The coming year will no doubt be another exciting one for the cruise industry.
According to Cruise Lines International Association (CLIA), cruise passenger volume has been growing since it began tracking in 2009. At that time, just 17.8 million passengers had cruised. Nine years later, CLIA forecasted 28 million passengers to cruise in 2018. While the final numbers have not been released at press time, it nevertheless has been a positive year-over-year growth.
This steady growth comes as no surprise, as cruisers have been consistently rewarding cruise lines with a satisfaction rate in the high 90s. The number one benefit of cruising is the ability to travel to several different destinations without checking in and out of hotels, sitting on coaches, or flying on airplanes. The inclusive nature of cruising looks after accommodations, meals, entertainment and activities in one price.
A ship also offers safety and consistency while travelling through remote or unfamiliar countries. Knowing that at the end of every day, a comfortable stateroom, English-speaking staff, and delicious cuisine await their return puts travellers at ease to explore areas of the world that otherwise would be unfeasible or impossible to reach on their own, such as Papua New Guinea, Western Africa, or the Northwest Passage.
Here are a few cruise trends we are watching for in 2019:
Cruising has always been a great family vacation, and there has been an increased focus on family-sized accommodations. Elaborate family suites with multiple bedrooms and living areas are now amongst the most impressive accommodations on ships. In late 2018, Royal Caribbean introduced a 1,346 square-foot, two-storey Ultimate Family Suite aboard Symphony of the Seas. The suite comes with built-in entertainment and activities for the entire family, including a slide, the latest video gaming devices, and a private cinema.
Children’s programs onboard ships continue to flourish with large amount of space dedicated to play rooms, with age-appropriate programming. Outdoor areas include extensive waterparks, slides, and kids’ pools. Partnerships with well-known children’s brands include Carnival with Dr. Seuss, MSC Cruises with LEGO, and Royal Caribbean with DreamWorks.
Expedition cruising continues to be hot, as travellers who have been there and done that are now looking to cross off the last of their bucket lists. While expedition ships have traditionally been basic, and some are working research vessels, luxury cruise lines are now penetrating the market. Crystal Cruises, Scenic, PONANT and Ritz Carlton are all launching purpose-built vessels in the next several years, with sprawling suites, multiple dining venues, onboard helicopters and submersibles. Clients who want extra pampering, butler service, champagne and gourmet cuisine will have more choice than ever.
The most surprising fact about expedition cruisers is that many are first time cruisers. They are looking to explore the destinations up close and personal, focusing on the geography, wildlife, local culture, and personal enrichment. These clients may not have expressed interest in cruising, but would consider an expedition voyage to visit places they otherwise would not be able to reach by themselves.
Recognizing the need to preserve the precious oceans they sail upon, cruise lines have implemented several environmentally-friendly initiatives. Shipboard operations include extensive recycling programs, the elimination of single-use straws, water bottles, and replacing disposable plastic bottles of in-room bath products with refillable dispensers.
Shoreside power is another innovation adapted by major ports, including the Port of Los Angeles and Port Metro Vancouver. Ships plugging into shore-side power are able to turn off their engines and run full vessel operations using the port’s electrical grid.
Advanced shipboard technologies include scrubbers to reduce emissions and the use of dynamic positioning, where a ship can hold its position in tendering ports with a combination of thrusters and propellers, without having to drop anchor in sensitive marine areas.
The latest initiative is the building of energy-efficient, low-pollution ships powered by liquefied natural gas (LNG), known as the cleanest burning fuel with close to zero emissions. LNG powered ships will be entering the market in 2019.