I love cruising. I find it an amazing way to travel. Exploring the world from the water is fascinating as your form of transport is also your hotel, your restaurant and your entertainment centre – as well as taking you to different destinations each day. I forget that despite all the hype, news and buzz about cruising it is still a travel choice that is quite niche. The number of people going on a cruise has growth dramatically over the last decade but very few people have actually tried it. There are various statistics I have seen that range from less than 3% of travel expenditure is on cruising to less than one in eight travellers have ever been on a cruise.
So what is the future for cruising, and what are cruise pundits projecting are the trends and issues facing the industry and travellers?
I came across a series of articles on the travel site TravelZoo that got me thinking and here they are and some thoughts they ignited in me
“The Evolution and Future of the Cruise Industry“: This article explains how the industry has been through a series of dramatic changes and has had to reinvent itself.
I think we are seeing this happening again now, and it will accelerate. A ship originally was a practical transport tool and the only real way to move people and goods from continent to continent. The introduction and spread of affordable, non-stop and scheduled jet liner travel from the 1970s wiped out most of the cruise line companies. There used to be dozens serving just the traffic between Europe and North America and they soon found people liked seven hour flights to four to five days at sea. Cruising emerged again with the ships as destinations in themselves taking people on long round-the-world grand voyages in the winter and plying the Caribbean and Mediterranean in the summer. Mostly older people with time and money. In recent times we have seen cruising trying to take on land based vacation options and open up to appeal to younger travellers, couples, solo travellers and very importantly to families. This is the big revolution going on in cruising. The industry realises that to grow their ships and routes have to stop competing with each other for existing cruisers – but with land-based resorts and hotels to attract new travellers. So on the one hand we see luxury and deluxe lines like Seabourn, Silversea and SeaDream Yachts trying to compare themselves to boutique hotels with gracious decor, incredible service and unbelievable dining, while we see others contrasting themselves to the most exciting resorts for families, fun-lovers and active holidaymakers like Norwegian Cruise Line, Royal Caribbean and MSC Cruises
“The Future of the Cruise Industry in 2014 and Beyond“: This article explores some of the misconceptions that have affected the belief that cruising is a good vacation choice.
Cruising still suffers from the old myths, like being for old people and concerns about feeling trapped, and has not really done a good enough job at shaking them off. In my book, “The Cruise Traveler’s Handbook“, I dedicate a major part to discussing the myths, why cruising is a good alternative to land-based vacations and who it is best suited for and why. This is because it was those that held me back from discovering cruising and are the objections I still hear from my friends or people I meet when they hear I like cruising. If cruising wants to really attract more travellers faster the industry need to focus on this issue as a major priority – even more than they do now.
“2014 Cruise Industry Challenges“: This article explores some of the recent problems in cruising that have increased doubts among non-cruisers such as the Costa Concordia disaster and other breakdowns on ships.
I believe that the industry is suffering by not being able to get a strong message through the media about the positives in cruising. It is under attack on many fronts including around safety concerns, the environmental footprint the ships leave, employment practices, people going missing overboard, tragic accidents on board and the ability to control outbreaks of norovirus. In reality many of these issues are well-managed and practices are strict and improving. However the constant stream of coverage about cruising makes it seem a rather risky adventure. If cruising wants to attract new travellers it will need to find a way to not only improve practices but make sure that the good news permeates into the public arena. Of course I know that media relishes on bad news and not good news, but the industry needs to find a way deal with this onslaught in a better way.
So a few passionate thoughts. What do you think?