Seatrade recently caught up with Jacqueline Gifford, editor in chief of Travel + Leisure, to chat about what’s exciting in the luxury cruise market. Check out what she says are the hottest trends in this segment and why they’re here to stay.
What trends are you seeing in cruise?
As we look at 2019, what I find really interesting is that the expedition cruise market continues to grow in popularity. Silversea, a pioneer in the space, is really doubling down on the category and ordering new ships. Seabourn, which started traveling to Antarctica years ago on the Quest, is ordering new expedition ships now, and Crystal’s Endeavour is going to be out relatively soon. The demand for the poles and cold-climate cruising, and the timeless allure of seeing some of the more remote corners of the earth by ship – that’s not going away. People are really, really fascinated by it.
I think people are also really responding to lines that incorporate the food of the destination into the itinerary and the ship itself. For example, Silversea is working on some culinary enhancements and thinking about how to better incorporate the food from the destination into the shipboard experience. I think that’s why people really responded to river cruising. When you’re on Uniworld Boutique River Cruise Collection’s S.S. Joie de Vivre in France and sailing up the Seine, you get a chance to taste the cheeses and all the amazing wines that come from France. It’s how you incorporate some of the best things from the land experience at sea and on the rivers.
Also, multi-gen [travel] continues to be a thing. Cruising is the perfect way to take that kind of vacation. On a ship, everyone can find their own corner, there’s the beauty of sitting down to a meal and you’re not signing for every small food item, and there’s so much entertainment on board. That’s why the concept like the Haven was so successful on Norwegian – the grandparents could stay in the Haven and have their peace and quiet while the kids and the grandkids could stay elsewhere on the ship and do all the fun activities. So, what we might see as more ships get built is more of these exclusive concierge areas where adults can find their peace and quiet and kids can go off and play.
Can you touch upon spa and wellness?
Spa and wellness is another trend everyone keeps talking about. Some brands are thinking outside the box and trying to make sure that either the shipboard programming or the shore excursions feel holistic. For example, Oceania and Regent started doing excursions with Canyon Ranch, allowing guests to go do qigong in the rainforest in Cairns, Australia, or visit the thermal baths in Italy and take a soak in the healing waters – that’s the kind of thing people are really interested in. It’s not enough to just have a yoga class on board and a small gym. If you look at Celebrity Edge, that fitness facility rivals anything you’d find on land. And what MSC is doing with Weight Watchers, with their themed cruises, is really cool because Weight Watchers is all about community. It’s taking that concept of sharing and talking with others and translating it to the high seas.
When it comes to luxury, what does the cruise industry do well compared to other industries?
There is a beauty in the all-inclusive pricing model that the luxury cruise market has come up with. People don’t like feeling nickel-and-dimed and there’s so much added value with a luxury cruise. When you break it down by price, you get a lot out of it. I don’t think they get enough credit for the things that they throw in. For example, Regent throws in excursions and free airfare, even business class sometimes. There’s so much value and the experience is unparalleled. The cabins are huge, and most are transitioning to all have balconies. You’ve got this incredible view, a bathroom that’s spacious, and now they’re even throwing in Wi-Fi at times. It’s the all-inclusive price model and the idea of getting people access, getting them to remote places, getting them on intimate shore excursions, going to the smaller ports that the bigger ships can’t get to – that’s the beauty of the luxury market.