Jane Archer charts the direction of the cruise industry in the year ahead
While there are still challenges ahead, cruise lines continue to push forward in their post-pandemic recovery, offering an even better experience on board – and on land – than ever before.
In light of their progress and momentum, we asked cruise line executives to consult their crystal balls and forecast the industry trends for 2023.
Cruise Trend #1: People want a memory, not a souvenir
Bernie Carter, Oceania Cruises senior vice-president and managing director EMEA, says the way that cruisers visit destinations will change in 2023.
“People will be taking the same cruises but having different experiences,” he explains, highlighting Oceania Cruises’ tours that include watching sheep shearers at work and going behind the scenes of architectural masterpieces. “It’s happening across travel. People want a memory, not a souvenir.”
Celestyal Cruises chief operations officer George Koumpenas says the line has created new and authentic encounters tours – anything from home cooking to mosaic making – because passengers are increasingly seeking local interactions. “They want to really experience the destinations they visit,” he says.
Cruise Trend #2: Expedition Cruises
As more people seek to tick off wish-list destinations, expedition cruising is on the rise.
The noise created by all the new entrants to expedition cruising has helped raise awareness of the sector, too, but it remains a niche market. Seabourn is one of those new entrants. Lynn Narraway, the line’s UK and Europe managing director, says expedition cruising is about the quality and level of learning and immersion.
“Travellers increasingly want bucket-list holidays that connect them deeply with these destinations,” she says. “The level of business we have indicates they are prepared to pay to get the best experience possible.”
Cruise Trend #3: Demand for Wellness
River cruise line AmaWaterways has been a leading advocate for wellness, offering onboard fitness trainers and active excursions. AmaWaterways managing director Jamie Loizou believes it’s the way the sector is going in general as wellness becomes more mainstream.“People want to stay healthy, and the activities add to the destination experience.”
Jo Rzymowska, Celebrity Cruises vice-president and managing director EMEA, believes demand for wellness will continue to grow “despite the current climate”. She says: “Guests crave the chance to truly unwind, disconnect and nourish their mind, body and soul.”
Cruise Trend #4: Luxury Sailings
The cost of living may be rising, but people will still want luxury cruises, says Rzymowska. “Research shows consumers are doing what they can to ring-fence their much-needed holidays, even as they tighten their belts elsewhere. Our ships continue to fill from the top down for 2023.”
Seabourn’s Narraway agrees: “Bookings for our ocean fleet in 2023 are very strong. We believe discerning travellers will continue to book despite recent economic issues.”
Shanks believes the higher cost of living will have some impact on the luxury sector, but so far it's looking resilient. “People want space – a hangover from Covid – and they get that on a luxury ship. More than half of our 2022 bookings for 2023 and 2024 were from people new to Silversea.”
Cruise Trend #5: Sustainable Cruising
Sustainability will be a key issue in decision-making going forward as lines look to deal with overcrowding, says Celestyal’s Koumpenas. “We must work with local communities and authorities. It’s important both for them and us.”
A-Rosa Cruises is a leading player in the green revolution, having launched the first river ship in Europe to operate on battery power. Managing director Lucia Rowe says: “River cruising is all about [the] destination so we have to protect it. We must be ready because one day customers will choose based on sustainability.”
Silversea is following A-Rosa’s lead in 2023, launching the first hybrid luxury ship that will be emission-free while in port.