The resilience of the cruise industry is what kept it afloat during the past twelve months, and it now looks set to propel cruising to new heights in 2010, according to Cruise Critic® (http://www.CruiseCritic.com), the popular cruise reviews and news site.
“Faced with the worst forecast in decades at the start of the year, the cruise lines didn’t flinch—they slashed prices early, threw in a bunch of great incentives and promoted cruising with all their might,” says Carolyn Spencer Brown, editor-in-chief of Cruise Critic.
“The cruise industry’s emphasis on cruising as a value-packed vacation option occurred at just the right time. Cruising is addictive—as our members will tell you—so cruise lines are confident the new cruisers attracted by the legendary deals of ‘09 will be back for more next year.”
A handful of Cruise Critic’s cruise predictions for the year ahead:
Prices Rise, But Value Improves: Great deals can still be found, but you need to do your homework. Exciting new ships will command premium pricing, so watch for deals on last-minute and shoulder season cruises. Look for added extras, such as onboard credit or complimentary upgrades, as well as for improved facilities on refurbished ships—all adding to the value of your cruise. And, luxury lines, trying to avoid price-slashing, are still throwing in incentives like free business-class air that really lower the price of a trip.
Virgin Cruisers Courted: Looking to expand their customer base, cruise lines will be marketing heavily to the first-time cruiser and touting their land-resort-style attractions and facilities. New ships are mimicking South Beach- and Vegas-style attractions with themed nightlife, exclusive sun decks, onboard beach parties, more athletic options, kids’ clubs with the latest video games and Internet consoles, and brand-name shops.
Attack of the Clones: New ships being launched in 2010 will mostly be sister ships of existing vessels, with the notable exception of NCL’s Norwegian Epic, which is due to launch in July. Costa’s Costa Deliziosa, Celebrity’s Celebrity Eclipse, Holland America’s Nieuw Amsterdam, Seabourn’s Seabourn Sojourn and Royal Caribbean’s Allure of the Seas are all near twins of existing ships. P&O’s Azura is built on the same general platform as Ventura, though it will be geared to adults and couples, rather than families.
River Ships Add a Touch of Luxury: In recent years, the river-ship operators have quietly reinvented the genre by upgrading everything from ships and itineraries to staff and excursions. The new river ships now have much more in common with their oceangoing counterparts than they previously did, offering improved accommodations and facilities.
Headline Acts: Look for theme cruises being hosted by more big-name stars—like previous headliners John Mayer, the Barenaked Ladies and Lynyrd Skynyrd—instead of B-list celebrities and has-been sports stars. Plus, cruises will focus on the hottest trends, like the Twilight Cruise in August 2010. Be prepared to book early, though, as the hottest theme cruises are guaranteed to sell out far in advance, if not instantly.
Short-Change for Tipping Policies: Tipping polices, which often include compulsory gratuities, are changing. Royal Caribbean is reviewing its gratuities procedures, and P&O Australia recently announced that, starting with the line’s October 2010 departures, gratuities will no longer be automatically added to passengers’ onboard bills. That will leave guests to tip—or not—at their own discretion. On the luxury side, Azamara is abolishing gratuities for housekeeping and dining as part of its more-inclusive policy.