What is CruiseCompare's Cruise Index and how did it come to be?
Levinstein: We started in 2003 and have been at it for a little more than eight years. The way the system works is that the consumer comes to the site, they select a cruise and then we have about 350 different travel agencies that can see that user's trip request. They respond with competing quotes so the consumer gets four, five or six responses and can compare them and contact the agent who gave them the best quote.
The agencies who book a cruise on our site then report the booking to us and we charge them a percentage based on the value of the package sold. What struck us about this was the data: We have 25,000 to 40,000 quote requests coming through a month, depending on the season. There's a lot of information there about what consumers preferences are, what they're asking for and the median time between when the consumer books and when the ship sales. That tells us a lot about the market and whether they're requesting shorter cruises or longer cruises. It tells us which luxury cruises are getting the most requests, which river cruises are getting the most requests, and we thought it was useful data, so we put it into our monthly trend report.The problem with writing about something as complex as the cruise market is, "How do you know in one number where things are?" For the cruise index, we decided to take just one cabin type