The bosses of the major cruise lines held meetings this month to mull over the latest trends. Here’s a round up of what they see in their crystal balls:
1. Expedition cruising
There is an increased demand to get off the beaten track and visit some of the world’s most unspoilt and remote destinations. Expedition or adventure cruises allow you to do that as you sail on smaller ships that are built to navigate tight waterways, accessing locations that liners can’t reach.
According to Tom Wolber, president and CEO of Crystal Cruises, “the expedition product is off the charts”. Other lines like Seabourn has an ultra-luxury expedition ship in the works, Ponant has taken delivery of Le Bougainville, their third explorer ship, last year and is planning to launch the world first electric hybrid polar exploration ship in May 2021.
2. Experiential travel
Cruise passengers are continuing to seek deeper experiences and connecting with the local communities when they visit destinations.
Celebrity Cruises says that they have spent much time developing new land options, including Private Journeys, as well as Discovery Journeys, which operate with no more than 24 guests, as well as the regular excursions.
“What we’re learning and seeing more and more is that people want that choice,” says Lisa Lutoff-Perlo, president and CEO of Celebrity Cruises.
“Now, people care about what those experiences help you become – how they change you,” she stressed.
MSC Cruises is also creating “more involved” experiences with later departures and overnights stays.
Crystal Cruises echoes this as guests want to see things at their leisure and in an exclusive way.
“Late night stays and overnights are perfect tools to do that,” says Mr Wolber.
3. Brand partnerships
Enjoying the collaborations with celebrity chefs at sea? Rejoice, because more is to come. Cruise lines are continuing to form partnerships to bring well-known brands on board.
This ranges from the appointment of Shaquille O’Neal as Carnival Cruise Line’s “chief fun officer” to brands like Margaritaville and Michael Mondavi for wines and Starbucks on Norwegian Cruise Line. Even the president of Norwegian Cruise Line, Andy Stuart, is glad that he does not have to part with Starbucks when he cruises, as it is available across the fleet.
Celebrity has also recently announced two new partnerships, one with chef Daniel Boulud on the restaurant side and another with the American Ballet Theatre for ballet performances on its ships.
4. Shorter cruises
Cruisers have asked for shorter cruises and the cruise lines have responded. Shorter cruises are perfect for trying out new ships that are launching every year and for time pressed young cruisers looking for a short getaway.
5. Reduce overcrowding
Cruise lines are working to reduce overcrowding at destinations by staggering shore excursion timings and offering a larger variety of excursions to spread out the passengers across the towns and cities they arrive at.
Large cruise companies are working with all levels of the Italian government, NGOs and the port authority to find a long-term sustainable solution that allows cruise ships to continue to go to Venice and yet protects the “unbelievable heritage of that city, of that place.”
Similar talks are also in session with the mayor of Dubrovnik.
High-level global partnerships have also been formed with Nature Conservancy, World Wildlife Fund and the Global Sustainable Tourism Council.
International bodies like the United Nations’ World Tourism Organisation and the World Travel & Tourism Council have also begun talks with the cruise industry to discuss the challenges ahead.
6. More technology at sea
Cruise lines will continue to incorporate more technology to elevate your cruising experience. It starts at the ports, using facial recognition to offer faster boarding and getting off the ship.
Many cruise lines are also constantly improving their apps to better engage with their guests.
“I think we will continue to see investments in technology to enable not just the experience on the ship, but the experience before you get to the ship and eventually…after your cruise is over,” said Christine Duffy president of Carnival Cruise Line.
On Celebrity Edge, 90% of the guests downloaded the app and gave positive feedback on the stateroom automation and Carnival Cruise Line has 5 million downloads on their own app.
Google has Alexa and MSC Bellissima has Zoe. “You can talk in your cabin and ask the software to do things for you…like booking a specialty restaurant, booking a shore excursion, asking how your onboard account is doing” and so on, the line said. And for MSC, it’s necessary to do that in seven languages.
7. Sustainability and environment
Travel and tourism is growing far faster than the world’s economy is growing and the cruise industry continues to find sustainable ways to satisfy the hunger to see the world.
It encompasses the water under our ships, the air over them, the destinations that they visit and the colleagues that work with all of us, says Adam Goldstein vice chairman of Royal Caribbean Cruises Ltd.
The industry is committed to meet or exceed those 2030 IMO requirements for greenhouse gas emissions. The industry has also expressed support for the IMO’s century-long vision to have a carbon—free maritime environment.
Cruise lines have been incorporating green technologies on board such as new advanced wastewater treatment systems, exhaust gas emissions systems/scrubbers, hull coating, hull shapes, air lubrication systems that eject bubbles under a ship’s hull to cut down on fuel consumption, LED lighting, and single-use plastic bans, as well as many more items.
8. Younger cruisers
It is revealed that the new average age of cruisers is 47 years old – the youngest ever.
Arnold Donald, president and CEO, Carnival Corporation, noted at the conference that cruising interest is strong among Millennials in search of adventure but the Baby Boomers remains the largest demographic with time and money to cruise.
Cruise lines like Carnival continue to appeal the younger cruisers with new exciting features like the first roller coaster at sea on Carnival Mardi Gras.
9. More ship variety
The industry will continue to have a mix of big and small ships, as the lines understand that cruising is not one size fits all. So expect it to remain highly diverse as lines try to outdo each other in the large liners to luxury yacht cruising.
“Over time, all ships get bigger. But, they operate more efficiently and also have a lower carbon footprint,” says Frank Del Rio, CEO of Norwegian Cruise Line Holdings.
10. New destinations
The large liners are also introducing new destinations to their itineraries. Virgin Voyages is sailing to Bimini in the Bahamas, an intimate island not far from Miami.
MSC Cruises is excited to take guests to Havana and its private island destination. The lines are also beginning to return to Turkey in the Eastern Mediterranean after a gap of a few years because of geopolitical and security concerns.