CruiseCompete lets you in on travel trends. Snorkeling in Tahiti, anyone?

The private dock at Hotel Kia Ora Resort & Spa, French Polynesia. A ship from Windstar Cruises is seen in the distance.

The private dock at Hotel Kia Ora Resort & Spa, French Polynesia. A ship from Windstar Cruises is seen in the distance.

(Jeff Amlotte / Los Angeles Times)

Tahiti, the home of blue lagoons, misty green mountains and golden sunsets, has scored a win as one of the world’s most popular cruise ports.

The French Polynesian island, along with Amsterdam and Cozumel, Mexico, was among the top three destinations in a survey by CruiseCompete, an online travel company.

Tahiti is part of the Society Islands, which include Bora-Bora, Moorea and scores of other islands and atolls spread out across the South Pacific. The island’s capital, Papeete, is an eight-hour flight from Los Angeles, making interisland cruising aboard the ship Paul Gauguin easier to access than some dream destinations that are more distant.

Tahiti and its islands are increasingly being added to itineraries of cruise lines sailing out of U.S. ports, including Princess, Crystal, Celebrity and Holland America. Some lines package it with port calls in Hawaii.


“Papeete is a small, walkable city with a lively night life and restaurants,” said Bob Levinstein, chief executive of CruiseCompete, which compiles statistics that give an inside look at consumer cruise trends that you, as a cruiser, may notice as you

“French Polynesia has great diving options for both beginner and experienced divers. Lagoon waters offer opportunities for snorkeling, sailing, surfing, deep sea fishing and catamaran tours.”

In another, very different part of the globe, Amsterdam’s popularity stems from its desirability as a river cruise port. Visitors can tour more than 50 museums, many of them world-class, such as the Van Gogh Museum, Rijksmuseum, which reopened in 2013 after 10 years, Rembrandt House Museum and the Anne Frank House. The city’s floating flower market is another popular site.

“There are also the canals,” said Levinstein. “Most of the year you can explore the canal via a boat tour. But in the winter, when the conditions are right, you can actually skate along the frozen canals.”


In the Caribbean, Cozumel is riding a wave of popularity. It’s a quick trip from Florida’s ports so many cruise lines include it in their itineraries.

“In addition to beautiful beaches, extensive duty-free shopping, and a rollicking party atmosphere at bars like Carlos & Charlie’s, Cozumel features a lot of great outdoor activities,” Levinstein said.

Visitors to the port, at the southeastern tip of Mexico, can catch a bus to the famed Maya ruins at Tulum, or visit Chankanaab National Park, where they can swim with dolphins and manatees. Other draws: zip-line tours and tequila tasting parties.

CruiseCompete’s data are drawn from the consumers who use the website to find cruise deals. Those requests contain data about favorite ports, destinations, ships, and cruise lines. “We mine data to determine what is most popular across a variety of cruise categories,” Levinstein said.


The data change frequently because it’s based on demand, he said.

“For instance, Princess Cruises may do a series of ads that causes demand for their line,” he said. “New ships with interesting new features can make a difference. Even things like currency fluctuations—for example, if currency fluctuations make paying for European travel in dollars via a cruise instead of euros via a land tour—can change consumer behavior. “

Another trend the online cruise company has spotted focuses on Asian destinations, with increased interest in ports such as Bangkok, Thailand, Singapore, and Hong Kong.

Royal Caribbean International, Princess Cruises and Star Cruises are adding ships in Asia, and Asian river cruises are on the rise, too. “Cruisers long for the combination of exotic sights, sounds, tastes and experiences, " he said.


River cruising also continues to grow in popularity, domestically and internationally. In the United States, American Queen Steamboat ships and American Cruise Lines’ are the big players on the rivers and inland waterways.

Next year, Viking cruises, known for its European and Asian river cruises, will launch two new ships on the Mississippi and connecting rivers. Eventually, the company plans to have six ships plying American waters.



Tip of the week

Pack a small travel scale. Your ship doesn’t care how heavy your bags are, but if you have to fly home from your debarkation point — and you’ve made purchases along the route — you may have to pay overweight fees for your luggage. A scale can save you from the last-minute shifting of items from your bag to your carry-on or can alert you that you need to find a way to ship some items home.