There is no doubt that the cruise industry is growing rapidly. Last year saw 24 ships launch, increasing capacity by more than 70,000 berths, and 2019 is set to be even bigger. At MSC Cruises our order book is larger than any other single cruise line and I rarely make it through the day without someone asking me, “Are you sure there is demand for all this capacity?” The short answer is yes. In the UK we have one of the most dynamic, competitive cruise markets in the world and it is markets such as ours that are driving the design of these innovative, exciting ships.
At MSC Cruises we are building bigger ships quite simply so we can put more facilities on them. Trends are changing in everything from what people are expecting to eat to what people are expecting to do or see on a cruise holiday. Our newest ship, MSC Bellissima, which will launch in March from Southampton, is a perfect example of trends outside of travel driving the on-board proposition. From the 12 unique dining venues to the two new Cirque du Soleil at Sea shows, Syma and Varélia, guests are demanding choice and variety and we are building ships to accommodate these demands.
The number of places you can visit on a ship is growing. At MSC Cruises alone in 2018 we visited 191 different ports of call across 80 different countries, and with ship designs becoming more advanced and port infrastructures developing, this is set to increase further in 2019 as all cruise lines add new ports of call. In 2018, 16.66 million people visited Dubai, making it the fourth most visited city in the world. It is a popular destination among UK guests, but why visit just Dubai when over seven nights on a cruise you can also visit Abu Dhabi, the private Sir Bani Yas island, Muscat and Khasab in Oman before returning to Dubai and spending an overnight on-board stay in the city before disembarking.
The opportunities with a cruise holiday are endless both from a destination and experience point of view, which are the main reasons I am so confident that the increased capacity will be met by demand, especially by the next generation. Generation Z are travellers who will always seek to explore the world, and it is this that makes a cruise the perfect choice for them. This is demonstrated by the 2018 ABTA report, which states that over half of 18-24 year olds have not been on a cruise yet, but they would like to. This market provides huge potential for cruise lines and we need to ensure they are considering a cruise as an option.
At MSC Cruises we are always seeking innovative ways to promote cruise to new audiences. We believe in showing people rather than telling them, which is why we engage influencers to create content that shows the side of a cruise they know their audience will be interested in. This content is creatively shot in real time and is showcased on a platform that the particular target audience are engaged with, and most importantly that they trust. In the same way we want to showcase our ships to travel agents, and in 2019 more agents than ever before will be invited to explore our ships. On-board MSC Bellissima alone we will invite more than 3,500 agents to celebrate the launch of the ship so that they can physically live the holiday experience they are selling.
There is absolutely a cruise for everyone and, as an industry, it is our responsibility to reach those new audiences and expand distribution, and highlight which cruise and why. The future of cruise is exciting, dynamic and, for MSC Cruises of course, means more ships. Here’s to a wonderful 2019.