One of the most wonderful things about cruise vacations is that the industry is constantly rethinking their approach; every year brings new ideas, new innovations, and ships with amenities and itineraries that make every vacation a new experience. We’ve been talking with experts in the industry, travel writers, and the cruise-loving public to determine what will be new- and improved- in cruising this year. Here’s what we’ve discovered:
- River cruises will remain in vogue. River cruising will remain highly popular. The river lines are seeking and adding new destinations, such as AmaWaterways adding Africa and Asia itineraries. The river ships will even more so reflect ever-more luxurious accommodations and wide-ranging land tour options. It remains the ultimate “get local” cruise travel experience.
- Exotic destinations will increase in both popularity and available locales. U.S.-based lines are increasing their global presence and more overseas lines are coming to the U.S. Disney Cruise Line has expanded its European ports of call. In 2014, new ports will include Catania, Corfu, Katakolon, Rhodes, Heraklion, Santorini, Tenerife and Ibiza.
- Cruises in Asia & surrounding areas increase in popularity. The Asia continent is currently expanding its cruise port options, and the region will become a major player within the next few years. In particular, expect continued port development in Shanghai (currently constructing two new development zones, as well as the Shanghai International Cruise Industry Development Comprehensive Reform Pilot Area.). The Chinese Cruise Tourism Development Pilot projects a sizable increase in tourism as these projects come to fruition.
- Novel new entertainment at sea. Cruise lines are doubling down on fun and glamour, providing attractions from Broadway hits to dancers from “Dancing with the Stars.” Technology will continue to impress on some of the upcoming new ships, including Royal Caribbean’s Quantum of the Seas’ North Star observatory.
- Educational travel will gain in popularity. In particular, many baby boomers seek destinations related to places they have either read about or seen on television documentaries. The Audie Murphy Memorial in France is well off the beaten path but easily accessed on a Viking river cruise.
- All-inclusive options will increase. More cruise lines are featuring drink packages, both soft drinks and alcohol. Expect to see similar packaging of additional items, such as for specialty restaurants. See the all-inclusive lines and chart here with details:http://allthingscruise.com/all-inclusive/.
- Anytime dining is losing ground to set seating. A novelty just a few years ago, “anytime dining” appears to be losing its allure as more cruisers favor a set seating arrangement. Most cruisers favor the ambience of the same table, with the same dining guests and servers. For those favoring anytime dining, the cruise lines offering this feature are still around.
- Spa cabins are becoming increasingly popular. These special spa staterooms – so named for their proximity to the spa – are located near the top of the ship, typically adjacent to the spa. In addition to easy spa access, they feature reduced rates for spa services and priority status for booking appointment times. The staterooms also have luxurious robes and slippers that passengers can use for spa services, along with higher-quality toiletries in their rooms.
More private ship-within-a-ship areas. Those looking for an exclusive cruise experience no longer have to limit themselves to the “luxury” lines. Ships like Royal Caribbean’s Oasis of the Seas and Allure of the Seas have a keyed entry system to the Crown loft suites area onboard. It offers a truly exclusive area within the ship, including two-level lofts that feature outstanding views. Living and dining areas are typically featured on the lower level, with a master suite and bath on the upper level. Unique ship privileges and increased amenities are included in the package. Look for the other lines to expand with similar offerings.
- Ultra-luxury cruising becomes even more luxurious. Current trends with the luxury cruise lines reflect a movement to truly all inclusive packaging. The standout lines are including gratuities, all drinks and dining, and shore excursions in their pricing, along with luxury touches like 24-hour service and private butlers. To see examples of what’s included on the luxury lines, please visit: http://allthingscruise.com/all-inclusive/.
- Multi-generational travel is on the rise. Veteran cruisers have surely noticed more grandparents accompanying their children and grandchildren on “three-generation” trips. Taking family cruises is an economical way to enjoy a family gathering without anyone having to play host with all the cooking and cleaning involved. Everyone can relax and be pampered on a cruise, and there are numerous activity options for cruisers of all ages.
- Cruise ship weddings will increase in popularity. More people are choosing to be married on cruise ships. The primary reasons: fewer prices and less stress. Wedding packages are available with special cabins for the bride and groom, and feature special areas for the bridal party to prepare for the wedding. Different venues are available on the ship for the ceremony and the reception. Wedding photographers can be supplied, as can a minister or Justice of the Peace. The newlyweds can then honeymoon right there on the ship, with their guests often given a price break if they also wish to book the cruise.
- Enhancements to onboard technology continue (to impress). Staying connected is easier than ever with upgrades to various media outlets and an increased shipboard ability to access them. Luxury line Silversea recently increased their onboard media options, adding newspapers and lifestyle magazines to their complimentary onboard digital service. Passengers of the line can now use their smartphones or tablets to access hundreds of newspapers and lifestyle magazines from 100 countries and in 56 languages. Expect other lines to follow suit.
- Onboard safety procedures will become consistent throughout the industry.Following the Concordia disaster in January 2013, cruise lines spent considerable effort evaluating their safety protocols and procedures. Some regulatory changes have already been made, but expect these internal assessments to result in a more cohesive standard throughout the industry in 2014.