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The Changing and Specialist Cruise Market

The cruise industry has grown exponentially since its earliest days in the mid-nineteenth century, when P&O introduced the first passenger cruises from Southampton to what were then exotic destinations like Gibraltar, Athens and Malta. Today’s industry statistics show that the demand for cruise vacations has grown by 2,100% since the early 1970s. Passengers and industry professionals alike could be forgiven for thinking that the leisure cruise market has nowhere else to go but it continues to evolve and grow.

Trends to watch in 2018 include:

Internet and “smart ship” technology

Cruise line owners have taken note of the increasing digitalisation of the world. They recognise that many passengers expect their online experience while at sea to be no different to the one they enjoy onshore. Consequently, no expense is being spared when it comes to investing in satellite providers capable of offering fast and reliable internet connections. Equally, many brands in the industry are competing to provide the best apps for their guests to use. A good example includes Carnival Corporation’s Ocean Medallion, a personal concierge system currently previewing on the Regal Princess.

Record growth in Alaska and the Caribbean

The latest annual report from the industry points to the likelihood of 2018 being a bumper year for passenger cruises in Alaska and the Caribbean. While this may translate into additional ships, how the ports cope with the expected rise in passengers is also a key issue when it comes to how the industry manages the growth.

Pricing challenges in the China and Asia-Pacific markets

Industry capacity in the China and Asia-Pacific markets is currently trending downwards. Major industry players are proceeding with appropriate caution, although there are already suggestions that keeping ticket prices competitive could help boost growth beyond 2018.

Expedition ships

Wanderlust and the desire to experience some of the world’s wildest ocean landscapes means that the industry continues to invest in luxury, specialist expedition ships. For example, Ponant is shortly to welcome Le Lapérouse and Le Champlain, for trips that include the Scandinavian fjords and the Orinoco River.

Floating festivals

Think Ibiza meets cruise ship. The rise of the floating festival is an example of clever diversification within an industry. For many young people, cruises were not "cool". It was the sort of thing their grandparents went on. Today, things could not be more different. Party cruises such as The Arc and Holy Ship! have young passengers flooding in by the boatload. Literally.

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