No company has cracked the secret to creating a decent online booking tool for cruises. Cruise.me smooths over many pain points for consumers booking cruises online, but the bulk of cruisers may need personalized service when booking such a complex trip.
Trying to book a cruise online is a painful task for consumers, mostly due to how hard it is to compare prices and itineraries across multiple cruise lines.
Several services, like CruiseWise, which was acquired by TripAdvisor two years ago, have already tried to simplify online cruise booking experience.
“The first pain point that we saw was the inability to see cruise itineraries on a responsive map,” said Stephen Chip, co-founder of Cruise.me. “Whether using online travel agencies or the cruise line themselves, it may have had a nicer face on it but the problem is still there.”
On the back-end, Cruise.me partners with Amadeus for cruise booking connectivity. The site itself is powered by Abbey Labs technology.
There are a few main areas in which Cruise.me tries to ease problems encountered by the typical cruise customer.
The visual presentation of cruise itinerary port calls lets users see where a cruise is going on a world map. Most cruise lines present port calls in a list on their website.
The company’s price tracker lets users pick a cruise based on price like they’re using a traditional online travel agency.
Finally, an interactive deck plan is available for each sailing that shows stateroom location and price together, so users can make an intelligent booking decision based on their budget and personal preferences.
From a user experience perspective, the site was built with mobile use as the focus. They’re already working with a cruise line to help provide white labeled software solutions and hope to provide some back-office technology for travel agencies, as well.
“It’s astounding to us that no cruise line has a good mobile experience, so we built it for mobile before desktop,” said Chip. “More than 50 percent of our traffic is on mobile; it’s crazy that [the major cruise lines aren’t] on mobile.”
It also had to create content for each global cruise destination, tapping a group of writers to produce intelligent blurbs for more than 2,000 ports because the content on cruise line websites was shoddy.
Surprisingly, Cruise.me is using travel agents to fulfill bookings. Chip conceded that a company founded and run by technologists needs a strong customer service backbone. He declined to say what agency he has partnered with.
The site’s interface is designed to make booking a cruise easier for younger travelers who don’t want to pick up a phone and deal with talking to another human being.
“We’re targeting millennials because many new cruise ships are coming,” said Chip. “We want to be able to put young people on these ships, since [cruise lines] are building them like they’re boutique hotels.”
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Photo credit: The Cruise.me interactive cruise map interface. Cruise.me