What Is Wave Season?
It’s the time of year that the cruise industry goes into overdrive. January and February (fondly referred to as ‘Wave’ Season, are the biggest booking months of the year. Many cruise lines and cruise agencies impose a holiday embargo on their staff during this period as they want all hands on deck. Why? Because what happens in these two months, will have a huge impact on the sales strategy for the rest of the year.
How Does Wave Season Work?
It’s no surprise that the objective of any cruise line is to sell every cabin on every sailing at full price right? So, that is the aim of Wave Season. Here are the 4 key steps to ensuring its success.
1. Cruise lines create a sales strategy otherwise known as a Wave Campaign. This consists of booking incentives for customers and sales incentives for travel agents.
2. Travel Agents are bombarded with information daily if not hourly, about the offers and deals from cruise lines and seduced by irresistible booking incentives. These are very generous and vary greatly from cruise line to cruise line. Some offer between £20-£100 per booking on a pre-paid MasterCard (in addition to the usual commission). Others will tempt agents with the opportunity to win free cruises, or gain access to special events. Or they might be in with a chance of getting the latest Apple device, concert tickets, shop vouchers and more.
3. Direct and electronic mail is sent out by cruise lines and travel agencies, to coincide with tv, radio, newspaper and social media adverts. With a multi-channel approach, they inevitably generate enquiries from potential customers.
4. The result is, the customer is prompted to call a travel agent or cruise line as they have seen an offer that they like, the agent is looking to get that incentive so does everything in their power to turn that enquiry into a booking with them. The customer gets a great deal on their cruise, the travel agent gets the incentive and the cruise line has one less cabin to sell. Win, win, win. Or is it?
Is It Best To Book In Wave Season?
When is the best time to book a cruise? This has to be the most frequently asked question other than Should I prepay gratuities? I can only give you my opinion on this, based on my 10 years experience as a cruise agent.
The answer is YES if;
There is only one particular cruise you want to go on.
You are travelling in peak seasons such as school holidays or Christmas.
You MUST have a particular cabin type; i.e non obstructed, accessible, midship. (See Can My Cruise Cabin or Flight Change Without My Knowledge?)
You want to guarantee the flight cost and know the cruise line will look after you if there are any issues with the flights.
You want to have as much included in the price as possible, such as drinks, parking etc.
Your party wants to dine at a specific time.
The answer is NO if;
You want the cheapest cruise fare no matter what.
You are happy to book a guarantee cabin. (See What Is A Guarantee Cabin)
You don’t mind what time you dine in the main dining room.
You can go last minute.
If you don’t drink more than two alcoholic drinks per day (on a cruise that is).
What Happens After Wave?
The honest answer to this question is that no-one really knows. I imagine a handful of top executives have plans in place depending on the outcome of Wave, but the travel agent (see Who Should I Book My Cruise With) that you speak to has no idea what is coming until the day it arrives. The top cruise agencies and cruise line staff may be told one or two days in advance about an offer at best, but the truth of it is, the next offer will depend on how many cabins have already been filled.
Here Is My Advice To Booking A Cruise
I believe there are two things to think about before you make your final decision to book your cruise. Firstly, if you can’t make your mind up between Cruise A or Cruise B, I always suggest imagining that both cruises are free. Then you can find out which one you REALLY want. I believe it is worth paying a little bit extra for the cruise that you want, rather than comprising your total satisfaction for the sake of saving money.
Secondly, you may have decided on which cruise you would like, but think it will be better to hold off to see what happens with the prices. Before you decide to put yourself through months of checking prices, the stress of waiting to see if it will go down in price, and hoping there will still be availability, think about the fact that you could get the booking done and then relax in the knowledge that you are going on a cruise.
My Advice to Cruise Agents
If you give your best to your customers, the rest will follow. Don’t be distracted with the carrot of a freebie or the temptation to feed your ego and be at the top of the sales chart. Think about your relationship with your customers. If you can gain a trusting relationship with one customer, they will be yours for life. Not only that but they will tell their friends about you. In the long run, you will have a solid business which you can take with you anywhere. This will give you value as an employee and longevity in the business, as well as respect within the industry and amongst your customers. Reputation is key.