Princess Cruises Are a Window to the World, and Yourself, in Sweeping New Ads

Leave on a boat, and 'come back new'

Cruise ships aren’t just floating bacchanalia packed with food and booze, says a new campaign from Princess Cruises. They’re a way to connect with nature and the things that really matter in life, like other people and baby sloths.

A wizened captain waxes philosophical about change in the centerpiece 1:30 ad from agency Omelet. A young boy standing on deck watches huge chunks of ice slide off the side of a towering glacier into the ocean. Tourists ride dog sleds through the snow. They jump off rock cliffs into pristine rainforest pools beneath bubbling waterfalls. They dance in an outdoor bar to Caribbean rhythms. They stare up at the stars, under clear night skies. “It’s rare to see change,” says the bearded narrator. “I’m lucky to see it everyday.”

“To see people go out,” he continues, and—cue the tagline—”come back new.”

It’s an upbeat and clever promise, given the context of an industry (and company) plagued by horror stories about violent stomach bugs breaking out on its vessels as recently as early this month. “Come back new,” it might say, “not dehydrated, emaciated and wondering why you ever got on board in the first place.”

Against that bleak backdrop, the optimism of the message does well to hold its own. There’s a lot of appeal in the idea of a family voyage sparking a child’s interest in the true cost of global warming (bye-bye, ice caps) or in the possibility of a career in zoology (hello, cute little two-toed mammal).

Similarly, there’s power in the imagery of two women falling in love, or renewing their bond, on a trip—Princess Cruises deserves credit for inclusivity (even acknowledging that it’s no longer a groundbreaking move). It’s even hard to begrudge an aging hippie finding joy in some beach music.

In other words, hefty dose of grandiosity aside, it’s actually a fairly deft piece of marketing—accessible without being entirely schlocky, and hitting some clear emotional notes while building to a surprisingly compelling argument for the potential upside of climbing onto a boat for two weeks with a couple thousand strangers.

It’s Omelet’s first work for the brand. The main ad is part of an integrated campaign that includes shorter spots and is timed to coincide with the Winter Olympics (presumably, hence the huskies). Neat production tricks include the muffling of audio as one woman back floats, her ears underwater.

And there’s plenty of stunning Earth eye-candy to offset the horror of a melting ice cap and the possible irony of a cruise ship (which is likely to roughly double a U.S. passenger’s carbon footprint from what it would be at home) pitching itself as a savior of the planet. (Who knows, maybe the kid will grow up to invent an endlessly renewable source of energy, and save us all from ourselves.)

With that, it also does a nice job of emphasizing the company’s range of destinations, and not just tropical ones. “Our shipboard crew are witness to change in our guests every day, whether that’s after a morning exploring Mendenhall Glacier in Alaska or discovering the breathtaking coral reefs and colorful marine life snorkeling in the Caribbean,” says Shelley Wise, vp of integrated marketing for Princess Cruises. “This work is really inspired by them.”

Adds Florian Bodet, creative director at Omelet: “A Princess cruise isn’t just an indulgence or an escape. It’s something much bigger. It has the power of opening your eyes to new perspectives about the world, but also about yourself.”

Naturally, none of the campaign materials directly address the proverbial (graphically ill) elephant on the ship, but Princess Cruises literature does claim to carry 2 million guests each year to more than 350 destinations. Weighed against that number, several hundred—or even a couple thousand—sick passengers across a handful of incidents in the same time period are statistically minuscule. It’s the simple result of cramming too many people into too small a space, where germs spread too easily.

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