A new study on the digital competence of 89 travel brands found many cruise lines adrift and all of them missing from the Top 10.
The study, conducted by digital marketing companies L2 and ISM, ranked the brands' websites (35%), and efforts in digital marketing (25%), social media (20%) and mobile (20%).
There were 16 cruise lines under surveillance in creating the L2 Digital IQ Index. None were ranked as Genius and only one, Royal Caribbean (tied for #13), was designated as Gifted.
"Cruises lag in the digital arena with 70% (11 of the 16 brands in the study) characterized as either Challenged or Feeble," the study authors say. "Many have poorly designed sites with limited capabilities and often no e-commerce."
Perhaps the L2 Digital IQ Index was skewed at the start against cruise lines which, with their complex product, have been late to ecommerce compared with airlines and hotels. The website portion of the rankings measured the sites' booking capabilities, loyalty programs and interactivity.
"There is s direct relationship between the average Digital IQ by category and the percentage of purchase made online," the study says, noting that airlines in the study notched an average Digital IQ while cruise lines averaged 86.
"The Cruise category lags the industry and generates only nine percent of its bookings online," says the study, adding that six of the 16 cruise lines in the study don't offer online bookings.
On a positive note, the study points to cruise lines' early adoption of user reviews.
"Although laggard in other dimensions, the Cruise category has been the first to embrace guest feedback, and four brands include user reviews," the study says.
So, here's how the study ranks the cruise lines:
Royal Caribbean: Tied for #13 in the index with British Airways, Royal Caribbean's digital IQ was designated as Gifted and the line was lauded for its mobile app, community reviews and YouTube presence.
Holland America: Ranked #21 and characterized as Gifted, Holland America stood out as "one of the few luxury cruise line aggressively purchasing search terms on Bing," the study says.
Disney Cruise Line: The Gifted line ranked #33 and was characterized as "a social media sweetheart" with a "fanatical" YouTube following.
Norwegian Cruise Line: At #37 in the Ditgital IQ Ranking, NCL was dubbed Average, and the study noted the line engages its customers through user reviews and a Facebook countdown clock. Among the 89 airline, hotel and cruise companies in the study, NCL had the ninth largest number (858,310) of YouTube views in March 2011, the study says. No other cruise line was among the Top 10 among the 89 travel companies in YouTube views.
Cunard: Ranked #44, Cunard was designated as Average and the study saw its Facebook and YouTube efforts as positives.
Lindblad Expeditions: Cited as Average, Lindblad Expeditions was tied for #55 with Jumeirah, and the cruise company was criticized for its "clunky reservations system."
P&O Cruises: Tied for #62 with Raffles, P&O Cruises' digital IQ was designated as Challenged, although its cruise webcams were hailed. In addition, from January to March 2011, P&O Cruises's Facebook account grew 54%, the fourth fastest growing Facebook presence among the 89 brands, the study says.
Crystal Cruises: In a dead heat at #64 with Seabourn, the study referred to both lines' digital IQs as Challenged. Crystal's website has no ecommerce capabilities, the study says.
Seabourn: Seabourn was criticized for a "limited social media presence."
Oceania Cruises: Tied for #66 with Regent Seven Seas Cruises, both lines were designated as "Challenged." Oceania's website is average and its social media practices are subpar, the study says.
Regent Seven Seas Cruises: "Subtle reservation box on site is easy on the eyes but loses points on conversion," the study says of the line.
Windstar Cruises: Placed at #73 and Challenged, the authors muse, "Generates more traffic than most luxury cruise lines, but without booking capability what is it worth?" The study says Windstar had the second-fastest growing (70%) Twitter account from January to March 2011 among the 89 brands, while Azamara Club Cruises was eighth at 26% growth.
Silversea Cruises: Lauded for "social sharing" but criticized for lack of booking capability, Silversea came in at #75 and was characterized as Challenged.
Azamara Club Cruises: The line was ranked #76 and branded Feeble in the study. "Destinations dominate on gorgeous site, but social media efforts have yet to embark," the study says.
SeaDream Yacht Club: Ranked #81 and characterized as Feeble, the study says of SeaDream: "Mobile presence prevents shipwreck, but limted transaction capability damages IQ."
Swan Hellenic: Scored #89 out of 89 brands, the cruise lined earned the Feeble moniker, but the study says its Facebook presence, initiated in February, is some cause for hope.
The Top 10 brands in the study were, in order: Delta Air Lines, Southwest Airlines, American Airlines, W Hotels, Hilton, Westin, Continental Airlines, Lufthansa, Four Seasons Hotels and InterContinental Hotels.
To download the study, go here.