24 million. That’s how many people are expected to cruise this year. That’s 1 million more than last year. Ships? There are plenty of them to accommodate that number of passengers and many more—in fact, there are 52 new ocean-going CLIA ships on order between 2016 and 2022. And, according to CLIA’s 2016 Cruise Industry Outlook, eight out of 10 CLIA-member travel agents stated they are expecting an increase in sales in 2016 over last year. Who should you home in on? Those baby boomers and millennials, at least according to a study conducted by MMGY Global, whose findings were released during Seatrade in March. That study revealed that out of the 2,800 households surveyed—ages 18 and over—48 percent of the respondents were interested in taking a cruise in the next two years, and of those, 34 percent were boomers, while 32 percent were millennials. Keep in mind, though, even with the myriad cruise line offerings in the marketplace, this same survey revealed that only 11 percent of U.S. leisure travelers had taken a cruise in the last 12 months. That’s a whole lot of first-timers waiting to dive into the market, and with 27 percent of those surveyed saying they’d use the services of a travel agent in the next 12 months, there’s a whole lot of opportunity out there for you. In fact, CruiseOne franchise owner Shirley Melachrinoudis recommends travel agents “find out what [clients have] done on previous vacations, and use that to sell them on cruising. Telling them about my experiences helps a lot because I sell from my heart and not just from the brochure.”
Of those new 52 ocean-going ships debuting through 2022, there are several coming onto the scene this year, all offering a plethora of innovative experiences both on board and on shore. The 930-passenger Viking Sea, which set sail last month as Viking Ocean Cruises’ second ship, for instance, offers destination-focused cruises that allow passengers to delve more deeply into a destination with more time in port. Passengers can cook with a countess in Venice, go on a deep-sea raft adventure in Norway, or tag along for a beer adventure in Denmark. Coming in early 2017 is Viking Ocean Cruises’ third ship, Viking Sky. Also debuting last month was Holland America’s 2,650-guest Koningsdam, the first ship in the line’s Pinnacle-class and offering an array of options for passengers, including interactive culinary experiences, Family Oceanview staterooms, as well as Single staterooms, and the line’s Music Walk, with Lincoln Center Stage, B.B. King’s Blues Club/Queen’s Lounge and Billboard Onboard.
“A lot of people think Holland America is for the older clientele, yet with the addition of family rooms and solo cabins, I believe this line will be a great fit for multigenerational families,” Melachrinoudis points out.
For the summer, Koningsdam will be homeporting in Amsterdam, sailing a series of northern Europe and Baltic cruises before returning to the Mediterranean in September.
Late April saw the unveiling of Oceania Cruises’ Sirena, which underwent a transformative $40 million refurbishment before her inaugural voyage in Barcelona. Known for its culinary innovations, Oceania Cruises has introduced two new cuisine offerings on board the Sirena, including Tuscan Steak, and the Grand Dining Room’s transformation into Jacques Bistro during lunch, serving classic French fare.
Innovative experiences such as SkyRide, a suspended cycling attraction, the first IMAX Theatre at sea, a 455-ft.-long water slide called Kaleid-o-slide—the longest in the fleet—and Family Harbor staterooms and suites debuted on the 3,954-passenger Carnival Vista, which set off on its inaugural cruise early this month. The Carnival Vista is scheduled to operate 8- to 13-day Mediterranean cruises from Barcelona and Athens, then reposition to New York in November for a pair of 11-day voyages.
According to Melachrinoudis, though, Royal Caribbean’s Harmony of the Seas—which will debut with a European cruise season June through October 2016—“has the most innovative elements, with their virtual balconies, iFly, roller skating, bumper cars and circus school. These innovative activities create endless memories for families.”
For innovations of the luxurious kind look to Regent Seven Seas Cruises’ 750-passenger Seven Seas Explorer, set to sail on its inaugural cruise in July. It will be home to the 3,875-sq.-ft. Regent Suite, will be the first ship at sea to offer Guerlain products in all Penthouse suites and above, will debut Gourmet Explorer Tours—which we elaborate on in Recommend’s April Culinary Travel issue—and will feature lavishly designed gourmet restaurants, including two new specialty dining venues, Chartreuse and Pacific Rim. The ship will spend its inaugural season in Europe before heading to Miami for a series of Caribbean voyages. Additionally, Regent Seven Seas is planning a 2-year, $125 million fleet-wide refurbishment program that will begin with the 490-guest Seven Seas Navigator; the public spaces and suites to be refurbished will feature the same style and attention to detail featured on Seven Seas Explorer. Seabourn, too, is upping the luxury ante with the debut of the 300-suite Seabourn Encore. This Odyssey-class ship will launch from Athens in December, offering two pre-inaugural cruises exploring the coasts of Israel, Arabia, India and Southeast Asia; Seabourn Encore will then spend the remainder of its maiden season operating a series of 16-day voyages cruising the Pacific Rim in Australia and New Zealand. Living up to its high-end status, the Encore will offer passengers a personal suite stewardess, top-notch dining venues, and verandahs on almost every suite, but one of the ship’s ultimate knockouts is The Retreat, a “rooftop getaway,” with 15 private cabanas designed as luxury living rooms that each feature an HD flat-screen TV and refrigerator stocked with a personalized selection of beverages. The Retreat, accommodating up to 28 guests at a time, will also offer a Spa Treatment Cabana. Looking into the future, Encore’s sister ship, Seabourn Ovation, will join the fleet in 2018.
Cunard, the epitome of high-end cruising, is remastering the timeless Queen Mary 2. When she comes out of dry dock on June 21, 2016, she’ll debut with 15 new Single Staterooms, an additional 30 Britannia Club Balcony Staterooms, and 10 new kennels for pets. There will also be changes to the luxurious Queens Grill Duplex Apartment and Penthouse Suite; The Verandah will debut with French regional cooking; the ship’s Winter Garden will be remastered into the Carinthia Lounge, with light breakfast and lunch dishes; and the ship’s King Court will be completely redesigned with an open layout and interactive guest experiences. In 2017, Queen Mary 2 will cross the Atlantic 24 times, from May to December, in 7- to 8-night voyages that leave from New York, Southampton and Le Havre; the ship will also offer roundtrip New York and Southampton cruises to New England & Canada, the Caribbean and European Grand Voyages.
And do keep your eyes peeled for Scenic’s 228-passenger Scenic Eclipse, debuting in 2018 and being hailed as the world’s “first Discovery yacht.” What that means to your clients is a truly luxurious vessel that allows them to get into the heart of a destination, including the Polar regions. It will cater to guests’ adventurous sides with such toys as helicopters, submarines, kayaks, Zodiacs, e-bikes, and the like, allowing passengers to play as they want while discovering a destination. This is all complemented by sumptuous onboard amenities and accommodations. Crystal Cruises, meanwhile, is debuting what it calls “the world’s largest mega-yacht,” the 200-guest Crystal Endeavor, in 2018, designed for global expedition in Arctic, Antarctic and tropical destinations. It, too, will have helicopters, a submarine and water toys, as well as luxurious interiors, including 3,122-sq.-ft. Owner Suites.
Referring to Crystal Cruises’ other yacht, the Esprit, Melachrinoudis says, “It is innovative and something different with the Crystal signature and service. I think it will do very well for Crystal’s clientele.”
A Grand Lineup of Itineraries
When it comes to innovations in itineraries, no one is resting on their laurels. Take Crystal Cruises’ 2017 itinerary highlights, including its first-ever voyages to New Guinea, a second 32-day Northwest Passage transit, and itineraries designed around key events such as Midsummer’s Eve in Stockholm, and an overnight in Muscat on the Sultan’s birthday. Oceania Cruises, meanwhile, is expanding its myriad itineraries for 2017 and 2018 with seven first-ever ports for the line, including Bastia (Corsica); Husavik, Iceland; Nice; Sept-Iles, Quebec; Charlotte Amalie, St. Thomas; Nantes, France; and Rijeka, Croatia; and the line’s Sirena ship will spend most of summer 2017 touring the Mediterranean Sea, then she’ll head as far north as Dublin on the 12-day Lisbon-to-Bilbao Kings & Kingdoms voyage, before making a trans-Atlantic crossing for the winter season.
Princess Cruises is catering to passengers’ requests for more immersive experiences with its Global Partners + Local Experts program, which features exclusive destination content and shore experiences designed in partnership with a network of local experts to highlight the most authentic and inspiring experiences in each port. Destination-based elements include local speakers; exclusive guest experiences in port; new tour programs and tours; partner port guides and walking maps; new port welcome and departure experiences; and an insider’s guide including “cool things” made in each port.
And just last month, Carnival announced the launch of Cozumel Plus itineraries operated by 17 different Carnival ships offering more than 750 four- to eight-day cruises from six U.S. homeports along the East Coast and the Gulf of Mexico. The itineraries give guests access to a variety of new excursions, including swimming with whale sharks, visiting centuries-old ruins and swimming in hidden caverns, complementing nearly 50 existing tours already available.
Carnival Cruise Line: carnival.com
Crystal Cruises: crystalcruises.com
Holland America Line: hollandamerica.com
Oceania Cruises: oceaniacruises.com
Princess Cruises: princess.com
Regent Seven Seas Cruises: rssc.com
Royal Caribbean: royalcaribbean.com
Viking Ocean Cruises: vikingcruises.com/oceans
Getting There in Style
Regent Seven Seas Cruises is now offering free, intercontinental roundtrip Business Class air for all guests, available on all European, Asian and South American voyages where a guest would need to travel on an intercontinental flight in order to board, or return home from as Regent Seven Seas Cruises ship. The free Business Class air is available from 26 U.S. and Canadian gateway cities and offered to all guests, no matter what category of suite booked.