Due to significant transformations in the world of cruising, cruise holidays today are appealing to a much broader spectrum of clientele and have become a real contender to land holidays and the wider travel market. Steering themselves away from outdated perceptions of cruising as a pensioner’s pastime, cruise lines have developed their fleets, so much so, that cruise ships are considered their own unique points of attraction with many arguing that half the fun of the cruise is now the ship itself.
Cruises are no longer speaking a ‘different language’ to holidaymakers. Instead they’re actively listening to what people are looking for from a holiday. This fresh mentality has led cruise lines to look outward for inspiration, taking ideas from big tourist destinations such as Las Vegas and Dubai – and seeing how they can create similar innovative features on board. Cruising is becoming about creating unique holiday opportunities that rival offerings available in the wider travel sector – whether holidaymakers want adventure, culture, entertainment or distinctive culinary experiences.
Gone are the days when cruise holidays signified time spent isolated at sea
New ports and itineraries, coupled with onboard innovations have allowed cruise companies to compete with land-based holidays in terms of comfort levels and the range of activities available. Importantly, this large range of new features is continuing to fire interest among both regular cruises and those who are new-to-cruise.
Gone are the days when cruise holidays signified time spent isolated at sea, as cruise lines offer not only regular port excursions, but tailored trips to unique destinations which cater for different tastes and physical abilities.
Easy access to some of the world’s hidden gems, located off-the-beaten track, gives cruising an edge over land holidays, as some destinations are either best or only reached by ship, such as the Panama Canal, journeyed by Carnival Cruises. Costa Cruises offer their unique neoCollection packages and excursions which transport you to previously inaccessible destinations including Unesco World Heritage Sites. These excursions stay longer in each port, and often overnight, allowing you maximum time on shore to explore. Azamara Club Cruises also put the destination at the forefront of everything they do; offering unique culinary and photography excursions that allow guests to immerse themselves in the location.
With many modern-day cruises, you have the opportunity to not only travel the world but also expand your knowledge and broaden your horizons onboard thanks to various enrichment programmes. Both Cunard and Celebrity Cruises feature a string of guest speakers who are experts in their field. This has previously included Star Trek actor George Takei and three time World Grand Prix winner Sir Jackie Stewart. For a more hands-on experience, guests aboard Holland America can get involved in everything from tasting events and cooking classes to learning new photo and editing skills at complimentary Digital Workshops, sponsored by Microsoft.
Better value for money offerings and cruises of shorter duration are also enticing younger holidaymakers, including families with young children. To ensure the increasing numbers of younger travellers are entertained while on the ship, it is now not uncommon to find impressive waterslides and full-size sports courts onboard. Royal Caribbean have taken this one step further by introducing surf machines, ice skating rinks, bumper cars and simulated sky dive experiences – all cruise ship firsts!
Various cruise lines have also engaged in partnerships with recognisable brands to create fun and exciting activities for children that resonate with what they already know and love at home. Royal Caribbean has partnered exclusively with DreamWorks so kids can see their animated heroes brought to life as their favourite characters walk around the ship and appear in the onboard 3D cinema too. Carrying over 700,000 children aboard their ships each year, Carnival Cruises has also stepped up its offering for children’s activities. Its fleet-wide programme ‘Seuss at Sea’ involves an entertaining family dining experience inspired by the amazing world and words of Dr. Seuss, so families can enjoy a green eggs and ham breakfast with the Cat in the Hat himself.
Cruise lines are seeking to position themselves as the crème de la crème of culture, adventure, entertainment and food
Just as there is plenty to enjoy on the ships during the day, there is just as much thrilling entertainment at night. MSC Cruises has recently partnered with Cirque du Soleil so guests can enjoy impressive acrobatics and top cirque-style entertainment on board the ship. Broadway blockbusters including Rock of Ages and Legally Blonde have sailed on board Norwegian Cruises, and Princess Cruises has collaborated with Stephen Schwartz (Oscar and Grammy winning composer of Wicked and Godspell), who has created four original productions for Princess including the breathtaking ‘Magic to Do’.
There are also a surprising variety of bar and dining options with a twist on board cruise ships – such as Norwegian’s Ice Bar, where guests can chill out at eight degrees below zero. Celebrity Cruises offers 12 award-winning specialty restaurants across the fleet, as well as the largest team of sommeliers and the largest wine collection at sea with over 500 selections to choose from. Princess Cruises has teamed up with celebrity chef Curtis Stone to develop ‘Share’, a specialty restaurant where meals are made for sharing so guests can try a little of everything. They have even introduced their own label brew, Seawitch Craft beer, only available on board Princess cruise ships.
Cruise lines are seeking to position themselves as the crème de la crème of culture, adventure, entertainment and food. With the variety of options available for guests on board and through excursions, cruise packages are quickly becoming an appealing draw for a new generation of travellers – and it’s easy to see why.
Phil Evans is the owner of Cruise Nation