Holidays are increasingly being booked up to three years in advance as cruise lines continue to roll out a large variety of new itineraries and new ships.
The change in booking patterns, reaching beyond 2021, is just one of the surprising findings of Cruise Passenger‘s poll of senior cruise executives throughout the region on what they see as the trends for the coming 12 months.
The new year ushers in new features on ships, from design trends of green urban spaces on the Celebrity Edge, combining culinary and wellness on your holiday, to exclusive shows that you can catch onboard.
The itineraries rolling out in 2019 cater to the classic favourites in Europe but also bring cruisers to new popular destinations like Alaska and more uncommon ones like Cuba and the Mexican Riviera.
“We’re expecting continued demand for bespoke, customised and personalised travel experiences, incorporating cruising, which is why it’s never been more important to find a knowledgeable travel agent – especially in the upper premium and luxury cruising sectors,” says Lisa Pile, Vice President Sales Australia and New Zealand at Regent Seven Seas Cruises.
Where will Australians be heading?
Luxury cruise lines like Regent Seven Seas Cruises and Oceania cruises foresee Europe remaining the number one destination for long haul travellers in 2019 but there are upcoming new favourites as well.
The cooler climates and untouched landscapes in Scandinavia, Alaska, the Baltics and Iceland as well as uncommon destinations like Cuba and the Mexican Riviera beckoning the Australian crowd.
Nearly 40,000 Australians sailed to Alaska in 2017 with Norwegian Cruise Line and to cater to the rising demand, the cruise line will have its two newest ships, Norwegian Joy and Norwegian Bliss sailing weekly to Alaska from Seattle. Their Alaskan itineraries are so popular that Norwegian Bliss has become the most forward booked ship in the brand’s history.
Cruise lines like Princess Cruises, who is celebrating 50 years of cruising in Alaska this year, and Regent Seven Seas Cruises are also expecting the demand to grow.
“As a result of strong demand, we’re offering 17 Alaskan voyages from May through September cruising the Inside and Outside Passage and visiting ports in Anchorage, Icy Strait, Juneau, Ketchikan, Sitka, Skagway, Wrangell and the Hubbard Glacier,” says Lisa Pile, Vice President Sales Australia and New Zealand at Regent Seven Seas Cruises.
The demand for more uncommon destinations is also bringing Regent Seven Seas Cruises to Turkey in 2019 and having Oceania Cruises expand their Cuban itineraries so that more guests can enjoy the rich and vibrant arts and culinary scene.
“We are also finding younger guests seeking out cruising as a new and viable way to see trending destinations such as Cuba,” says Lisa Pile.
Meanwhile, Carnival Cruise Line is seeing more passengers exploring the Mexican Rivera. This includes enjoying the underwater scenery of Cabo San Lucas, sparkling nightlife of Puerto Vallarta and La Paz to even trying your hand at sport fishing.
Carnival Panorama will be home ported in Long Beach, from December 2019. She will be the first brand-new ship deployed on the West Coast of the USA in 20 years.
Boutique luxury cruise line Azamara is also offering travellers the unique opportunity to visit some New Zealand’s best-kept secrets in 2019, with maiden calls to Gisborne, Nelson, Kaikoura and Oban, Stewart Island. The itinerary is perfect for cruisers who love explore off the beaten track.
Princess Cruises is expecting their biggest Australian season in history in 2019/2020, with Regal Princess arriving in Australia Medallion Class ready.
The Sky Princess, sister ship to the Royal Princess, Regal Princess and Majestic Princess, will also make her debut in the Mediterranean in October 2019.
RSSC is launching Seven Seas Splendor, sister ship to the Seven Seas Explorer – the most luxurious ship ever built, in February 2020 to sail Europe and Cuba.
For Norwegian, in addition to newly debuted Norwegian Bliss in Alaska, Norwegian Encore, the final vessel of the Breakaway Plus Class will also join the fleet in November 2019 to cruise seasonally from Miami to the Eastern Caribbean.
Celebrity Cruises will be debuting Celebrity Flora in May 2019 to sail the Baltra Island in the Galapagos. The 100-guest ship will have an anchorless technology to protect the sea floor, an open-air stargazing platform, expert-lead ecological seminars and the first onboard glamping experience at sea.
Royal Caribbean’s Spectrum of the Seas, Asia’s largest ship, will also be launching in May. It will boast an exclusive suites-only area, which will feature Golden and Silver suite accommodations in a private enclave at the forward end of the ship.
Oceania will also be launching Sirena, the second ship to undergo the US$100 million re-inspiration of the line’s four 684-guest R-class ships as part of the OceaniaNEXT initiative this year. Insignia showed off her new look in December 2018 and will kick off 2019 with a 180-day around the world voyage from New York.
Carnival Splendor will also get a significant bow-to-stern upgrade before she sails to homeport in Sydney. She’ll receive some of the features Australian passengers love the most, including a range of new dining experiences tailored to the local tastes of Australian guests and a brand-new waterpark.
It will boast an exclusive suites-only area, which will feature Golden and Silver suite accommodations in a private enclave at the forward end of the ship.
Voyager of the Seas is also returning to Australian shores in November this year after a revitalisation.
Being wined and dined is something that every guest can look forward to onboard cruises and the lines continue to serve it up in 2019. RSSC and Oceania are combining food and wellness onboard so you return from your holiday rejuvenated rather than overindulged.
The health-conscious gourmands will find their feast on RSSC’s Compass Rose, serving Canyon Ranch® spa cuisine during lunch and dinner that is created to be balanced and highly nutritious.
Oceania Cruises, the first cruise line to offer a vegan menu, is also introducing new healthy four course menu selections.
Adventurous foodies can also perk up at Oceania’s new “Global Cuisine” menu that features bolder and more adventurous ethnic dishes from the world.
The luxury cruise lines are also responding to a rising demand for more flexible and casual dining with RSSC now serving dinner at its pool grills on all four ships every evening. Rock up in relaxed attire and dine comfortably in the open-air venue.
At Norwegian, they continue to have with no set dining times and up to 27 dining options on some ships so guests can dine wherever and wherever they want.
Celebrity Cruises have also launched a culinary-focused Wine Lover Cruises and are proving popular amongst Aussie travellers, with the first sailing departing Auckland on 12 February 2019, and the second departing from Fremantle on 28 February 2019.
Michelin and Celebrity chefs
Cruise lines are also continuing to draw foodies onboard with Michelin and Celebrity chefs. On Princess Cruises, six world-class chefs are working across their fleet crafting cuisine for Australians and New Zealanders, including two Michelin-starred chefs – Emmanuel Renaut and Richard Chen who have designed the menus onboard Majestic Princess.
Regent Seven Seas Cruises’ have also recently launched 22 Gourmet Explorer Tours for their upcoming Mediterranean season. Each tour is handcrafted by the line’s Executive Director of Culinary Enrichment, Chef Kathryn Kelly, in partnership with a vast network of Michelin-starred chefs and local culinary experts
For Celebrity chefs, Australian Chef Curtis Stone will also have two restaurants sailing local waters in 2019 with SHARE , available on both Sun Princess and Ruby Princess.
Guests can also find Food Network superstar, Guy Fieri’s onboard burger bar, Guy’s Burger Joint onboard Carnival Spirit and Carnival Legend and will also be added to Carnival Splendor before she hits our shores in 2019. Get a taste of classic American cooking but don’t forget to ask for the secret Aussie Boomerang Burger!
Carnival’s Hasbro, The Game Show is a great one for the kids, with all of your favourite board games, life sized! There is also Lip-Sync Battle for their cruising rock stars to battle it out with their best lip-sync performance complete with costumes, lighting and back-up dancers.
Norwegians newest ship Norwegian Encore cruising the Eastern Caribbean in November 2019 will debut Tony Award®-Winning Broadway Musical “Kinky Boots”. The Australian hit ‘Velvet,’ will also be making its debut at sea onboard Norwegian Jewel.
Theatre and show lovers can also enjoy two new and exclusive Cirque du Soleil shows, ‘SYMA’ and ‘Varélia’ on MSC Bellissima, the second of Meraviglia-class ships, which is making her debut in March 2019.
Meanwhile, fun lovers can look out for an Enhanced Race Track, Laser Tag Arena and Virtual Reality Complex on the Norwegian Encore.
Celebrity Cruises is also introducing Discovery Collection shore excursions to enable 2019 travellers to see the best of New Zealand. Crafted with the advice of local experts, each Discovery Collection excursion must must be iconic, exclusive and locally-inspired in order to be selected for the programme.
“A compact trove of adventure and magnificent scenery, New Zealand is also the ideal destination to immerse yourself in cultural and wildlife experiences like a local. And there’s no better way to really get under the skin of a destination than by getting off the beaten track and visiting the smaller, lesser known locales,” says Susan Bonner, Vice President and Managing Director RCL Cruises, Australia and New Zealand.