6 Ways Cruising Is Changing This Year. Are You Ready?
Cruising Is Changing This Year. Here’s How
I was staggered when three-quarters of cruisers told me they were unhappy with one big change the cruise lines are making this year in a poll of over 7,000 cruisers on my channel. In fact, one felt so strongly they commented that “cruising as we know it is about to disappear”. Is it? Well, there are signs it’s going to be rather different to what we are used to!
The reason for all that upset was triggered by the news that Norwegian Cruise Line are giving most cabin grades once a day service only, removing evening turn down, reducing the numbers of stateroom stewards, and all while increasing gratuities.
Most cruisers said they felt it’s less service for more money.
Whether you agree or not, it does reflect some key changes underway across all lines affecting our cruising.
Cruise lines are actively looking to cut back in many areas and squeeze more out of us on board as they look to improve their finances.
That’s why many lines are cutting cabin servicing to once a day like P&O Cruises, Carnival, Norwegian and so on. All while gratuities have already increased by around 10%.
Others have said cutbacks will be made in the food bill. The Carnival Group CEO announced he is looking at reducing their food bill, and I’ve started seeing that on some cruises I’ve been on.
I spoke about smaller menus in my recent Majestic Princess cruise video. On the Holland America Koningsdam trip I am just back from, there were up-charges for lobster and steak in the main dining room, and charges if I wanted to order an extra main course in the Speciality Restaurants.
Just as I was preparing this, both Royal Caribbean and Carnival increased drinks packages, Wi-Fi, and specialty dining costs.
Another thing I spotted with drinks packages is on some lines they’ve increased the price of some individual drinks, especially cocktails, so they fall out of the drinks package limit.
So, on my recent Holland America cruise, I saw cruisers often had to pay the difference between the drink package maximum drink value and the actual cost on a growing number of cocktails
I think we should expect other cutbacks and up-charges moving in across the year.
I do think though that despite these increases adding to the cost of our cruises and cutbacks reducing the value, cruising is still good value as a vacation for this year, and next, considering what is still included. And as land-based travel is also getting pricier too.
One way cruising will change this year is a policy change, as Barb, a big follower of the channel, discovered when she and her husband got COVID on a recent Queen Victoria cruise, and had to isolate in their cabin.
Unlike when lockdown ended, most cruise lines no longer offer Future Cruise Credit for days anyone must isolate on board, nor will they cover any post cruise arrangements. We must have our own insurance to cover this and claim from our provider. All Barb got was a letter confirming they had Covid, and they had to go to their insurer.
I noticed, for example, on my upcoming Regent Seven Seas ‘Navigator’ cruise to the Caribbean in their terms and conditions they will only give Future Cruise Credit if I get Covid and must isolate – if I have proof of an independent negative COVID test before boarding.
While on board rules have pretty much been lifted, Covid may still affect cruising – so be ready.
For example, while making this, some lines reintroduced pre-cruise Covid testing for anyone having recently been in China or with Chinese passports. That may be a thing of the past by the time you read this, but it shows how we all need to be aware rules may change at short notice.
Another area that may affect us, as it’s already affected me in 2023, are new ship delays.
Many ships that were due to come into service have been pushed back. Cunard’s Queen Anne, which was due to come into service at the end of 2023, had to cancel all their cruises, including mine, into May 2024. Carnival Jubilee is delayed from October to December 2023.
I was booked on Norwegian Viva, and that was then delayed – I had to change my cruise to November.
These supply chain and shipyard delays make avoiding booking maiden voyages a sensible choice, as chances of delay are high. I am also avoiding choosing dates close to launch, as so far ships coming into service, as often is the case on maiden voyages, are not fully ready when they sail.
For example, P&O Ariva set sail on her maiden voyage just before Christmas, it was not great from reports, as they couldn’t cope with the dining and on Christmas Day some passengers booked for seven o’clock dinners were only getting into the dining room at 10 o’clock.
I have followed various travellers and vloggers on the Carnival Celebration maiden voyage crossing the Atlantic having lots of issues there. Royal Caribbean’s Wonder of the Seas had many issues, as with Norwegian Prima and so on.
Be cautious about booking new ships for 2023 and into 2024, and maybe stick with those already in service.
One thing for certain is expect much fuller ships ahead. As I found out, it is a big shock if you’ve cruised in 2021 or 2022 when many ships were only 50 % to 60% full.
I have seen Carnival Corporation, Royal Caribbean and Norwegian Groups all saying they expect in summer they will run at a hundred percent, and often above a hundred percent capacity. Ships can sail over a hundred percent because of the way capacity is measured. It is based on the number of fixed beds, so particularly if you have families on board with three or four per cabin that shows as overcapacity.
The cruise lines are focusing on filling ships this year and next, and this will be the case especially in the Caribbean, Alaska and Mediterranean.
Carnival and other lines have said they’re increasing their marketing spend to get more people on board, and this leads me to my next key point of things to expect.
I think we will all see an evolution of who is on board our favourite lines this coming year and next.
Cruise lines are going heavily after new to cruise, and I’m already seeing more families even on lines which traditionally have not targeted them nor had many. I have had that on Celebrity in the Mediterranean, Princess in Alaska, and even Holland America in the Caribbean.
So, if you are looking for a more adult or couples experience, you should choose adult-only lines like Viking or Virgin Voyages, or cruise out of key holiday period times, and on longer or more exotic cruises.
Another impact I am seeing is that as ships full up, fares are increasing, and deals are likely to be less easy to get by waiting for close to departure deals.
I’ve seen a big shift in fares through 2023, and even more so heading into 2024.
I’ve been comparing cruises and fare trends. For example, on Cunard, I did two trips with them in 2022 (Queen Mary 2 crossing and Queen Elizabeth Mediterranean), I am looking at doing a crossing with them in 2023, and have booked Queen Anne for 2024.
I’m seeing fares for the same grade, and basically same trips, have increased up to 30% from 2022 to 2024.
No doubt due to growing demand the line’s dynamic pricing systems, which increase fares as the ship fills up, kick in, but also, projections on fuel costs and inflation.
This of course means you and I need to track fares more than ever, using sites like CruiseWatch.com in case we can claw some money back if they fall.
But already I am getting alerts of prices going up on cruises I have booked for 2023, like this one I just got. A big change from the constant alerts saying prices were going down for those I had in 2022.
I think we are less likely to get deals by waiting and booking late this year and next. So, I am planning further ahead than ever and nabbing the attractive deals at launch of itineraries before fares drift upwards.
One positive upside this year and next is the world is opening to cruising. So, even places like Japan are back on, and World Cruises are running again. So, my cruise around Japan is on and some of the more exotic cruises that I’ve got planned are also going.
Though, of course, Baltic cruises look set to exclude Russia for at least 2023 and likely beyond.
We can go to many more places than we had perhaps hoped we would do ahead.
SUPPORT TIPS FOR TRAVELLERS
- Find out about being a Patron on Patreon: https://www.patreon.com/tipsfortravellers
- Check out my T-Shirt range: http://bit.ly/TFTStore
FOLLOW ME ON SOCIAL MEDIA