Next year three of the biggest ships the UK has ever seen will base their operations out of Southampton. Royal Caribbean’s Quantum of the Seas, Princess Cruises’ Royal Princess and P&O’s Britannia will all be vying for the lucrative ex-UK market, but exactly how lucrative are UK sailings?
Carnival Cruise Line – the biggest cruise line in the world – has pulled out of Europe, MSC is currently focusing on the Mediterranean, while Norwegian Cruise Line has committed to two Southampton sailings in 2015 with Norwegian Epic.
So why are P&O, Princess and Royal Caribbean International so confident they will be able to fill their new ships next year? We take a look at some of the pros and cons of UK sailings.
One reason why ex-UK sailings are regarded as relatively niche is the weather. The Mediterranean and Caribbean virtually guarantee good conditions, while the UK isn’t known for being the world’s sunshine capital.
That means that ships which are built with outdoor space in mind – whether that’s water parks or al fresco dining – often aren’t able to make the most of their facilities.
So only certain ships are suitable for ex-UK sailings.
The UK is the second largest cruise market in the world behind only the US. So it makes sense for cruise lines to make those ships as accessible as possible to that market.
In 2013, 1,726,000 Brits took an ocean cruise. Of that total, 49% (844,000) took a cruise from a UK port. That’s a huge difference from the 2007 figures, when just 35% of UK passengers sailed from a British port.
With the new ships being based in Southampton UK departures look set to become the majority for the first time.
Most families are prepared to travel to the sunshine for their two week summer holiday. That’s a given. So, if not families, what is the average profile of an ex-UK cruiser?
We previously posed the question to Mike Hall of Cruise & Maritime Voyages and he said that a typical UK cruiser would be an older passenger, who wants a convenient departure point and is fed up with air travel.
This profile has obvious restrictions when it comes to catering for a larger market, which the ex-UK cruise sector is trying to do. Only time will tell if families adopt ships like Anthem of the Seas for ex-UK departures but historically older passengers have been fans of P&O and Princess rather than family specialists Royal Caribbean International.
Verdict: dependent on ship
As UK passengers change their cruise habits, the new ships are perfectly placed to capitalise on the lucrative trend.
Last year there was a huge 20% increase in passengers cruising to Northern Europe. According to CLIA’s Cruise Review in 2001 just one in eight passengers were cruising to the region.
Since then there has been a five-fold increase, and almost one in three passengers now cruise to Norway, the Baltic, around Britain or along the North or Western coasts of Europe. These are all regions accessible from Southampton with the Britannia, Anthem of the Seas and Royal Princess. So a huge plus.
That’s our opinion of 2015, but what do you think? Let us know!