Since the beginning of 2020, loyal cruise-goers have been denied their indulgences and getaways. Two years on, they are hungry and raring to go. The industry has seen a massive surge in bookings – Oceania’s world cruise for 2023 sold out in just a day. So what can the industry look forward to in the coming months, and maybe even years?
More cruise ships are mandating vaccines for some or all passengers, including children. Since requirements vary between ships, companies and ports of call, it appears that cruise lines are taking the most preventive measures to safeguard their own and their patrons’ interests. Norwegian, for example, requires every passenger and crew member to show proof of being vaccinated against COVID-19 and be tested for the virus before boarding.
Technology will play an even bigger role on board cruise ships as COVID-19 continues to return in waves. Prepare for contactless everything – from online check-ins and boarding passes to keycards on your phone and portable devices such as RFID wristbands to pay for food and beverages. The ship’s mobile app will offer everything from layout plans, children’s trackers, reservations, menus and even e-muster processes. Voice-enabled AI will probably answer any cruise-related queries you have in your cabin itself.
Private islands with strict protocols
Cocooning away from COVID-19 can be tough on vacation, but cruise ships are making it easy for guests. Many own private islands in the Caribbean and around the world where they enforce their own health and safety protocols. It is expected that most itineraries will include a stop or overnight at a private island in the coming year.
Every country and port of call will have its own set of rules for cruise ships to follow. And companies will work overtime to ensure they adhere to these. Cruise crew and passengers can expect companies to help them get COVID tests if required before returning home, or organise screenings before disembarking in port. Most will be expected to have contactless check-ins, temperature checks and maybe even PCR testing.
According to Travel Market Report, as many as 17 new ocean-going ships are expected to launch in 2022 covering a range of sizes. Viking Cruises is launching the Octantis and Polaris with space for research scientists and a six-guest submarine each. The biggest ship in the world – Royal Caribbean’s Wonder of the Seas – boasts a cantilevered pool bar and a suite class neighbourhood. Seabourn is launching its all-suite, all-balcony Venture with 26 expedition guides and 24 Zodiac boats.
There are also new ships expected from Virgin Voyages, Discovery, Celebrity, Ritz-Carlton, Disney, Norwegian, and MSC Cruises.
RISE OF RIVER CRUISING
River cruising is seeing increased interest in longer sailings and bucket-list trips to places such as the Peruvian Amazon, Egypt or the Mekong in Vietnam and Cambodia. Many guests have been working remotely since the pandemic began, which makes it more convenient for them to take longer trips. Other trends in river cruising include solo travelers, cruise-and-rail combo trips, domestic cruises and add-on port excursions.