On cruises, expect more emphasis on food, tech, solo travel and far-flung ports
Where will your passport take you this year? Thanks to the booming cruise industry, you can choose from a bumper crop of destinations.
More than 20 new ships will launch in 2019, bringing the number of cruise vessels to more than 300. They’ll visit more than 1,200 ports and will carry an estimated 3 million passengers.
As the popularity of cruising has increased, the industry has developed new ways to appeal to passengers of varying ages: new itineraries, entertainment, technologies and adventures.
Here’s a look at some trends cruisers will find this year, according to Cruise Lines International Assn., a trade organization, and other cruise industry insiders.
Health and wellness
If you’re a runner, Weight Watcher, CrossFit fan or vegan, there’s a cruise with your name on it.
Themed sailings occur year-round; you’ll find a list of more than 500 at ThemeCruiseFinder.com. Cruise lines are tapping into America’s fitness and wellness desires by offering more health-related classes and excursions on most sailings.
Among the new options: Learn the flowing motions of tai chi on the beach of the Spanish island of Mallorca with Regent Seven Seas; practice yoga at dawn on the deck of Lindblad Expeditions’ National Geographic Venture on the Gulf of California; or spend a day meditating with a monk in a golden temple in Bangkok with Oceania Cruises.
The days when cruise passengers felt disconnected from the rest of the world are almost gone. Some of the industry’s biggest players are investing millions of dollars in systems that offer increasingly reliable Wi-Fi service.
Some are making Wi-Fi more affordable: Carnival Corp.’s cruise ships, for instance, offer passengers a package that offers access to all social media sites for $5 a day.
Technology is improving other elements of the cruise experience too. Princess Cruises now offers the Ocean Medallion, a wearable device that can be used to order food, drinks and custom entertainment and participate in interactive gaming. Other lines, such as MSC Cruises, have developed similar systems.
Instagrammable cruise travel
Along with improved Wi-Fi is a greater use of Instagram, which is changing the way people travel. They’re not just looking for beautiful places and cultures to discover for themselves; they also want to show their friends where they are and what they’re eating.
That’s why culinary travel, on board and ashore, will continue to draw travelers. Most lines are tapping into this trend by seeking outside experts. Holland America Line, for instance, has developed an international culinary council made up of celebrity chefs who bring a global flavor to dining venues across the fleet.
Experiential and achievement travel
Experiential travel — a popular form of tourism that focuses on experiencing a place by engaging its history, people, culture and food — will continue to grow in 2019. So will achievement travel, the cruise line association said in its “2019 Cruise Trends and Industry Outlook” report.
“Vacationers are looking for experiences beyond sightseeing,” the CLIA report said. “Bucket lists have become goal-oriented and cruise lines are meeting these demands. Passengers can conquer Machu Picchu [in Peru] or complete culinary workshops hosted by Le Cordon Bleu chefs.”
Spend time in the spa, shop until you drop or laze by the pool: Sometimes it’s easier to indulge without guilt when you travel with girlfriends instead of a spouse or boyfriend.
As the number of women travelers continues to grow, many travel companies are creating female-centered itineraries based on interests and connecting with other women.
Traveling solo can be addictive. You can do exactly what you want, when you want. Cruise companies are making it easier and less expensive.
Although some lines still force single travelers to pay two fares, an increasing number of cruise companies are creating solo cabins with lower fares.
Norwegian Cruise Line is a leader, with studio cabins on many of its ships. It also gives solo travelers access to a lounge where they can meet other single travelers. Holland America, Royal Caribbean International and Celebrity Cruises also offer solo cabins. Other lines sometimes discount fees for single travelers.
As the number of ships increases, cruise lines are having to find new ports and adventures to attract passengers. Earth’s polar regions are a prime draw; places that once were too remote to explore are now being opened up by new Polar Class icebreaker vessels.
The Norwegian line Hurtigruten, with a new ship in 2018 and another this year, is a prime example, and Ponant, Lindblad Expeditions and Silversea are among other lines offering passengers a chance to see these frozen landscapes.
Four polar ships are expected to launch by 2020.
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