Although most people think of a cruise as a luxury ship hosting thousands of guests, smaller cruise experiences exist as well. A small business can't compete with a capital-intensive luxury liner, but can offer more intimate and personal cruises on lakes, rivers and close to the coast.
A picture is worth a thousand words -- at least that's the maxim. Videos and photos of different cruise itineraries give potential passengers the opportunity to see what the cruises are like up close and personal. A printed brochure has limited space; visual online platforms do not. Pinterest, YouTube and Instagram are three examples of such platforms -- ideal to show off the advantages of a cruise vessel.
Use social media to its fullest capacity. Websites such as Twitter, Facebook and Google+ allow cruise business staff to interact with passengers and potential passengers. The advantage to a cruise business is encouraging followers to post their own comments about their ship experiences. Contests could be held. For example, award a free cruise to the customer who receives the most likes for photos taken on a recent cruise.
Encourage passengers to choose your cruise experience through freebies. The cruise is only one part of the vacation. The guest usually must fly to the cruise ship's port. In many cases, the available flight times mean an overnight stay. Offering free hotel room nights for the day before and/or after departure helps promote the cruise. Choose a boutique or independently owned hotel that will offer highly discounted rooms in exchange for a guarantee that those rooms will be paid for. Free logo-embossed T-shirts and beach towels are another marketing idea that promotes the cruise when the guest wears the T-shirt or uses the towel after the trip.
Offer cruises that are educational, such as protecting a lake or river habitat, learning about an area's plants and animals or visiting abandoned mines, Indian ruins or ghost towns. Other ideas include sports such as scuba diving, fishing or waterskiing. If gourmet food is part of the cruise's experience, match food themes to a certain cuisine or country.
A seven- or 10-day cruise might be too risky for a passenger who has never been on a cruise and doesn't know if they'll like it or not. Potential guests may think they'll get seasick, the ship will be too crowded or the state rooms will be too small. A small cruise business can offer short cruises -- as short as an afternoon -- to get new customers acclimated to cruising.