By Jane Archer
After the worst 18 months in the history of cruising, with ships around the world forced to stop sailing as Covid spread like wildfire across the globe, it’s wonderful to see so many vessels already back in the water – and many more about to get back into service – and demand for cruise holidays back on the radar. And how! Passengers, starved for all those months of their favourite holiday, are snapping up cruises, not just for next year but 2023 and 2024. Whether new ships, favourite vessels, sailings close to home or around the world, the opportunities for selling cruise is fantastic.
A cruise for everyone
It is a tribute to the resilience of the cruise industry that despite coming to a complete standstill for so many months, confidence never faltered and new ship order books remain as full as ever. Amazingly, despite the pandemic several new vessels were delivered last year (but only able to start sailing this summer); coming up in 2022, an incredible 17 new ocean-going ships are scheduled to launch.
Of those, four are Polar-class vessels designed to sail the icy waters of the Arctic, Antarctica and Northwest Passage and explore remote destinations such as the Russian Far East and Patagonia. It’s an extraordinary number for what traditionally has been a small specialist market but all are much needed to cope with demand from increasingly-adventurous customers looking to travel off-piste.
Next year and beyond will also see numerous new river ships enter service as more travellers discover the joys of travelling through countries on some of the world’s greatest waterways. The Danube and Rhine are firm favourites, but there are many more rivers to discover in Europe and further afield. The Nile in Egypt, back on the radar after many years in the doldrums; the Mekong, blazing a trail though Cambodia and Vietnam; America’s legendary Mississippi; the Amazon’s wildlife wonderland. Fancy a cruise on Columbia’s Magdalena River? Most travellers will not have heard of it but it joins the line-up from late 2023, offering a treat for those looking for new adventures.
In short, the opportunities are massive for agents to increase sales to past passengers and cruise virgins keen to discover new horizons, exotic lands and set foot in remote spots where only a select few have trod.
In luxury too, opportunities are growing. Once the preserve of a few cruise lines, this sector is developing apace with new names entering the market and more layers of luxury being added as expectations increase. Luxury means different things to different people, but whether clients want a small ship that counts passengers in their hundreds, crew trained to anticipate guests’ wishes, a choice of dining options or inclusive prices – or all of the above - there is a ship to suit. If your customer’s idea of luxury is casual exclusivity, look to the new generation of yachts and sailing ships.
The contemporary cruise lines, so perfect for families, are likewise adapting to meet the expectations of future cruisers. More choice in on-board dining, activities and entertainment, and stepping up service though technology are high on their agenda. Many are also eyeing the luxury market with lavish ship in a ship areas for those who seek exclusivity but are loath to give up the choice only the large resort-style vessels can deliver.
Where to cruise
As sales records continue to be broken, fears the pandemic would quash customers’ appetite for cruising have proved unfounded. Instead, sailings for 2022 and beyond are flying off the shelves as people make up for months of lockdowns and border closures.
Long and world cruises, especially, have been in huge demand, and with Barbados open for business, and a favorite with Brits, cruise lines are offering more sailings from there to the Caribbean for the UK market, creating opportunities for agents to tap into the cruise-and-stay market. New players and itineraries make Antarctica this winter and next, and Alaska in summer 2022, highly desirable for those with an adventurous spirit.
Closer to home, Greece, the Canary Islands and Northern Europe look set to figure highly in the popularity charts for 2022, as does the UK. This summer’s seacations, borne of necessity, were so successful that lines are extending their seasons or returning in summer 2022 with new itineraries to keep the momentum going. These cruises naturally attracted a lot of past passengers; more surprising was the number of first-timers who hopped on board as they were too late to find accommodation in the UK and couldn’t travel overseas. If history repeats itself, and it usually does, they will be looking to book their next cruise if they haven’t already.
The wow factor
With everything from a Skywalk ropes course on P&O Cruises’ Arvia to a suite in a funnel on Disney’s Disney Wish, there’s plenty for cruisers to look forward to on 2022’s crop of new ships.
Sybarites are in for a treat on Silversea’s Silver Dawn, which debuts Otium, a luxurious wellness programme that takes its inspiration from the ancient Roman’s love of indulgence, pampering and pleasure. Talking of indulgence, Celebrity Beyond will have a new two-storey sundeck for suite guests in the exclusive Retreat and the first at-sea restaurant by Michelin-starred chef and restaurateur Daniel Boulud.
There are more foodie firsts on MSC Cruises’ new-look World Europa (check out that Y-shaped aft that opens to the sea), which has a vegetarian Chef’s Garden Kitchen and Le Pescaderia seafood grill alongside established favourites including Butcher’s Cut steakhouse and Asian Teppanyaki grill.
Thrill-seekers can test their mettle on Bolt, a roller-coaster on Carnival Cruise Line’s new Carnival Celebration, which fittingly enters service on time to ‘celebrate’ the line’s 50th birthday. Back on the Disney Wish, splashtacular fun for all the family is promised on AquaMouse, a wild water ride through tubes high above the ship’s top decks.
Or how about feeling the force as you plunge 10-storeys on The Drop, the world’s first freefall dry slide? It’s on Norwegian Cruise Line’s Norwegian Prima, which pairs lots that’s new with NCL favourites such as a go-kart track (but this one is longer than ever and even goes through the ship’s funnel) and The Haven, a exclusive spot for suite guests that has moved from the front to the back of the ship and now spans eight decks.
All these are just the tip of the new ship iceberg, which circles neatly back to those four expedition vessels coming out in 2022 with everything from Science labs to helicopters and submarines.
Oceans of opportunity? You bet!