Marketing sex on cruise ships has been around ever since the Love Boat television program which I watched in the 1970's. OK I admit it. I had a crush on Julie McCoy - "Your Cruise Director" - as she introduced herself. Her line in every show "Hi! I'm your cruise director" - was too much for most young boys to handle.
The show revolved around Princess Cruises' Pacific Princess cruise ship, whose passengers and crew had romantic interludes every week. The show starred the ship's captain (Captain Stubing) who encouraged his passengers and crew members to hook up and, well, it was the 1970's and people didn't talk in public about such things - do whatever people do behind closed doors.
But somewhere over the course of the last 30 years, marketing sex on cruises changed from the innocence of the Love Boat to something a little less conventional - swinger parties, cougar parties, and who knows what.
Selling sex became a fundamental part of the business of selling cruise tickets. Former Carnival President Bob Dickinson wrote a book called "Selling the Sea." I bought a hard back copy on eBay for $2.75. Consider his view of the role of the Captain of the cruise ship, always on the prowl:
" . . . we have observed that some captains, because of their social and sexual prowess, have contributed meaningfully to the revenue occupancy of the vessel. Clearly, there are passengers who are drawn to the Captain's insignia and crisp white uniform. Imagine being entertained in the Captain's quarters (often a two or three room spacious suite with leather sofas, a library, and a stereo) with a polite wait staff pouring Dom Perignon and serving Beluga caviar!"
Cosmopolitan magazine and Royal Caribbean conducted a survey which was published in an article entitled "Sex at Sea." 58% of passengers were unable to wait more than 10 hours after embarkation "before dropping anchor in the sea of love." With their traveling companions? Or crew members?
Several years ago P & O Cruises ran a sexually charged campaign showing bikini clad women oiled up and lying oh-so-promiscuously on their backs with the caption "Seamen Wanted."
Now, I work in an office with only women, who find this type of advertising totally offensive.
The cruise line is advertising sex to sell tickets, pure and simple. The P & O Cruises marketing was particularly offensive, considering that just a year earlier P & O passenger Dianne Brimble died after being given Ecstasy by a pack of men. After it was over, she ended up naked, and dead, on the floor of the cruise ship.
This is the problem with the come-aboard-and-have-sex approach to marketing. Date rape drugs have entered the equation (I don't remember GHB or roofies on the Love Boat). Crew members try and get involved. They have key cards and can get into the cabins at will. After all, the Captain is doing it. And when a rape occurs, cruise lines are notorious for covering up the crimes and destroying evidence.
Just today the popular blog CruiseLog on USA TODAY blasted the headline: Royal Caribbean Says Yes to Sexually-Charged Cougar Cruise. The article began with the question: Is Royal Caribbean the new bad boy of the cruise industry?
The article commented on Carnival having second thoughts about associating itself with hosting "cougar cruises." So Royal Caribbean decided to fill the marketing void by announcing that it will happily host what is being called the "Second International Cougar Cruise" to take place in May on Royal Caribbean's Mariner of the Seas. Royal Caribbean's PR team even issued a press statement to USA Today to promote the sex charged cruise.
Marketing a cougar sex cruise? You bet, this is right up RoyalCaribbean's alley.
A couple of years ago, I remember seeing a publicity photo of Royal Caribbean advertising its new mattresses on its cruise ships. There before my eyes was Royal Caribbean President Adam Goldstein. He was wearing a Hugh Hefner robe, holding a martini in his hand, lying in bed in front of two sexy, skimpily clad women wearing the Royal Caribbean logo on their bikini tops. Take a look to the left. What do you see?
Booze ... beds ... women ... sex ... welcome aboard!
We have come a long way from Julie McCoy, the innocent cruise director of the Love Boat.
Carnival's President marketed his product by touting how many women the Captain can conquer in his bachelor pad suite on the cruise ship. And Royal Caribbean's President might as well as be in the Playboy Mansion surrounded by bunnies selling tickets.