The big news in the cruise industry for the coming years is all about the launch of new ships. There can be no doubt that despite the ups and downs of the economy, travelers are opting for cruise travel in greater numbers. The numbers justify industry investment in more and larger vessels, with greater opulence and features.
Increased fleet size is a benefit to travelers. More ships on the sea mean competitive pricing, more options in ship amenities, and increased cruise destinations. Cruise lines rarely compete on pricing. They compete on services and the way cruises are packaged. Cruise guests have an ample menu of amenities and services, where travelers can decide which amenities have value. Guests decide the importance of cabin size, ship size, inclusive drinks packages and on-board entertainment or activities. Perhaps a reason for the success of the cruise industry is the available range of guest experiences.
With more ships in the fleet, each cruise line can divide the world into smaller pieces. It is notable that for 2016, cruise brochures offer guests many new ports, in itineraries with fewer sea days. When the distance between ports is shortened, the amount of time in port can be lengthened. Some cruise lines are featuring more overnights in ports, or two-day stays, to allow guests to take part in evenings on shore, or longer shore excursions to sites of interest.
The upside of the trend in cruise itineraries is the ability of travelers to engage more deeply in destination ports, as they might on land travel, with the continued convenience that only a cruise ship can offer. The downside to the new itineraries is that there is little or no time in the schedule to attend port talks about history, culture, or natural features the visitor will encounter while in port. The travelers will have more time to shop, wander, and dine, but will be armed with less knowledge about what makes the port intriguing and desirable for visitors.
To give full disclosure, CTH is committed to educating travelers on the unique stories of the places they will visit. The goal of the stories is to provide context and heighten visitor enjoyment of the port stops in their itinerary. Some cruise enthusiasts find port stops to be minor features that require the casino and shops to close. They are fulfilled by the recreation and relaxation offered onboard. Still, most cruise ship guests chose their itineraries for the excitement of the places they will visit. Knowledge of the place is a predicate to having fun in port.
Some cruise ship guests enjoy doing their own research. They attend onboard presentations if they find the presenter provides more than the information easily obtained on their web-access devices. They do comparative shopping of the ship’s offered excursions, informal web-organized group events, and their ability to explore the destination on their own. Such guests take pride in doing their homework. They should. It is a great deal of work to study each destination to the extent that they can hit the ground ready to make optimum use of their time in port.
Most guests do not wish to do time-intensive homework, any more than they want to make their own beds, or prepare their own meals. For most guests edutainment is part of the cruise experience. The new itineraries offer these guests the opportunity to visit places of which they know little or nothing. The value of the choices made will depend on what they learn during the cruise.
The risk for cruise lines is whether travelers will opt for the wonderful new itineraries, which include lesser-known ports. CTH applauds the inclusion of long over-looked ports, which have so much to offer cruise guests. Strong responsive bookings on creative new itineraries may depend on building the excitement that comes from anticipation of the experiences to be enjoyed.
Since destination information is crucial to a quality guest experience, the question is how presentations will be offered when time on-ship is at a minimum. Some ships have begun to offer presentations only in televised formats. Presenters are available onboard to mingle with guests and answer questions. The challenge coming for presenters in electronic-only delivery is to spend more resources on television documentary style media presentations.
Prerecorded presentations offer the ability to present the same material in different languages, provide cruise lines marketing material for lesser known ports, or provide guests information pre-cruise, as they chose their shore excursions. As the number of live presentations dwindle in the press of time onboard, there are new opportunities to maintain the quality of the cruise traveler experience.
While cruise lines ponder the new opportunities in edutainment, and the costs of developing inventory, CTH will continue to publish the Cruise through History series of story books for cruise travelers. The CTH book itineraries include stories to enhance visits to many of the new cruise ports. In these stories voluminous research is distilled to take the work out of preparing for a cruise. The short stories are perfect for reading while sunning on deck, or working out in the ship’s gym. In advance of book publication, brief stories will continue to appear in this blog.
The addition of new ships is good news for travelers who will be the beneficiaries of the opportunities for expanded travel experiences on and off ship. The message to new and experienced cruise travelers is to take advantage of travel to new ports. As a wise friend one told me: you never regret the time and money spent on education and travel. On a cruise both are served to you with little effort for your enjoyment.
Some new ships (# guests) and new ports or activities for 2016:
Oceania: Sirena (684) Bari, Crotone, Trieste, Piombino & Gaeta, Italy; Gozo, Malta
Holland America: ms Koningsdam (2,600) family cabins, new Caribbean ports
Silversea: 107 new ports; Gough Island, St. Helena, Lizard Island, Ko Phra Thong
Regent Seven Seas: Explorer (738) ultimate luxury, 11 new ports
Royal Caribbean: Ovation of the Seas (4,180) Oasis III (5,400) Harmony of the Seas (5,479) large cabins, virtual balconies, skydiving, bumper cars