When it comes to the next new thing, cruise industry leaders are famously in the front lines with visionary plans. By all indications, 2015 promises more of the same, including a roster of new ships and a slate of timely developments.
First, the new guys on the block. In the lineup for a 2015 debut:
- AmaWaterways’ AmaSerena, AmaVista, and AmaDara (amawaterways.com)
- American Cruise Lines’ American Eagle (americancruiselines.com)
- Avalon Waterways’ Avalon Tapestry II, Avalon Tranquility II, Avalon Siem Reap, and Avalon Myanmar (avalonwaterways.com)
- CroisiEurope’s Loire Princesse (croisieuroperivercruises.com)
- Haimark’s M.S. Saint Laurent (haimarktravel.com)
- Norwegian Cruise Line’s Norwegian Escape (ncl.com)
- Ponant’s (formerly Compagnie du Ponant) Le Lyrial (en.ponant.com)
- Royal Caribbean’s Anthem of the Seas (royalcaribbean.com)
- Scenic’s Scenic Jasper and Scenic Opal (sceniccruises.com)
- Tauck’s Esprit (tauck.com)
- Uniworld’s S.S. Maria Theresa (uniworld.com)
- Viking Ocean Cruises’ Viking Star (vikingcruises.com)
- Viking River Cruises’ 12 new entries
- Windstar’s Star Breeze and Star Legend (windstarcruises.com)
What’s trending on the high seas and winding rivers? Here are 10 top trends:
1. All-inclusive. More and more cruise lines are including more and more features in the fare—which can add up to increased earnings for travel agents. Cruise lines making a recent change to all-inclusive pricing range from Uniworld’s river vessels to Crystal’s luxury liners.
2. Younger passengers. According to CLIA, 50 is now the average age of a cruiser. With companies targeting younger boomers and millennials, we’re seeing shorter cruises, fewer formal nights, and more adventurous activities, such as AmaWaterways’ overnight sail on a junk in Vietnam’s Ha Long Bay in Vietnam, and Un-Cruise Adventures’ journeys to Mexico’s Sea of Cortez, where clients may splash and snorkel with whale sharks. On New England/Canada itineraries, Crystal is introducing more active running tours to its array of walking tours, including a 5k run along the scenic carriage roads of Acadia National Park in Bar Harbor. Crystal is also adding more afternoon outings to its selection of shore excursions, aimed at those who might not welcome an early wake-up call after dancing the night away.
3. International cruisers. Thomas Mazloum, Crystal’s executive vice president notes, “We’ve gone from five to 25 percent in international business over the last decade.” The mix on a recent Crystal voyage included passengers from the U.S., the U.K., Canada, Australia, Japan, Russia, and Mexico. All eyes are on China.
4. Multi-generational travelers. Family travel continues to boom, and major cruise lines beckon with inviting facilities for all ages. Disney, of course, is made to order for families on every front. Holland America spokesman Erik Elvejord points out, “With free or reduced fares for third and fourth guests on select sailings, a family of four can plan a vacation in Europe or a tropical sailing to the Caribbean.” Also on tap are family-style adventures the likes of Carnival’s guided Alaskan wilderness trek for adults and kids age 9 and up, complete with train ride and traditional Alaskan meal.
5. Longer port visits. Scheduled overnights and late evenings in port are on the rise, allowing more time to shop and explore, as well as more time for shoreside dining and nightlife. Louis Cruises, which builds both late evenings and overnights into its 7-day Louis Cristal sailings from Piraeus, launches a voyage with an Athens overnight for travelers to take in the city’s treasure-trove.
6. Experiential offerings. Clients can choose among themed cruises, customized adventures, and compelling group excursions. Starting in 2015, every Windstar itinerary will serve up a complimentary onshore private event, such as an after-hours tour of the eye-popping Celsus Library at Ephesus followed by dining in the library courtyard, and a serenade by a trio from the Aegean Chamber Orchestra. In May comes Windstar’s Grand Prix cruise with a stop in Monaco and seats for the celebrated races, plus a Formula One expert to provide insights. Emerald Waterways, in its new 2015 Eastern Europe itinerary, will schedule a home-hosted lunch with a local family in Serbia. Silversea offers 2015 mid-voyage land tours ranging from a trip to India’s wondrous Taj Mahal and Jaipur, to a look at the Galapagos Islands, where cruisers can check out blue-footed boobies and sunbathing sea lions.
7. Food & Drink. Always a favorite topic, the sampling and sipping scene is showing off a noticeably expanding number of specialty restaurants and wine lists, not to mention celebrity chefs galore. Think names like Todd English and Nobu. Wine packages are popular—unless the cruise is all-inclusive, in which case wines and spirits are complimentary. Menu offerings often reflect ports of call with local dishes and wines. Silversea features a Relais-&-Chateaux cooking school at sea, plus in-port cooking classes and market outings to shop for the freshest local ingredients. Oceania’s new Culinary Discovery Tours will focus on the Caribbean in early 2015, with market shopping and hands-on instruction from Saint Lucia and Antigua chefs. The Princess Cruises fleet is rolling out not only new regional menus showcasing destination specialties, but “Chocolate Journeys”—total indulgence in Norman Love-designed decadent desserts, chocolate libations, and chocolate and wine pairings.
8. Entertainment. Depending on a client’s inclinations, cruise line entertainment of choice may mean song-and-dance productions or cultural programs—or both. Also, nightspots either restful or rocking. On July 4, Cunard will mark a momentous company event with a celebratory concert in Liverpool’s Anglican Cathedral, attended by passengers on Queen Mary 2’s 175th Anniversary Crossing. Come spring, Carnival will unveil its new “LIVE” Concert Series, kicking off with Smokey Robinson, Styx, and other acts. Among productions aboard Costa’s recently debuted Costa Diadema will be a circus act that invites passengers to participate on stage. Silversea schedules classical concerts, and both Silversea and Crystal present outstanding enrichment programs with lectures by notable guests.
9. Spas/fitness. On a seagoing vacation, a facial is likely to come with a Spa Menu, and fitness efforts with an ocean view. At Disney’s Castaway Cay, couples can opt for a massage in a private villa for two, while aboard MSC Divina, cruisers can pick from a menu of 21 massage variations. On Crystal ships, the spacious spa is inspired by Feng Shui-focused principles, and a new outdoor Fitness Garden is set to debut aboard Crystal Symphony. Seabourn, which pampers cruisers with a complimentary mini-massage on deck, will treat clients who book a Seabourn Penthouse Spa Suite to round-the-clock access to spa facilities. For those who prefer to stay in shape via dance moves, Cunard stages dance instruction sessions; on the Norwegian Breakaway dance classes are created by the famed high-kicking Rockettes; and on a Princess ship, Zumba lessons on deck are complimentary. Clients who choose a Celebrity AquaClass stateroom or suite may feast on “clean cuisine” in the line’s Blu restaurant.
10. Technology. Many clients now feel they must stay connected while traveling, and cruise lines are on the job with not only advancements in ship technology but improved personal convenience for passengers. In 2015, Regent Seven Seas sailings will add to the line’s all-inclusive features—a complimentary unlimited Internet program for guests booked in seven top-tier suite categories. (Guests in Penthouse and Concierge suites will continue to receive complimentary Internet time based on cruise length.) Travel planning technology to aid agents and their clients is similarly stepping up. Silversea is adding reservations for dining in specialty restaurants to other available reservation offerings, such as shore excursions and spa services, via the luxury line’s personal log-in-area.