South Africa – The cruise industry is happily looking forward to a new year with great potential, and it’s not just a case of wishful thinking. Thanks to more ports, ships, and on-board options, more and more people are giving cruising a try as it becomes more accessible worldwide.
An estimated 20 million people went on at least one cruise in 2013, the Cruise Lines International Association (CLIA) says, and the organisation, which represents 63 cruise lines, predicts that number could approach 22 million this year.
According to George Argyropoulos of South African based Cruises International, here are six cruising trends to watch:
Crystal Cruises’ has announced their newest perk to its All Inclusive luxury cruise experience: free Wi-Fi for Crystal Society members – the line’s “club” of repeat guests. From September 2014, guests will be given 60 minutes complimentary internet access for every day of the cruise.
For years, connectivity on cruise ships has been spotty at best, with painfully slow Wi-Fi networks and wildly expensive charges for even a simple email check. Even those guests who take a cruise to disconnect from the world need to stay in touch with the home or the office from time to time. Cruise lines will also see greater integration of smartphone and iPad technology.
Even more new ships
Last year saw a huge influx of new ships, including the Norwegian Breakaway and the Royal Princess. Leading the hotly anticipated entrants is the Royal Caribbean’s Quantum of the Seas.
The Quantum class of ships is a new leap forward in vessel design with groundbreaking innovations like RipCord by iFly – the first skydiving experience at sea and transformational dining venues like the Seaplex and Two70° that morph from day to night.
The U.S. has long led the way in number of passengers aboard cruise ships, and that will continue to be the case. But we can expect to see an influx of Brazilian, British and German passengers as the industry starts to lure other nationalities, for both cruises in the Mediterranean and the Caribbean. In terms offirst-time passenger growth, we see it coming greatly from younger generation travelers such as the Millennials (30 years old and younger).
Extreme shore excursions
Traditional shore excursions and sightseeing will always have their place, but Argyropoulos says more-interesting off-ship activities are being added to itineraries, in part to appeal to the Millennial generation that is demanding of brag-worthy hands-on activities, as well as to appeal to the luxury clients who are becoming more adventurous and seeking unique experiences.
Cruise lines are actively working to create experiences that makes guests say “that’s going up on Facebook” Berra says. Active vacations at sea with extreme and soft-adventure excursions means longer stays in ports for added sightseeing and high-energy onboard facilities.
A Geographic Shift
After a surge in sails around the Mediterranean, cruise lines are moving back to the Caribbean, where nearly 40% of worldwide capacity is concentrated. In Europe, fewer staterooms will be available this year as cruise lines have had trouble filling ships in recent years for a variety of reasons, including ongoing economic instability in the region.
To add to the Caribbean, hot destinations for 2014 also include Trans Pacific, U.S. Rivers, South America, Antarctic, Middle East, Africa and Exotic Rivers. The addition of more exotic locations means a drive in new itinerary competition and cruise ship deployment.
Luxury Cruise Lines
The Oceania Marina & Oceania Riviera have been fitted with the world’s first floating cooking schools, the Bon Appetit Culinary Centre, and many competitor liners are looking to do the same within the next few years. The increase in luxury cruising has been stimulated by an improving economy and increased consumer confidence.
Luxury cruise lines such as Seabourn Cruise Line, Crystal Cruises and Azamara Club Cruises have significantly improved the value offering by becoming all-inclusive, offering a much elevated lifestyle experience on board, truly unique and hard to emulate experiences ashore, superb dining and more.
A luxury cruise may seem more expensive upfront but once one considers all the additional charges commanded by the contemporary and premium cruise lines the cost becomes very similar.