Although the founders of SF-based Blueseed have garnered some attention recently for their desire to turn a cruise ship into a floating coworking space for foreign entrepreneurs, booking floating vacations for everyday folks remains a surprisingly untouched area of the travel startup scene.
Enter Cruise.me. With the understanding that cruising is inherently a social experience (see “Titanic,” etc.), the startup is part booking service, part social network. Unlike travel by plane or train — but much like life! — cruises are all about the journey, and people often make good friends aboard the ship.
The startup has been bootstrapped for the last eight months and is currently in alpha. It will enter beta by the end of the year, with the aim to launch to the public in 2014.
As CEO and co-founder Stephen Chip explained, the search experience for cruises is relatively outdated.
“The truth is that cruise line and online travel agencies have built online cruising based on the hotel- and flight-driven models,” Chip said. “The search experience is broken and you really need a Ph.D. if you want to book a cruise online.”
Fewer than 15 percent of cruises are currently booked online, Chip said. At the same time, cruise lines are increasingly catering to a younger crowd — both singles and families — meaning there is a big opportunity to make inroads as an online service.
Last year we heard about CruiseWise — which was acquired by TripAdvisor in May and integrated into Cruise Critic — a startup that also cited low online booking rates and terrible websites as grounds for disrupting the industry.
So Cruise.me is aiming to be smarter and more flexible than other cruise-booking sites, many of which are functional but unattractive and not optimized for discovery. As far as the social side of things, Cruise.me allows travelers to connect before, during, and after the trip. Users create a cruise profile, giving them the ability to share photos and favorite destinations and see which of their friends knows a particular destination or cruise line.
Using data from the user’s searches and Cruise.me social profile, the site can make suggestions for destinations and cruises (and better target advertising). The user can also save favorite destinations and ports along the way, making it easier to construct an itinerary later.
By their estimates, the team is projecting that they can reach a minimum of 2 million monthly uniques, with 50,000 new site registrations per month and 2,000 direct payment bookings.
Correction: An earlier version of this story incorrectly stated that CruiseWise had pivoted to become Cruise Critic.