Life On Board

Decades ago cruises were seen as a sleepy vacation setting embraced by an older, retired demographic.

No longer. In recent years the industry has turned its attention to families. Cruise lines such as Carnival now offer shorter, more affordable family-friendly cruises, and even Disney has got into the cruise industry with Mickey Mouse-branded boats.

For advertisers it’s an opportunity to target entire families at a time when they’re all together and having fun.

Cruises are the rare out-of-home venue that offers a captive audience over multiple days, and that has led to a number of new advertising opportunities developed over the past few years such as sponsored meals and digital signage.

To find out how to get your client’s message on a cruise, read on.

This is one in a Media Life series on buying out-of-home venues. They appear weekly.

Fast Facts


Advertising on cruise ships.


There are a few main players who handle advertising on cruises that have contracts with specific cruise lines. Some handle publishing, such as onboard magazines and coupons, while others handle sampling and onboard inventory.

How it works

For years the only way to advertise on cruise ships was through in-cabin product sampling, where personal care and consumer packaged goods brands provided free samples to travelers.

That method is still widely used, but the growing trend is for more integrated campaigns that target consumers throughout the entire trip using other elements such as signage in public areas of the ship, TV spots, sponsored meals and product demonstrations.



For advertisers, it’s the chance to be in front of passengers over an extended period of time with multiple exposures. For example, a bottled water brand might provide a sample for passengers in their cabins and also run spots on the ship’s closed-circuit television network.


The brand could also sponsor an island excursion in which passengers explore an exotic locale. Of course, they’d be handed free branded bottles of water to tote along as they exited the ship.

Also, because cruise passengers spend multiple days onboard the ship, home goods brands can use it as an opportunity to let passengers test their products. For example, a mattress company might outfit an entire ship’s cabins with its latest model, or an electronics company might provide new HDTVs in cabins for passengers to use.



The key is for advertisers to offer something that enhances the trip for the passenger. A popsicle company might hand out pops to hot passengers reboarding the ship after a day of sightseeing in a port city, or a video game company could let young passengers try out a new game in the ship’s designated kids area.



Advertising on cruises takes place at sea, but passengers represent every state in the U.S.


There were 10.2 million North American cruise passengers in 2009, the latest period available, according to the industry group Cruise Lines International Association. Worldwide there were 13.44 million cruise passengers.



Of those, 4.1 million cruises were between two and five days, 6.61 million were six to eight days, 2.54 million were nine to 17 days and 200,000 were 18 days or longer.


How it is measured

Passenger counts are used to measure impressions, and advertisers also use pre- and post-cruise surveys to measure things such as ad recall.

What product categories work well

Frequent cruise advertisers include consumer packaged goods, health/beauty products, luxury goods, snack foods, auto, telecommunications and travel.


Among adults who have taken a cruise in the past three years, 54 percent are female and 46 percent male, according to Scarborough Research.

Eight percent are ages 18-24, 15 percent are 25-34, 16 percent are 35-44, 21 percent are 45-54, 18 percent are 55-64 and 22 percent are age 65 or over.

Seven percent have an annual household income of less than $25,000, with 14 percent between $25,000 and $39,999, 10 percent between $40,000 and $49,999, 19 percent between $50,000 and $74,999, 18 percent between $75,000 and $99,999, 18 percent between $100,000 and $149,999 and 14 percent at $150,000 or more.

Making the buy

Lead time depends on the size and scope of the campaign. A simple product sampling campaign can be set up in two to three weeks, while an integrated campaign with multiple elements can take anywhere from six to 12 weeks.

Pricing varies widely. CPMs for sampling programs run from 15 to 50 cents, while CPMs for larger integrated campaigns can range anywhere from $3 to $30.

Who’s already on cruises

Cruise advertising has been used by Johnson & Johnson, Procter & Gamble, Just For Men, Oil of Olay, Bic and Crest toothpaste.

What they’re saying

The trend is creating that authentic interaction with the family. It can provide something that surprises and delights or adds value to their experience. If they feel it’s something that will enhance their trip, it’s a win-win proposition.” “

Sherry Orel, president at Brand Connections

Web site info


Disney Cruise Line

Princess Cruises

Holland America Line

Royal Caribbean

Brand Connections

Onboard Media

PPI Group