The passion for cruising as an exciting way to explore the world continues to grow. Here are the top 10 cruising trends, as predicted by cruise experts.
Richard Sasso, president and CEO of MSC Cruises says they’re expanding existing markets to create a longer cruise season.
“A prime example is cruising Europe, which has become a year-round destination. All 11 MSC ships will sail Europe in 2012,” he said. “We’ll also expand emerging markets such as Asia, South America, the Middle East and Australia and we’ve added Abu Dhabi and the Emirates to our itineraries.”
“Adventure and expedition cruising is extremely hot today,” said Brad Ball, director of media relations for Silversea. “Our Arctic voyages sold out this summer and the Antarctic voyages will sell out soon. Although the cruise world is getting smaller, seeking out new, undiscovered and uncrowded ports is crucial. Our unique West Africa cruises for 2012 are a reflection of this trend.”
Mark Carlson, director of marketing for Star Clippers says they are extending their stays in ports.
“Guests want to have more time to enjoy a port, learn the culture and really explore. Some ports require more time than others so we feature later departures. Many guests want to take a shorter tour and also have time to explore on their own. By sailing late in the evening guests can also dine ashore and enjoy the local nightlife.”
Seabourn has noticed a new cruise audience emerge for whom seven-day sailings are too short and two-week itineraries too long. So the line is launching a new series of 10-day cruises in the Mediterranean in 2012.
More partnerships with major brands
Look for an increase in “branded partnerships” to provide guests with well-known choices, said Vance Gulliksen, manager of public relations for Carnival. “We’ve recently partnered with Guy’s Burger Joint from the Food Network’s Guy Fieri, Punchliner Comedy Clubs, EA Sports Bars and Hasbro.”
The Norwegian Epic, considered a floating Las Vegas, continues to secure name brand acts such as Blue Man Group, Cirque Dreams and Dinner, Legends in Concert, Howl at the Moon Dueling Pianos show, Slam Allen Band and Nickelodeon.
Unique top-deck offerings
Ever since Royal Caribbean introduced rock-climbing walls, skating rinks, ziplining, trampolines and surf simulators, other lines have risen to the challenge. The new Carnival Magic, which was the line’s 100th ship when counting all their brands, has a 95-metre-long waterslide — the longest in the fleet — as well as a daring tightrope course.
On the new Costa Favolosa, the Formula One simulated race car experience offers thrills of travelling at virtual speeds of 350 km/h.
Star Clippers offers hands-on experiences. You can climb the mast to the crow’s nest, help hoist the sails and even steer the ship.
Better all-inclusive value
Saving money and getting more for less is the mantra for today’s passengers. “To show the value of cruising, luxury lines have launched aggressive savings to entice first timers and also get mass-market cruisers to upgrade to luxury. This is being done with complimentary airfare, credits and discounts,” said Ball.
PG Cruises is offering free airfare from Los Angeles to Papeete for their Tahitian voyages and many other lines are offering half-price fares and two-for-one deals.
In the ongoing debate of hidden cruise costs, a recent study of a 10-night Regent Seven Seas Mediterranean cruise compared to a non-all-inclusive line showed the luxury line could be less expensive. Since Regent includes flights, alcohol, shore excursions, transfers and tips, the cost was $4,524 compared to $4,915 for a regular cruise.
Customized shoreside experiences
The future will also bring greater customization of shoreside experiences. “Guests want bragging rights when they go ashore,” Ball explained. “They want to have experiences they can’t arrange on their own. They are looking for authenticity — genuine, non-manufactured excursions.” Silversea is introducing 19 new adventures. Climb the steps of the Potala Palace in Tibet, walk the sand dunes of the Namib Desert and more.
Royal Caribbean says there’s a growing popularity in private car and guides for completely personalized excursions whether it’s a VIP tour of the Vatican or catered beach picnic for a family reunion, even though they offer more than 1,000 tours in Europe alone.
Growth in enrichment programs
Travellers want to be enriched while on vacation. “We launched our most expansive enrichment program ever which includes nearly 200 guest lecturers, celebrated chefs and destination experts on more than 160 voyages,” said Ball. “Hugh Downs and Bill Bryson are two of the guest lecturers for our 2012 World Cruise. We will also offer about 20 voyages featuring Relais & Châteaux L’École des Chefs cooking school.”
Extensive renovations to ships
Since new ship construction has slowed, lines are spending money renovating existing ships. Carnival recently announced Fun Ship 2.0, a $500 million enhancement program to upgrade their ships.
Even smaller lines are renovating. PG Cruises recently spent more than $6 million renovating their Paul Gauguin ship to make it the most luxurious vessel to sail Tahiti year-round.
More adults-only areas
There will be more adults-only areas for those seeking serenity. Princess ships’ Sanctuary areas are private getaways with plush seating and massage cabanas. Celebrity Silhouette offers their Hideaway area and the Norwegian Epic has their Posh Beach Club for peace and quiet.
Private accommodations and spa enclaves
The ship-within-a-ship concept such as MSC Yacht Club is an exclusive enclave with unique cabins and special services. The Norwegian Gem has a similar area with private suites, two of which are 5,000 sq. ft. and have their own pool.
Improved culinary options
Dining experiences are getting more sophisticated. Erik Elvejord, director of public relations for Holland America said guests “will see more diversity such as sustainable seafood and unique dining like our Evening at Le Cirque. We are launching new culinary initiatives that turn a cruise into a food network at sea.”
Dining atmospheres are becoming increasingly entertaining too. On the Celebrity Silhouette, the Qsine restaurant features iPad menus and lamps mounted upside down to the ceiling. Meals are styled for a food-as-theatre concept. The disco shrimp is presented in a glass with a flashing disco light and sushi comes on a stick like a lollipop.
Published Jan. 24, 2012