Despite a slight cooling of travel on Europe’s rivers, new ships (and refits), new itineraries and new land-based components are set to launch this year-with an ever stronger focus on food and wine.
In response to consumer interest, designated wine cruises in particular offer comprehensive programs that include daily tastings, lectures, food pairings, land-based wine activities such as visits to vineyards, chateaux, wine cellars and local markets.
When a famous poet wrote: “I must go down to the sea again, to the lonely sea and sky,” he wasn’t talking about a 5,000-passenger ship with a climbing wall and a dozen or so places to dine. The romance of the sea has always been embodied in the sailing ships, with their soaring masts and billowing sails. And today, a cruise on a modern clipper ship can be a glorious and unforgettable experience.
For clients who want to leave holiday preparations behind and have someone else do the cooking, the decorations and the activities, the cruise lines can indulge those wishes with celebrations on ships almost anywhere in the world. More than ever, cruise lines are going all in for the holidays, from Hanukah through New Year, with holiday shows, over-the-top decorations, elaborate meals, religious services, caroling, contests and special activities for children. All this comes at a price, of course, and the cost for virtually all holiday itineraries is bumped up.
U.S. river cruising continues to grow in popularity, especially with Americans who, more than ever, prefer to travel within the U.S.A. Thanks to the cultural richness associated with America’s great rivers (especially the Mississippi), there has also been growth among international travelers who have an interest in this country’s history.
To me the words “luxury” and “expedition ships” don’t quite match. I have always believed that an expedition cruise should reflect the “roughing it” elements experienced by “real” explorers. (My favorite expedition was to Antarctica was aboard the no-frills Explorer I (aka “the little red boat”), which sank in Antarctic waters in 2007.
The luxury market disagrees and wants no part of “roughing it.” So instead we see extravagances galore, like infinity pools, French restaurants and spas on ships sailing to places like Antarctica and the Northwest Passage.
Alaska is gearing up for a big tourist season. With 30 large cruise ships carrying a projected one million passengers calling this year, expect to see new ports, new docks, new excursions-and more luxury ships.
Ships scheduled for the 2016 season for the first time include: Crystal Serenity, Royal Caribbean’s Explorer of the Seas, Princess’s Island Princess, Holland America’s Maasdam and Nieuw Amsterdam and Regent’s Seven Seas Mariner.
As river cruises continue to grow in popularity, those on Europe’s rivers still top the list. CLIA cruise line members currently have 170 ships on the world’s rivers (most in Europe), with 18 new vessels (most will sail in Europe) on order for 2016.
When President Obama normalized relations with Cuba in January 2015, many Americans thought all they had to do was buy a ticket to travel to the island nation. But given the political situation in Washington, Cuba travel would not be so simple.
The Caribbean continues to be the most popular cruise destination industry-wide, accounting for more than a third of the cruise business globally. It’s been estimated that 60% of cruise passengers are repeaters, which heightens the need for the Caribbean to constantly re-invent itself and for cruise lines to find or create new ports of call that are rich with attractions.
Though holiday cruises tend to be pricier than those at other times, they continue to grow in popularity, particularly among family groups. The appeal of being served attractive meals, of freedom from household chores and inclement weather - plus the ability to spend quality time with loved ones - make a holiday cruise a compelling choice for many clients. If a particular date or ship is desired, early booking is advisable.