ll match it.
To learn more about CruiseDirect, click here.
Yacht, Bareboat and Skippered Charters
For those whose cruising tastes run to more traditional fare such as yacht rentals, Sailing Europe may be a terrific choice. Long a tradition for many Europeans who seek a truly unique cruising experience, chartering a boat or yacht is often a more cost effective and relaxing experience than cruising on the mega-ships of the major cruise lines.
Sailing Europe has access to more than 7,500 boats in its database, and is one of the largest holiday boat charterers in Europe, featuring charters for sailing holidays in Croatia, Italy, Greece, Spain and other Mediterranean destinations.
Does this sound like a product that fits with your travel product portfolio? If so, click here for more information about Sailing Europe and its affiliate program.