Like most other industries, cruising took a big hit during the pandemic, but made a soaring return in 2023. With the regained popularity, industry leaders have high expectations for the year ahead. “It could be our biggest year ever”, said Andy Harmer, managing director at Clia UK & Ireland. With the promise of a prosperous year, what trends will be taking over the industry in 2024?
1. Sustainability above all
Many cruise companies are trying their best to make the industry a little more sustainable, for example with onboard water treatment systems and solar panels. The MSC Euribia ship completed the first net zero greenhouse gas emissions voyage powered by bio‑LNG produced from manure, while Royal Caribbean International did a 12‑week biofuels test on Symphony of the Seas in Europe and unveiled the “most sustainable ultra luxury cruise ship“.
2. Longer journeys
Short trips are something from the past. According to MSC Cruises, travellers are increasingly expressing a desire for more time in their destinations, and itineraries with extended or overnight port calls are gaining popularity. More time means more opportunities to explore, more chance to get a taste of the local culture. Azamara has been putting the destination before the ship for years now with more than half of their stops being late stays or overnighters and the company is even adding two-night stays to its brochure for several ports, including Bordeaux. Viking also added a two-night stay in Bergen to its World Cruise itinerary.
Even though cruises weren’t associated with cultural experiences for a long time, things have changes. “Travellers are no longer content with just visiting well-known tourist attractions; instead, they seek to experience destinations in a way that reflects the local lifestyle”, states MSC Cruises.
4. Europe gains popularity
If you always assume cruises dwell on the open ocean for weeks on end without stopping, think again. “Travellers are more enthusiastic than ever to delve into the vibrant cities of Europe. These urban destinations offer a well-rounded appeal, featuring an abundance of historic sights, culinary experiences, diverse shopping options, renowned attractions, and immersive opportunities to engage with local culture”, MSC Cruises explains. Windstar is adding new cruises sailing from Lisbon to Las Palmas, while Cunard launches a new ship called Queen Anne, which will stay within European waters. Aside from sea cruises, river cruises are doing great in Europe as well.
5. Upgrades and more luxury
Luxury travel has been on the rise since the pandemic hit and the trend is also reflected on cruises. Travellers like to take their experience to the next level and are ready to pay a little extra for some added luxuries. In a move towards branding more as luxury hotels, Crystal and Azamara no longer mention the term ‘cruise’ in their names, while MSC has introduced the Yacht Club, an elevated cruising experience within the ship including 24-hour butler service and a high-end restaurant.
“More and more individuals are recognising the inherent value of a cruise holiday compared to alternative land-based options”, says MSC. To increase the value for guests, Oceania Cruises’ Simply More program includes up to 1,600 dollars in shore credit, which travellers can use for anything from dining to transfer flights. A move, according to the company, allowing voyagers to get an even better taste of their destination. Celebrity Cruises’ All Included fare, on the other hand, even includes drinks and tips so travellers don’t have to think about the money they spend on board.
7. Special guests, themes and ambassadors
This year, a popular Swifties cruise (in which Taylor Swift wasn’t involved in any way) is bound to set sail. But it doesn’t stop there because cruise companies have decided that special guests might well increase there popularity amongst people who usually wouldn’t be interested in a cruise. Virgin Voyages, for example, has managed to get Jennifer Lopez as chief celebrations officer, while Messi has been named the icon of Royal Caribbean’s Icon of the Seas. In a more gourmet driven approach, Explora Journeys is focusing on Michelin-starred chefs, by inviting them onto the Explora I to put together menus for Anthology, one of the on-board restaurants.