The luxury cruise market is changing and these are the trends of 2024. Travellers becoming more active and adventurous – and with the demographic becoming younger, too.

According to data released at the 2023 Virtuoso Travel Week, overall sales and bookings for 2024 are not slowing down despite the global economic downturn.

Luxury cruise bookings are up 44 per cent over 2022 and 106 per cent over 2019. There is also a focus on science-focused luxury expedition sailings.

Luxury lines are catering to the change in the age of cruisers. They are offering more intrepid and immersive itineraries. Cruise lines are starting to venture into the expedition space with ships purpose-built for icy conditions and remote destinations.

Scenic Ocean, with its beautifully built polar-class yachts, is venturing into deeper parts of Antarctica. Scenic Eclipse II will sail deep into East Antarctica and the Ross Sea in 2024 and 2025 directly from New Zealand and Tasmania. This is an extremely remote part of Antarctica, an area which many regular expedition cruisers have not yet seen.

But rather than sacrificing comfort, Scenic Eclipse II, the second generation of yachts from the Australian line, has 10 restaurants, nine bars, and an expansive spa. Each suite comes with a personalised butler.

Four Seasons Yachts says it will redefine luxury at sea.

The days of research vessels are over

PONANT’s Le Commandant Charcot has a dedicated section for 20 scientists to work and live aboard each polar expedition.

Think gourmet dining, boot-warmers and spa amenities. You can go traipsing with the polar bears and then to a meal prepared by a Michelin-starred chef.

The onshore experience, too, is becoming more bespoke and tailored for “braggable” stories at dinner parties.

Take Regent Seven Seas, for example. While the onboard experience is opulent and detailed, this cruise line offers a new range of shore excursions that takes guests into homes of the locals for cooking classes, or into tiny tango halls in the heart of Argentina.

Next year, Regent Seven Seas will be enlisting the help of travel expert Brett Dudley, who will lead guests on selected sailings in South Africa and South America to some of his favourite secret spots.

A couple enjoying the exquisite decor on Regent Seven Seas.

However, the biggest drawcard for the wealthy adventurer is the ship having a submersible available to guests: it can dive up to 200 metres below the surface.

The luxury space is also anticipated to grow from four per cent from 2019 figures to six per cent by 2028. The order book for the next 12 months sees smaller ships which will have accessibility to smaller ports.

New kids on the block

Another big luxury cruise trend for 2024 is the launch of new ships. August brings fledgling line Explora Journeys’ second ship, Explora II. The vessel has been designed with the look and feel of a classy boutique hotel to encourage luxury landlubbers to discover the joys of a holiday at sea.

There’s a spa with a thermal suite where you can chill in saunas and steam rooms, an infinity pool with views over the sea and a feast of free restaurants.

Renderings of the Otium Suite on Silver Nova.

What’s also interesting about Explora Journeys is guests can do some interesting things in port. In Gothenburg, Sweden, the line can exclusively rent Hamneskär Island, a rugged paradise off the west coast of Sweden that’s reachable by private helicopter and RIB boats. Explora Journeys can organise an intimate party for two complete with chilled champagne, just-shucked oysters and dramatic stories of the island.

In July, Silversea launches the Silver Ray. Similar to her sister ship, Silver Ray has capacity for 728 passengers. But the piece de resistance is the new Roman-inspired Otium Suite. Measuring a staggering 123sqm, it comes with living room, separate bedroom, walk-in closet and 270-degree views. Each guest in the suite also has an included spa treatment to be primped and preened.

Yacht life

The battle of the high-end luxury yacht space is now dominated by hotel brands, each launching its own vessels to attract their luxury clientele to the high seas.

Next year, the Ritz-Carlton Yacht Collection launches its second ship, the Ilma, which will have no more than 450 berths. The ship is bigger than her sister ship, the Evrima, which can accommodate 298 guests.

The Ritz-Carlton even welcomes families onboard

Designed to look more like a tech-billionaire’s floating playground, these ships have menus created by three-starred Michelin chefs such as Sven Elverfield of Aqua, as well as watersports equipment for the adrenalin junkies.

Interestingly, the Ritz-Carlton Yacht Collection welcomes families – but the Ritz Kids program does come with a fee.

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