What is the Future of Cruising? Trends and Issues affecting Cruise Travel

MSC Divina in Port Miami

MSC Divina in Port Miami

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?


Gary Bembridge

I grew up in Zimbabwe, but I have been based in London since 1987. My travel life spans more than three decades and that includes more than 95 cruises. In 2005, I launched Tips for Travellers to make it easy and fun for people to discover, plan and enjoy incredible cruise vacations. And the rest, as they say, is history. I have the largest cruise vlogger channel currently on YouTube, with more than 3 million video views per month.

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8 Responses

  1. I’ve never been on a cruise. In all honesty, though, I struggle to get past the “myth”(?) (I guess I need to read that handbook!) of being confined to a vessel for much of my trip and feel I would prefer to have more freedom to wander around as I please. I know you get to do that with excursions and I appreciate you get to see many different places and are invariably well looked after, but something about it doesn’t quite sit right with me. To be fair, though, I’m not really qualified to comment if I haven’t tried it.

    I’m certainly not put off my safety concerns, etc. If I was, I probably wouldn’t fly either. 🙂 If I was to go on a cruise, the kind of things that I think would appeal to me would be:

    – a scenic cruise

    Something like the Norwegian fjords (so long as I was on the right side of the ship) would, I’m sure, be wonderful.

    – a small cruise ship

    The cruises offered by the likes of Hebridean and SeaDream sound more intimate and appealing to me.

    I’m sure one day I’ll get the opportunity to give it a try and then I’ll be in a better position to provide a more balanced opinion, I’m sure.

  2. Up until a few years ago I’d never considered cruising but just recently I’ve been more and more drawn to the idea. This is in part down to reading numerous travel blogs and seeing that cruising isn’t always out at sea but also along rivers or coastlines, such as the Norwegian fjords as Paul mentions.
    I’ve certainly never been put off by safety thoughts or feeling trapped. I think it was more to do with wanting real experiences while travelling and cruising seemed too disconnected from the places you were visiting.
    I’m very excited that I’ll be going on my first cruise, be it a fairly short one, in Norway next month. I really can’t wait!

  3. Gary,
    I am like Paul and have never taken a cruise, even though we have Galveston near by and it stops at many Caribbean and Latin American cities. That should be enough to get my off my rear end, but I have not made the effort yet.

    My wife has taken one cruise that I believe stopped in Bermuda and the Bahamas, but really doesn’t have a great deal of recall. We have been married 35 years and she took it prior to our marriage. I think, like Paul I would enjoy a cruise around the Baltic or the Inside Passage in Alaska. Something about Hurricane season and cruises just doesn’t motivate me to get on a cruise in my area!

    • Mike. The challenge that the cruise industry has is getting people like yourself on board. Once they get travellers on then almost all of them are hooked. I think the industry really needs to focus on convincing people to try it at least once. I agree with you on the Baltics. It is amazing as is Alaska and the Fjords in Norway…. Hope to see you on board soon!

  4. Lee Briggs says:

    The only “cruise” that I have been on was basically a ferry that goes from Portland, Maine to Yarmouth, Nova Scotia, and back, as part of a tour we took for our honeymoon. It was an overnight trip from Portland to Yarmouth and a return trip the next day. It was more than just a ferry however, as it had the requisite buffet and even a casino.
    However, I would like to take some cruises in the future, but my selection of a cruise will depend mainly on where it stops. A Mediterranean cruise could be a good option.
    I have seen descriptions of river cruises in Europe, particularly in France, that looked very interesting as well.

    • The Med is great to cruise as you can see a whole range of countries and cultures within a short space of time. River cruising is great for people who want to really have time to explore cities. Keep watching the blog as I am doing a big river cruise focus in May!

  5. Another newbie here to the world of cruises because I have yet to go on one! However, Heather traveled to Mexico on a cruise a couple of years ago and had a really great experience so I am encouraged to try it out for myself at least once.

    Here is my main issue with cruises – I don’t like being cooped up in the same place for very long and tend to get bored with just sitting around. Now you may be thinking that this is the opposite of what a cruise is, you are visiting new places all the time, plenty of activities on board etc. but I guess that’s just the stereotype I have in mind.

    Recently I am sure we have all become accustomed to the negative media coverage surrounding cruises, in particular the Concordia disaster and other Carnival cruise issues off the coasts of USA. Fortunately, I am not one for paying much attention to this negativity and would much rather judge based off my own experiences.

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