For our Where next for Cruise? feature, several leading industry figures talk about what the future holds in 2019 and beyond, looking at changes in technology, regulations and capacity. We begin with Clia’s Andy Harmer who gives us his overview of the industry as a whole.
As the cruise industry looks to attract even the most discerning of travellers, cruise lines have started to work with non-cruise designers. P&O Cruises announced that its new megaship Iona will feature the SkyDome, which will include a “hidden” night club, a boutique cinema and a pool with a retractable stage. The SkyDome’s giant glazed dome roof has been designed by award-winning engineers Eckersley O’Callaghan, the firm behind glass structures such as London’s Embassy Gardens Sky Pool and Bulgari’s flagship New York boutique hotel.
On board MSC’s new ship Bellissima, a 96m central promenade filled with boutiques, restaurants and tranquil spots for shopping and relaxing will offer a new on-board experience. And one of the newest brands to the industry, Virgin Voyages, has recruited some of the world’s leading interior design firms – none of which have worked within the cruise industry before.
Similarly, interior designer Kelly Hoppen, who is known for her hotel and commercial development designs, collaborated with Celebrity Cruises on its newest ship, Celebrity Edge. In 2019 you can expect to see even more cruise lines working with non-cruise designers as the industry looks to keep upping its game with unique and forward-thinking interior and exterior designs.
Cruise lines are putting technology at the heart of the guest experience to ensure an incredible seamless journey through the ship. Technologies range from complex infrastructure to create “smart ships” to apps travellers can access on their own devices to order services. Furthermore, cruise lines will look to new technologies that lessen the environmental impact of ships, such as solar panels and liquefied natural gas (LNG). By 2027, 11 ships will have launched that use LNG at sea as well as in port – seven Carnival-branded ships and two each from Royal Caribbean and MSC.
It is now true more than ever that there is a cruise for everyone. Over the past few years multigenerational cruising has seen rapid growth thanks to the breadth of ships and itineraries available, plus the relaxed and convivial nature of a holiday at sea. It is appealing to all ages – teenagers who seek adventure and want to see several destinations are more than happy to go on a cruise with their parents, and grandparents taking their grandchildren away to give the parents some time off. Multi-gen cruising (grandparents, parents and children travelling together) is strongly anticipated to continue throughout 2019 and way beyond.
The growth in the expedition cruise sector is one of the hottest trends we are seeing for 2019 and into the next decade. Once, travelling to the polar regions or the Galapagos was only for the most intrepid travellers. Now, thanks to some incredible ships, it is possible to explore the farthest parts of the world in comfort and style. Expedition cruises appeal to a wide range of travellers – from seasoned cruisers looking for a completely new experience, to wildlife enthusiasts, walkers and trekkers, naturalists and those who would not normally consider a “mainstream” type cruise as a holiday option. With 10 new expedition and adventure ships launching in 2019 and a further five in 2020, you can certainly expect to start hearing more about expedition cruises in the next year.
River cruise is undergoing somewhat of a renaissance. In 2017, the UK river cruise market reached 210,400 passengers, up more than one-fifth on 2016, thanks to innovation on board, as well as exciting and diverse new shore options, which are attracting new and repeat guests. European river cruises, which account for almost 90 per cent of bookings, were the driving force behind this exceptional growth, specifically cruises on the Douro, Russian waterways, Rhine and Danube. Cruises in central and western Europe accounted for almost two-thirds (62 per cent) of all river cruise bookings, with the Rhine and Danube leading the way. However, it was eastern and southern Europe that saw the most growth, predominantly on Russian waterways and on the Douro.