Start-Up Chile pilot team and online cruise booking agency CruiseWise officially launched its website to the public on Tuesday. The site allows users to book cruises using a simple yet sophisticated online search engine that compares rates across various cruise lines. The site resembles a HotWire aimed specifically at boat-based getaways.
CruiseWise, originally founded in May of 2010 by partners Amit Aharoni, Steve Davis and Nicolas Meunier, launches at a crucial time for the cruise industry; recent reports suggest bookings are down in the wake of the capsizing of the Costa Concordia off the coast of Italy. Carnival Corp., Royal Caribbean International, and Disney cruises have all reported significant dips in cruise booking numbers following the accident. Ordinarily, this time of year is considered to be the high point in terms cruise booking volume.
The CruiseWise site may not be able to do much directly to allay the fears of passengers following the media storm that surrounded the Costa Concordia’s sinking, but it does aim to bring the cruise industry in line with other online travel and trip management tools. CruiseWise co-founder and CEO Amit Aharoni noted in a press release that his company is addressing what he sees as a major gap in online booking. “Technologically, cruise booking is stuck in 1998,” Aharoni wrote. “Rather than be tied to a single travel agent on the phone with a limited perspective, CruiseWise frees you up to view and compare all of your travel options in a single place.”
CruiseWise provides detailed information about ship sizes, service level, and construction date and offers photos of cabins, and entertainment facilities, all in a layout that manages to remain simple and responsive without being overwhelming. While I still have trouble seeing your stereotypical grey-haired cruise passenger feeling completely comfortable using CruiseWise, it’s actually perfect for the new, younger-trending group of seafarers, which a survey from August of 2010 noted are increasingly in their 40s or below.
Royal Caribbean told USA Today that it is already seeing cruise bookings recover, and doesn’t expect the Costa Concordia incident to have a significant long-term effect on customer apetite. CruiseWise, by propelling online cruise booking into the 21st century and helping trip shopper make informed decisions more easily, is well-positioned to help accelerate a return to growth for the industry at large.