Lind and I have just returned from attending Cruise Shipping Miami, a global cruise conference that brings together the world’s major cruise lines, destination representatives and ship building suppliers – quite a heady experience! For three days we attended seminars, chatted with cruise line CEOs and learned about where the world of cruising is headed next. Don’t let the recent troubles experienced by Carnival Cruise Line make you think cruising is on a down-swing, there are big plans ahead. Here’s a look at how cruising will keep even more people entertained on the 7 seas and along the major waterways of the world.
Cruising Is Growing Faster Than Global Economies, Meaning It Continues To Be A Great Value
According to the Cruise Line International Association (CLIA):
20.9 million people worldwide are expected to take a cruise in 2013
167 Cruise Ships have entered service since 2000
184 Countries welcome cruise ships into their ports
Despite a slowdown, 15 new ships will launch in 2013 and 2014
Cruising grew 3.3% in 2012 – beating global GDP
Cruising accounts for 9% of global GDP, representing 1 of every 11 jobs on the planet
Cruising Is Entering The Age Of Revitalization, Restyling and Re-imagining
Cruise lines are not waiting for their ships to age gracefully, they are hauling them into dry dock for complete bow-to-stern revitalization. April will see the unveiling of the remake of Carnival’s Destiny, soon to be sailing as Carnival Sunshine. Carnival added 182 new cabins, 2 additional decks and upgraded the entire ship to their Fun Ship 2.0 branding and amenities. Norwegian Cruise Line is adding luxury suites and studio cabins for solo passengers to the Pride of America while it is dry docked in Hawaii. Celebrity Cruise Line is “Solsticizing” 4 of their older ships and Royal Caribbean Cruise Line is upgrading ships to “Oasis” class.
Re-Imaging The Cruise Experience
Cruise lines have heard you loud and clear. Guests want to customize their cruise experience and have more flexibility. Most larger cruise lines are designing luxury ship-within-ship zones. Guests desiring a quieter, more intimate cruise experience can purchase a pass to VIP areas with upgraded amenities, butler services, and a limited number of passengers. More cruises will adopt a ‘resort casual’ feel (rather than the old ballroom gown days) and allow passengers more freedom and flexibility with dining choices. Look for more “opportunities” to upgrade to specialty restaurants, entertainment and small group shore excursions. Cruise lines are going all out with new entertainment and play zone areas to make it just as attractive to stay on the ship as it is to go ashore. Watch for NCL’s newest ship launching in May, the Breakaway, to set a new standard with its HUGE waterpark, ropes course, an Illusionarium, fireworks at sea, 3D overhead video dome and Grammy award winning entertainers.
Going Where No Cruise Has Gone Before
Feeling the pinch of increasing fuel costs, new emissions regulations, and escalating port taxes, cruise lines are looking for imaginative ways to keep their costs (and your prices) under control. Alaska was touted as a prime example of driving business away. When the State voted to dramatically increase port fees in an attempt to supplement local budgets, cruise lines pulled many of their ships out and sent them to the Med for the summer season. The fees have recently been reduced again and the ships are returning to cruise the ports of Alaska.
Watch for cruise lines to incorporate more overnight stays in port – so passengers can enjoy an evening ashore or attend a cultural event, while saving fuel for the ship. You’ll likely notice new ports of call that are in relatively short cruising distance from each other. Cruise lines are also considering emerging port destinations that offer lower port fees. And you’ll see an uptick in “open jaw” (one way) cruise itineraries. Instead of cruising in a 7 day circle, ships will sail in one direction for two or three weeks before heading back in the reverse direction. This not only encourages passengers to book longer cruises, but is attractive to the residents of the home port area to take a drive-to cruise as well.
More cruise lines are repositioning one or more ships to sail year-round in regions with increasing cruise demand; South America, Australia and Asia. New state-of-art port terminals are in construction or expansion across the globe including Hong Kong’s Kai Tak Terminal that promises to be the largest and most sophisticated cruise terminal in the world. Ports attracting renewed interest include San Francisco, San Diego, New Orleans, China, Malaysia, the Black Sea, Copenhagen, and Brazil to name a few. Passengers are looking forward to visiting new destinations for distinctive experiences.
River Cruising is Breaking All Records
If you’ve been thinking river cruising is all about the Blue Danube and The Rhine, you’re in for a surprise. With River Cruise popularity is growing 10% per year; the number of new ships is increasing at a dramatic rate. 41 new ships will be built and launched in 2013 & 2014!
This means river cruises will explore waterways across the globe. New itineraries will include Northern Europe, Northern Holland, France, the Far East, South America, Russia, Indonesia, Africa and closer to home; the Mississippi, Columbia and Snake Rivers. Imagine sightseeing along the Nile, the Amazon, wine regions of France, visiting temples of Myanmar or going on wildlife safari by river in Africa. These river cruises will take passengers in comfort to areas of the world previously beyond the average traveler’s reach.
Even the furthest outposts on the planet are now accessible by cruise ship. Expedition cruise ships are equipped with strong ice crushing hulls, 3-D underwater sonar, provisions to be self-sufficient for up to a month, and environmentally sensitive operating systems. Expedition leaders are bringing adventurous travelers to regions only previously visited by scientific exploration. These “refined adventures” have become so popular with travelers of means (they can cost three or four times the average cruise price), that they often sell out years in advance. The demand is ever-growing as boomers put a visit to the Arctic or Antarctica on their bucket list and price is only a minor consideration compared to being able to visit a pristine, unique and remote environment that few on the planet have traversed before you. At the same time, the number of ships built for expedition cruising is declining as the fleet ages, environmental regulations are increased, and the cost of building this type of vessel is escalating dramatically.
So, if you have your heart-set on exploring an Arctic region, the Galapogos Islands, Northern Fiords or Greenland, the price will never be lower than it is today. The cruise lines that specialize in expedition adventures may not be familiar to you. Some of the prominent players are Hurtigruten, Orion, Compagnie Du Ponant, Lindblad and Silversea.
As the conference came to a close, Linda and I had a new appreciation for the breadth of choices available in the cruise marketplace. Clearly there is a cruise product that will appeal to your travel personality, it just takes a bit of research. Our recommendation is that you begin by tuning into Cruise Radio and visit sites such as CruiseCritic.com.
Photo Credits: Wikimedia CC