'Suntan Guarantee' Brings Smooth Sailing for iCruise

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A "Suntan Guarantee" that was the centerpiece of an online campaign by Icruise.com generated $800,000 in sales and 40,000 opt-in e-mail names for the vacation site.

The guarantee promised a full refund on a Caribbean cruise if more than one-quarter inch of rain fell from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. for a preset number of days, which varied depending on the length of the cruise.

"It put us on the map in the cruise line industry because of the innovative nature of the promotion," said Alex Aliksanyan, president/CEO at Icruise.

The campaign ran from February to May, and the average cost of a cruise for two ranged from $700 to $1,100.

One main goal of the campaign was to alleviate concerns about bad weather and seasickness among consumers who had never taken a cruise. According to a report by the Cruise Lines International Association, a trade body that represents cruise lines and travel agencies, seasickness ranked fifth among reasons why consumers don't take cruises.

Icruise used banner ads to target those who had never taken a cruise. Eighty-seven percent of consumers have not taken a cruise, according to CLIA, New York.

The banner campaign drove 400,000 unique visitors to the site, an increase of more than 200 percent from a year ago, and had a 5.5 percent click-through rate, Aliksanyan said.

The banners ran on its site as well as on partners' Web sites, including www.discovery.com and www.frommers.com. Icruise also used pop-up windows to promote the guarantee whenever a user researched information about Caribbean cruises on the site.

An e-mail effort promoted the guarantee to previous cruise customers, but the focus changed slightly.

"Instead of making it a weather guarantee, we made it more of a value proposition to book through icruise.com," Aliksanyan said. "It was an added benefit for no extra cost."

E-mails went to 750,000 people pulled from e-mail addresses in its online database and opt-in e-mail lists from its partners. Response rates from that drive were unavailable because icruise does not track Web visits from its e-mail links, Aliksanyan said.

Icruise also used its weekly e-mail newsletter, which has 150,000 registered members, to promote the guarantee, Aliksanyan said.

Icruise, New York, teamed with ASU International, an underwriter of insurance company Lloyd's of London, for the promotion.

The cruises began in February, and no refunds have been required yet, said Sean Curtin, a senior vice president at ASU International. Lloyd's of London expects only a small percentage of the cruises to be refunded, he said. The cruises run through the end of December, excluding the hurricane season, which is from September to early December.

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