CruiseWise, a new online travel agency dedicated to booking cruises, is opening its doors today. The startup aims to simplify the online cruise booking process, bringing it up to par with what you find now when booking hotels or flights.
With site’s online search engine, customers can compare prices, routes, cabin choices and other options across multiple cruise lines and see the full amount for the cruise by total number of passengers, including tax.
The startup was founded in 2010 by CEO Amit Aharoni, CTO Nicolas Meunier and COO Steve Davis after realizing that online 10% of total online bookings for cruises happened online, compared with 85% for cars and 75% for hotels. This isn’t because more cruise ship passengers are “old” and unaccustomed to using a computer to book travel, they say. The average age of a cruiser is 49, versus 46 as the average age of a hotel stayer. It’s not the 3-year age gap that’s the problem – it’s the user interface. “It’s really bad,” says Davis.
Due to the complexities of options with a cruise ship – there can be up to 40 different cabin options alone, for example – being walked through the process through an online travel search site like Expedia takes multiple steps. In fact, cruise bookings go through 8 webpages on Expedia, versus 3 for flights, Davis notes.
To cater to the needs of potential cruise passengers, the team decided to build a vertical designed just for booking cruises. The search process is simplified, allowing you to easily compare different packages side-by-side, while also seeing the real prices. Since cruise prices are by person, that ad for a $300 discounted cruise is really $600 for a couple, plus tax. CruiseWise lets you see the full rate when you’re searching, so you can make better decisions.
For now, the service is only tracking four top lines: Carnival, Celebrity, Princess and Royal Caribbean, but combined they account for 60% of the market. Six more lines will be added in the next several months, bringing that total up to 80%+ of the market.
CruiseWise also includes information that helps you pick the cruise line of choice, like ship layouts with interactive deck maps, lists of amenities, photos, route information, in-depth port guides and more. The startup even employs half a dozen travel writers who create editorial content about the destinations and submit photos. Other features in the works include an improved cabin selection guide that will help you determine which cabin best suits your needs (quiet or loud? windows? sunrise or sunset view?, etc.) In the future, the service will allow for crowdsourced content and user reviews, too.
Overall, the goal with CruiseWise is not only to improve the booking process, but also to offer better prices for cruises, too. “We’re trying to offer people lower prices and more credit back because we spend so much less money to serve them,” explains Davis. So it’s cheaper? “Cheaper is actually a tricky word in cruising. Cruise lines have very strict policies about the prices you can advertise to people,” Davis explains. What they do allow is letting you return the savings to customers in the form of credit, not discounts on the initial package price. But don’t worry, you’ll spend the credit – after all, what’s a vacation without a pina colada and souvenir t-shirt?
CruiseWise, which was the first team to emerge from StartupChile and has $1.6 million in seed funding from SV Angel, NEA, Index Ventures, PROfounders Capital and various angels.