Oceania Cruises off to a flyer in 2024

LATTE chats with Nikki Upshaw, SVP, Global Sales

Oceania Cruises has ended 2023 and commenced 2024 in a commanding position with booking demand around the globe stronger than previous years.

Nikki Upshaw, Senior Vice President, Global Sales at Oceania Cruises said “Typically the year starts strong at Oceania Cruises around mid-January, between the 10th and 15th of the month but this year, out of the gate, January 1st, we had strong demand in all our markets. There wasn’t one market that wasn’t right away in it.”

In Australia this week from Miami for the first time in five years, Upshaw hosted the cruise line’s leading travel partners from around the country – part of Oceania Cruises’ global Cruise Connoisseur Club – to a few days of business collaboration, insights and celebration in Sydney.

Discussing the flying start to 2024 exclusively with LATTE yesterday, Upshaw said the success was partly due to  Oceania Cruises’ New Year sale that kicked off on 1 January 2024. That promotion was previewed ahead of time to trade partners to ensure they would be able to capitalise on early interest.

Nikki Upshaw, Senior Vice President, Global Sales, Oceania Cruises

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“One of the things we’ve learned, and are consistently trying to do, is provide partners with advance notice so they have enough time to train, educate and get the marketing ready from the outset.”

“Yes people were on holiday, but still prepping it, so come January 1 it was all systems go and the response has been phenomenal,” Upshaw said.

The cruise executive said bookings were already encouraging in late December and flowed through January. The New Year sale runs until 29 February 2024.

“Sometimes with promotions like this there is a kind of dip. But for the New Year sale there has been none. It has been steady, steady, steady.”

Jason Worth, Vice President, International Sales, Oceania Cruises said the upper premium cruise brand has proponents globally, and especially in Australia and New Zealand, for what is currently being offered.

“We started with over 100 sailings with the offer and we’ve had to trim it down as the sale has gone so well,” Worth says.

Some of Oceania Cruises' Key Partner guests at yesterday's Appreciation Lunch at Ploos restaurant - from left are: Anjelica Balbin, Oceania Cruises; Gabby Oliver, Oceania Cruises; Lucy Viera, Spencer Travel; Rachel Kingswell, Travel Associates; Angie Kemp, Oceania Cruises; Martine Nunes, Oceania Cruises; James Sitters, Oceania Cruises; Shaun Mifsud, Travel Associates Kew; Nikki Upshaw, Oceania Cruises; Elizabeth Clarke, The Cruise Centre; David Brandon, Savenio and Jason Worth, Oceania Cruises.

Another likely driver for the stronger-than-normal response to the current promotion is the experienced cruiser looking to treat themselves to an elevated product, Upshaw suggests.

Based on feedback from Oceania Cruises’ top travel partners, the cost savings from the promotion enables the frontline sellers to be able to recommend the brand “to someone that didn’t think it was in their reach.”

“It opens up that dialogue, to realise they have a savings of 20%, 30% – pretty much equitable to what they were paying on a larger line.”

“We have over-indexed the new-to-Oceania guests from the sale as well, which speaks to that same sort of trend in helping bridge someone that might have considered us in the past and now, this is the time… let’s do it.”

Unsurprisingly, the Mediterranean continues to be Oceania Cruises’ most in-demand destination in January with Riviera the most popular ship. Australian travellers slightly favouring Eastern itineraries over Western, with Turkey, Italy and Croatia desired.

Several itineraries had to be changed due to the issues in the Red Sea late last year, with increased exploration of Croatia, and once those voyages were added to the New Year sale they have proven to be “a hit”, Worth says. Riviera, Vista and Marina – all in Europe – are “selling well” from the AU/NZ market.

Riviera at sea

Upshaw said another trend that continues to flow since post-pandemic is a tendency for guests to be treating themselves and “sailing higher up”, choosing Concierge, Verandah and into our Penthouses.

“No one wants to compromise on their accommodation, which is a good thing!”

Oceania Cruises’ average length of stay has also extended out to 21 days from 14, a result that startled even Upshaw. That is in addition to any additional land touring the client may book either side of a cruise.

Worth says back-to-back sailings are a common request, fueling that increased duration on the sea, while providing a saving for guests that pair itineraries.

And while the booking window continues to stretch out, with sales for 2025 already doing “really well,” Worth says the current promotion is incentivising people to take another look at 2024.

The Oceania team, from left: Gabby Oliver, Jodie Hart, Nikki Upshaw, Jason Worth, James Sitters, Anjelica Balbin, Martine Nunes and Angie Kemp.

Questioned about the response from the market to Oceania Cruises’ switch to the simply MORE pricing and inclusions structure adopted in mid-2023, Upshaw said the transition for guests didn’t take long at all.

Upshaw says simply MORE‘s credit for any shore excursion, from a travel partner’s perspective, has been well received.

“You don’t have to look up which excursion applies to a specific credit. It’s on any excursion including private car driver.”

“And for those clients that don’t drink alcohol, there is a suite of non-alcoholic spirits, non-alcoholic wines, mocktails, on top of water and tea – which some other lines still charge for – it is all included, so it represents great value.”

Worth adds the additional Wi-Fi login has also created less friction with guests, where previously Wi-Fi was limited to one device per cabin/suite. The roll-out of StarLink across all of Oceania Cruises’ ships by the end of 2024 is also viewed as a ‘game-changer’, enabling faster connection speeds.

Worth was also encouraged by the additional international air capacity through Asia and the Middle East to Europe.

“It’s all to the upside. What was a headwind becomes a tailwind.”

“Emirates adding Adelaide, the introduction of Turkish Airlines through Istanbul, increased uplift with Japan Airlines and Cathay Pacific… there’s a lot more opportunity and prices are starting to come down.”

Oceania Cruises’ New Year sale concludes on 29 February 2023. For more details, see oceaniacruises.com/special-offers/new-year

1 Comment
  1. dee says

    wonder what the deal was?/ We did an Oceania cruise last year-our first with them..

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