Cruise industry trends: What’s hot on the ocean

Cruise industry trends: What’s hot on the ocean

From sustainable cruises to exotic destinations and raw food, here’s what's trending on the ocean in 2023. Karen Pasquali Jones explains.

Nearly every month, record sales are being announced by cruise lines as ‘revenge travellers’ eager to explore again snap up myriad voyages all over the world.

Global demand has now surpassed pre-pandemic levels – cruise is the fastest growing segment of the tourism sector – and the industry is innovating into the future.

As the market is predicted to grow another 12 per cent above 2019 global figures by 2026, we’ve rounded up some of the latest industry trends.

Sustainability: greener cruising

The industry is gearing up to embrace environmentalism to lessen its impact on the blue planet and get ahead of strict new eco regulations.

Hurtigruten, Havila Voyages and Ponant all have expedition ships running on hybrid power (with Hurtigruten planning to build its first zero emission ship by 2030) while MSC’s Euribia, launching in June, will be the second in the fleet to run on cleaner-burning liquid natural gas (LNG) fossil fuel to minimise air pollution, while reducing carbon dioxide emissions by 25 per cent.

Silversea’s Silver Nova will make the biggest sustainable splash when it launches in July: using a combination of batteries and hydrogen fuel cells which produce zero emissions, along with marine gas oil and LNG, it has been described as an ‘oceangoing Tesla.’

As the ship doesn’t produce any emissions, it will be welcome in environmentally-sensitive Venice in its maiden season.

Serenade of the Seas is set to sail the world. Image: Royal Caribbean

Longer voyages

Travellers want to make up for lost time and travel further for longer, which is why grand voyages of 21 days and more are selling fast. And there’s plenty of choice now that Asia, Australia, New Zealand and Brazil have opened up again.

From Holland America Line’s 73-day grand Africa voyage, to Seabourn’s 140-day world cruise and Royal Caribbean’s Ultimate World Cruise, which at 274 nights is the longest cruise in the world, there isn’t a corner of the globe passengers can’t travel to.

While even the cheapest cabin on the Ultimate World Cruise – $53,999pp for an interior – is out of most people’s price range, Brits will spend more than pre-pandemic levels, according to the 2022 Portrait of European Travellers study.

This explains why booking windows for cruises are becoming longer, with the top cabins on some lines already sold out for 2025.

Get used to elevated dining on Evrima. Image: Francisco Martinez

Next level luxury

Once the preserve of Russian oligarchs and lottery winners, luxury cruises are in huge demand with twice as many being booked now than in 2019.

Regent Seven Seas, Ponant and Silversea are facing fresh competition from Ritz-Carlton Yacht Collection’s Evrima, the first of three custom-built yachts. The all-suite vessel affords its 298 passengers a personal concierge, Michelin-star dining designed by Sven Elverfeld from the brand’s three-Michelin-starred Aqua, and ESPA and 111SKIN spa treatments along with watersports.

MSC Groups’ foray into the luxury market with Explora Journeys, has been created for ‘the next generation of discerning luxury travellers.’

Launching in May, the all-suite Explora 1 will carry 900 passengers and has four pools, 10 lounges and nine restaurants, but the game-changer is the focus on wellbeing and bespoke itineraries, with the line promising that ‘no itinerary will ever be repeated.’

Dreamy islands such as Bora Bora are becoming more affordable. Image: Mark Fitz

Off the beaten track

Guests want to explore places they’ve never been before, rather than old favourites or the typical cruise big hitters. Step forward French Polynesia and Tahiti, which were previously considered out of most cruisers’ budget, along with Greenland’s East Coast standing in for the Russian Arctic.

Variety Cruises is offering a week in traditionally expensive French Polynesia for the price – or less – of a Med cruise. Choose between seven (from $2100pp) or 10-night (from $2,700 pp) itineraries sailing from Papeete on the 49-passenger Panorama II, visiting Bora Bora, Taha’a, Moorea, Huahine, Raiatea and little-known Makatea.

Run to view: Virgin Voyages’ Runway track. Image: Virgin Voyages

Raw food, healthy lifestyles

With a renewed interest in fitness on board – Celebrity Cruises offers F45 classes and Peloton Bikes, while Virgin Voyages has an outdoor boxing ring and elevated running track – raw food is the logical next step.

SeaDream Yacht Club has been ahead of the trend for a while, with its raw menu as well as vegan and vegetarian options, while Oceania Cruises offer 250 plant-based dishes and a raw juice bar.

Windstar Cruises has created a new vegan menu on board all six of its ships – the offerings are not only plant-based but also prepared without added salt, oil, sugar, or flour. The line has begun training its culinary team on the menu and plans to roll out the programme fleetwide at the end of March.

Meanwhile, guests will find it impossible to believe that the Negroni served at S.A.L.T bar on Silversea Cruises’ Silver Moon doesn’t contain a drop of alcohol.

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