MSC Divina is partnering with Weight Watchers International Inc. to host a 7-night themed Caribbean Cruise in early May. The 4300-passenger ship will sail from Miami and take passengers on a wellness-focused cruise. Although it seems an unlikely partnership, particularly since some cruise lines aren’t renowned for their commitment to health and well-being, it’s all part of a strategic plan by Weight Watchers to transform into a complete health and wellness company.
Ryan Nathan, the Vice President of Products, Licensing and E-commerce for Weight Watchers, has explained that according to market research the company’s member base in the US is a typical cruise ship passenger: female, 40 to 60 years old and with an income just above the U.S average. This cruise is not intended to be a “slim-down camp” and won’t be following the usual Weight Watchers’ formula of losing and maintaining weight. Instead the focus will be on all-round health and well-being, incorporating the facilities onboard MSC Divina as well “real-time guidance and support”, customized fitness programmes and seminars from wellness experts.
According to MSC North America chairman Rick Sasso, this partnership is “just an enhancement” since the line’s cruises “already have this wellness aspect.” It’s certainly one that has worked in their favour as the Weight Watchers’ 500-cabin bloc on the Divina has sold out, despite prices starting at $945. The week has been so popular that a second 2017 Weight Watchers cruise for November is in the planning stages and future sailings are likely.
The larger cruise companies including MSC, Royal Caribbean and Norwegian Cruise Line have worked hard to transform the public’s perception of cruising from the gluttony-focused sails of the 80’s to the exciting and energetic holidays that we know it to be. Themed cruises are part of an industry-wide tactic to appeal to different demographics, and with an estimated 25.3 million people cruising this year (increasing from 15.8 million in 2007), it’s safe to say things are working. There is a proliferation of themed cruises on offer across the globe, ranging from Star Trek getaways to Holland America’s Alaska cruise in partnership with Oprah Winfrey’s monthly lifestyle magazine O. In 2004, a cruise ship that glided through the Gulf of Mexico was transformed into a floating casino. PokerStars held its first tournament in the Caribbean on a cruise ship, before opting for dry land to host its ‘Caribbean Adventure’ poker tournaments.
One look at the Theme Cruise Finder website will reveal over 500 different cruises set to sail in 2017. These trips are defined as private (cruises developed by an organisation and administered with a travel agents), charter (where an organisation charters the full ship for an occasion) and cruise line (themed cruises developed in-house by a cruise line). Trips are as diverse as Ponant Cruises’ Astronomy week taking in Canada and Greenland, Cunard Line’s Festival of Flowers and a range of Smithsonian Collection charters to Greece, Italy and Western Europe.
Although more traditional than a sci-fi cruise, cruises featuring celebrity entertainers are still run by many leading cruise lines. Baywatch star David Hasslehoff is partnering with GEO Reisen in November to sail a 9-day ‘Official World Fan Cruise’ aboard the luxurious Costa Favolosa. In February, the successful Walking Dead themed ‘Walker Stalker’ cruise aboard NCL’s Norwegian Pearl returned for its second outing. Whilst a Weight Watchers cruise may make the headlines in the wider press, it’s simply the next step forward in the world of themed cruises.