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Cheap February Cruise to the Bahamas – Not So Fast

Last night I almost bought a cruise package for next weekend.  I get frequent flier email offers from many airlines, and an intriguing one popped into my inbox the other day.

After clicking the link it showed numerous cruise options, different lines, number of nights and prices. A 3 night cruise to the Bahamas could cost as little as $169. What!!! I clicked around and looked at the rooms. The room with the portal windows was so cute, and the same price as a normal interior room. Read about the on-ship restaurants, spa treatments… I’ve never been on a cruise and it sounds very relaxing.  But the further I went, the more I realized what was happening.

I was emotionally hooked.


(Here is the email in question)

I’d also spent about 30 minutes clicking through all these links and reading about the cruises. Imagining myself sunbathing on the deck and watching the ocean out of my room’s window. Including plane fare to Miami (where the ship leaves dock) I figured it would cost about $530 total.

I clicked through to the purchase page, credit card ready, now late at night when I was tired and my guard was down.

I blinked… $139 in taxes. Another $159 I didn’t know where it came from. Total cruise price $450. Then I’d still have to buy the plane ticket down to Miami. Because of the short notice it would cost $360.

Suddenly my $169 cruise would cost a total of $810. Yikers!

Whoa- what just happened?

Why do Airlines and travel companies provide incentives such as frequent flier miles? For one,  it gets people to pay attention when they otherwise wouldn’t.

If I didn’t see “up to 35,000 frequent flier miles” I would have deleted that email immediately. But, I paid attention instead. Then they crafted their message so I became emotionally involved. Since purchasing items, especially non-essentials, is typically an emotional decision this type of marketing can be very very effective. It metamorphisizes a want into a need. I need a vacation. I need to get out of New England’s wet winter weather. I need this for my happiness.

Once I’ve become fixated on this decision, they slip in the real price. And the fact that I would only earn 350 frequent flier miles from booking the cruise. It’s just a small skip and jump to rationalizing why $810 is not unreasonable. Maybe at that point I decide to do a 7 night cruise since I’m spending so much already. Plus I can just pay it off over time with my credit card right?

The Take Away: Awareness

Being aware of how companies are trying to sell us things, and influence our decision making is essential. By understanding a marketing tactic like this email, we can keep its emotional influence in check.

A cruise is not good or bad. But, if we decide to go on a cruise, it should be because we already wanted to and planned to. Not because Norwegian Cruise lines pays a lot of money to twist our emotions.

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