As 2022 is now on the downslope to New Year’s Day 2023, what trends are emerging on the high seas? Certainly, the U.S. government’s elimination of the pre-flight test to enter/re-enter the U.S. has fueled travel demand. One-third of Americans say that they’re more likely to travel internationally with that testing requirement gone, according to MMGY Global Intelligence’s research. As people get back out cruising, five trends in the luxury cruise marketplace have “taken off.”
1. Trading Up to a Top Suite
Luxury travelers are saying, “I deserve it,” after a few tough years with no travel. So, top-tier suites are selling out quickly—from the top down, not the bottom up. Cruisers who typically would have reserved a balcony stateroom are opting for a suite; those who previously sailed in a mid-level suite are now choosing the most spacious, highest category suite on the ship. So, as these top-level suites often sell out faster than in the past, loyal past guests are taking notice. “As a result, they’re booking further out to ensure that they get what they want,” emphasizes Michael Consoli, franchise owner, Cruise Planners, an American Express Travel Representative, Roswell, GA.
2. Booking Longer Luxury Voyages
Just a few years back, the future of World Cruises was uncertain. It was thought that younger generations wouldn’t flock to them the way mature guests did. Today, though, those lengthy voyages are a hot commodity, selling out in just hours or overnight. For the fourth year running, in June 2022, Regent Seven Seas Cruises sold out a World Cruise in record time; that 2025 sailing was fully reserved prior to opening for public sale. One-third of guests booking were new to brand.
Demographic-wise, loyal past guests and mature travelers still love World Cruises, but increasingly so do still-working Baby Boomers and even younger professionals. Connectivity is the reason. With smart phones, tablets and laptops in tow, guests are now able to work remotely using shipboard Wi-Fi. Competitively, many cruise lines have upped their bandwidth to improve Wi-Fi speed and reliability; it’s not perfect, but vastly improved from the past.
Ruth Turpin, owner of Cruises Etc., a Virtuoso member agency in Fort Worth, TX, says that “one of the biggest trends we’re seeing is clients booking much longer cruises.” Lines have responded on all levels. Past World Cruises were often 80 to 125 days, but Oceania Cruises will operate a 180-day 2023 World Cruise, while Royal Caribbean International fields a 274-day 2023 World Cruise. Many others too have much lengthier options than in the past.
Grand Voyages up to 65 days or so are also increasingly popular. “Our luxury clients are looking for the most inclusive experiences available and on longer sailings,” says Consoli. “They want to get out of the house and they want to do it for a while longer than in the past.” Whether for World Cruises, Grand Voyages or even less lengthy voyages, consumers with pent-up wanderlust are targeting more travel dollars to spend. “That’s pushing them to look at the 14-day to 28-day sailings instead of the normal 10 to 14 days,” he says.
Back-to-backs are definitely in style. Turpin also sees luxury lines “making itineraries seven and 14 days where they do not repeat any ports,” thus encouraging back-to-back bookings.
3. Combining Luxury with Adventure
Perhaps the hottest cruise trend, though, is “the rise of expedition. Silversea Cruises had just acquired the nearly new, former Crystal Endeavor. Renamed Silver Endeavour in honor of James Cook, the 18th century captain of HMS Endeavour. The expedition ship will begin sailing in November 2022 and replace Silver Explorer in Antarctica this coming winter. Seabourn’s new 264-passenger Seabourn Venture, recently debuted in Alaska, and sister Seabourn Pursuit will set sail this year, too.
Scenic Group’s second Discovery Yacht, the 228-passenger Scenic Eclipse II, was recently floated out. Viking’s new 378-passenger expedition ship, Viking Octantis, is now sailing the Great Lakes. Sister Viking Polaris will launch this fall and both will head for Antarctica this coming winter. Ponant’s LNG-powered icebreaker, the luxurious, 245-passenger Le Commandant Charcot, is now taking travelers to the geographic North Pole. Atlas Ocean Voyages will position the 196-passenger World Navigator and new World Traveller in Antarctica during winter 2022-23.
For a different style of pampering adventure, Lindblad Expedition will offer a Croatia/Slovenia cruise and separate western Mediterranean itinerary in 2023 on the historic, 58-passenger Sea Cloud, a luxurious, four-masted, sailing ship once owned by Marjorie Merriweather Post. Guests can even opt to help hoist the sails.
4. Savoring Everything Culinary
Luxury cruisers are increasingly seeking a strong culinary component—fine cuisine, specialty dining choices, cooking classes and shoreside culinary and wine programs. The new Explora Journeys has laid the keel for its second ship, Explora II, and with nine restaurants, guests will have myriad culinary choices. Regent Seven Seas Cruises will unveil an enhanced Sette Mari experience (with refined/new menu choices) on the new 750-passenger Seven Seas Grandeur, launching in 2023.
Oceania Cruises’ gourmet cuisine has been entirely reimagined from new dishes at the Grand Dining Room to a Dom Pérignon pairing dinner, while Azamara’s new 684-passenger Azamara Onward offers an Atlas Bar that serves new small plates (think “smoked lobster crudo) and artisanal cocktails using the latest techniques from smoking domes to nitro-infusions. As a “deep dive” in local food and drink tastings, Silversea’s S.A.L.T. (Sea and Land Taste) program debuted in late 2021 and is now on two ships. Launching in 2023, the 728-passenger Silver Nova will offer eight distinct dining venues including the 160-capacity S.A.L.T. Kitchen; it will have more space for bit larger groups and a more social culinary experience.
The Ritz-Carlton Yacht Collection’s 298-passenger Evrima is slated to begin cruising on August 31, 2022. Highly anticipated is specialty restaurant S.E.A. with a European tasting menu created by Chef Sven Elverfeld of the three-Michelin-starred Aqua at The Ritz-Carlton, Wolfsburg, Germany. Windstar Cruises’ revitalized, 312-passenger Star Pride offers the new Cuadro 44 by Anthony Sasso; we’d recommend the small octopus starter plate as it’s superb. Celebrity Cruises has introduced new “Captain-Curated Shore Excursions” in the Greek Isles, some with a culinary bent. At Katakolon (Olympia), Celebrity’s guests will visit Olympia, explore an olive mill, make their own Greek salad using fresh tzatziki and wrap their own pita souvlaki.
5. Soaring Multi-Generational Demand
Families have a strong need to reconnect so cruise lines have added new holiday or summer voyages, or multigenerational experiences. Definitely, “we’re seeing an uptick in multi-generational travel,” reports Consoli. One Seabourn “first” is a Hawaii holiday sailing on the 450-passenger Seabourn Sojourn, departing December 22, 2023, roundtrip from Los Angeles. This 20-day “Allure of Aloha Holiday” voyage calls at Catalina Island, CA, five Hawaiian islands and Ensenada, Mexico, plus spends many days at sea.
For families seeking a new ship, Disney Cruise Line’s 4,000-passenger Disney Wish now sails from Port Canaveral, FL. A new, interactive “Disney Uncharted Adventure” experience is designed for families to play together. With the line’s Navigator app, guests’ mobile devices become “spyglasses” with families unlocking adventure, solving puzzles, conquering quests and, ultimately, “saving the day.”
Also, Princess Cruises will offer year-round cruises from Los Angeles in 2023. Included are the line’s first-ever summer roundtrip sailings to Mexico, Hawaii and the California coast; they’ll be operated by the 3,080-passenger Emerald Princess. “Grandparents have been separated from their families for two years and we are seeing a desire to get the family together, regardless of the cost,” Consoli explains. “They just want that time with their families and to create the lasting memories they have missed.”