We’re now well into the New Year and we thought it was time to share our 2014 predictions for the world of cruising. From exciting new innovations to expansions and improvements made to current trends, 2014 is certain to be a big year for cruising. Itineraries are high on the agenda list with cruise lines striving to enhance their sailings with fresh, different ports of call. Itinerary durations could be another key factor for 2014. We also take a look at dining options, river cruising and expedition success, cruise line brand differentiation and the constant attempts to improve on board technology.
Sit back, relax and let us set the scene for 2014. Only time will tell if our predictions come true, or you could book a cruise and find out for yourselves.
2013 saw the initiation of increased short cruises. These itineraries, referred to as sample cruises, cruise breaks, taster itineraries and whatever other name cruise lines can thing of are a great way to escape for a few days and chill out. For 2014 these itineraries will be an ever present as they continue to gain popularity. Short duration itineraries are ideal for many different holidaymakers. For first time cruisers, they can be perfect to give passengers a feel for what cruising is all about. If you’re interested in testing the waters, excuse the pun, but don’t want to jump in at the deep end, sorry I can’t stop, then these cruises can be a fantastic way of seeing if this holiday type is for you. Cruise lines are acknowledging this and therefore this has played a major role in the increase of such cruises to the calendars of a wide range of operators. This is not the only reason however. It was once the case that these types of itineraries were few and far between, and when they were put in place, it was often the older, more traditional vessels that were used by the cruise lines. Nowadays however, this has certainly changed. Cue 2014 and cue the further role of bigger, superliners and famous ships operating these routes.
The economy affects everyone; you’ll be hard pressed to find someone who has not affected and therefore cruise lines needed to be more understanding and identify the needs of their passengers. Many travellers are looking for shorter duration cruises due to affordability and for it to mean spending less time away from work. To accommodate budgets and annual leave times, cruise lines spotted the need for further short duration itineraries to be put in place to give passengers a well-earned break. This is true all over the world. From Southampton this year you will find a great selection of short cruise breaks taking in three, four and five night itineraries. Other example UK cruise ports for such itineraries include Harwich and Dover. P&O Cruises, Cunard, Fred Olsen, Royal Caribbean and Celebrity Cruises have all stood up and took notice of the desire for such cruises and are doing their best to ensure a diverse variety of sailings are put in place for passengers to choose from.
Along with the usual suspects such as the ever popular Mediterranean, Caribbean, Baltics and Canary Islands etc, each year usually brings about one or more areas of interest where cruise lines target. This year there are three. In 2013 immersive wine cruise itineraries became increasingly popular with a range of cruise lines, most notably, Celebrity Cruises. This trend will continue into 2014 but with even more cruise lines looking to attract passengers to their itineraries. The main focus of these cruises will revolve around Bordeaux. The beautiful wine-rich region of Bordeaux will be a key fixture in 2014 for a whole host of cruise lines. Now, along with Celebrity Cruises, 2014 will see Azamara Club Cruises, Holland America, Oceania, Princess Cruises, Regent Seven Seas and Silversea all offer cruises taking in this exciting destination for wine lovers.
Asia will also be a huge highlight in 2014. Major cruise lines are adding to their collection of port offerings in this region in 2014 along with providing additional ships in the area for passengers to enjoy. There are two different trends taking place here however. For guests looking to see the exhilarating sights of the region’s major cities, there will be ample opportunities. Bangkok, Hong Kong, Shanghai, Singapore and Tokyo are all key ports of call for these itineraries this year to enjoy. There is also the chance this year to explore the more remote areas of this stunning region. River cruising and expedition vessels will see more sailings in Asia this year. Cruise enthusiasts looking to take in destinations off the beaten track such as the Irrawaddy in Burma will never have had a better opportunity, not forgetting the Mekong to see the treasures of Vietnam and Cambodia.
The final destination highlight for 2014 is the Panama Canal. Whilst there will not be a huge increase in the amount of itineraries here, there is likely to be raised interest due to the fact that the country will be preparing to celebrate the passage’s centennial, boasting lots of festivities and attractions to see.
The Rise of River Cruising
This topic of conversation was recently discussed in our latest edition of ‘Into The Blue’, the Bolsover Cruise Club quarterly magazine. We talked about the fantastic range of itineraries available but also about the phenomenal rise in popularity of this superb way to see the world. River cruising has taken the cruising world by storm in recent years and 2014 looks set to continue the trend. Viking River Cruises broke the record for most ships christened in a day in 2013 and the cruise line are set to unveil a further range of longboat designs this year. This is currently the fastest growing niche in cruising at the moment and will definitely continue to be for the foreseeable future. Europe and Asia provide the main attractions with an incredible array of sailings to choose from.
There are plenty of reasons to consider a river cruise in 2014. For starters, if you’re a seasoned cruiser and have reached the point where you want to try something new and different then this type of cruise could be perfect. Not only do you see a wide range of stunning destinations but you are immediately into some of the world’s most exciting cities. It’s also a hugely attractive option for passengers prone to severe seasickness. This is not usually an issue in modern times due to ship stability and accessible remedies, and for most seasickness is only a concern for the first few hours on board till you realise just how stable the ships are. For some however, this can be a terrifying concern and something that does not go away. This shouldn’t mean you have to miss out on the world of cruising and thanks to river cruising itineraries, you don’t! Waterways are so smooth you barely notice you’re moving.
Last but by no means least is the continuity of value for money. Viking River Cruises are certainly focused on introducing new ships and itineraries for 2014 but they have not lost sight of their overall goal, which is to provide an excellent cruise for their guests. Value for money therefore is crucial to achieving this and the cruise line will continue to include shore excursions in the overall cost of the cruise, meaning no added on board expense for passengers on board. They will also continue to offer complimentary beverages throughout meal times.
The word expedition has long been associated with enrichment experiences that focus solely on the itinerary and shore excursion options displacing the idea of relaxation and luxury as the main highlights of the cruise. In 2014 however, it appears cruise lines are now coming round to the idea of combining the two. Silversea recently announced a further addition to their expedition fleet and in 2014 will offer passengers a fantastic range of facilities, amenities and luxurious touches more befitting of a luxury liner than an expedition ship. The ships will still take in some of the world’s most magnificent destinations, heading off the beaten track and visiting locations larger vessels could only dream of reaching but the level of comfort will be significantly enhanced.
A cruise with an abundance of unique experiences, cultural enrichment and fascinating discovery combined with innovative, luxury touches is certain to be an attractive formula in 2014.
On Board Technology
Creating ways for passengers to stay connected at sea has never been more necessary. Social media continues to take over the world and therefore enabling strong, sustainable connections is vital as we begin 2014. Many guests love to just switch off and truly escape from the norm but a lot of people on board cruise ships like and need to stay connected with home, whether it be for work or personal reasons. Thankfully cruise lines have started to properly take notice of this and are announcing improvements to their communication infrastructure on board to enable a good service for their guests. New hardware is in the testing stages and hopefully the introduction of this hardware will improve the service. Many ships are already very good at providing this service but others leave a lot to be desired, therefore improvements are vital and thankfully are now taking place.
The key improvements necessary are speed of connection, reliability and cost. It’s one thing being able to stay in touch but if it costs you a fortune then it defeats the object of satisfying passengers. It is expected that 2014 will be the year that new technology is implemented. A faster connection will automatically mean a cheaper connection as passengers will need to spend less time online to get things done. Although internet packages are usually good value rather than pay as you go, a faster connection will make this even better.
Information screens will also be a popular innovation for 2014. Many cruise lines already have them in place but 2014 will see the rise of the information screens dotted around ships. These screens will provide live, up to date information on what’s going on around the ship as well as give passengers the option of booking dining arrangements. Celebrity Cruises were one of the leading cruise lines to introduce these features but Norwegian Cruise Line have recently took it a step further aboard their two latest ships, Breakaway and Getaway by adding even further facilities.
Cruise lines will continue to enforce their smoking policies on board. Royal Caribbean and Cunard announced new policies in 2013 leaving just Norwegian Cruise Line as one of the last lines standing to allow passengers to smoke on balconies. We believe this will change however in 2014 and NCL could take the decision to fall in line with fellow operators. There has been and will always be pressure from non-smoking passengers to enforce stricter policies therefore we think this could be a likely feature in 2014.
Not so much of a huge change but more of a slow burner, this is something that has regularly been increasing in recent years. The amount of dining options for guests to choose from on board continues to grow and long gone are the days of just the main dining room. The main dining room on board ships has and always will be a wonderful place to eat each day and night of a cruise but the demand for diversity continues to grow. Cruise lines are using dining options as a point of differentiating themselves and as such the popularity of multiple eateries is set to continue into 2014. P&O Cruises have always put strict attention to detail into making their main dining rooms a focal point for their ships. This is set to be the case once again in 2015 when they unveil the Britannia but this hasn’t stopped them introducing new and exciting dining venues. Marco Pierre White and Atul Kochar have become key figures in the speciality venues throughout the fleet as has wine expert Olly Smith. Norwegian Cruise Line, Celebrity Cruises and Royal Caribbean are the three lines that lead the way in dining innovation and diversity. NCL’s latest ship, Getaway boasts 27 different dining options on board, an incredible amount of restaurants for passengers to choose from. Many of these restaurants are complimentary but some come with a cover charge, however the introduction of the new dining packages for guests is sure to be attractive in keeping costs down. Celebrity Cruises created the innovative Qsine and hugely popular Murano’s.
We expect dining options to continue to be a major highlight of 2014 with cruise lines doing all they can to go the extra mile and create new, exciting restaurants for passengers to enjoy.