Find out what’s new for the cruise industry in 2015

Michelle and Karl Teel

It’s always interesting each year to look into the new trends in the cruise industry. And, cruising still remains a great bargain for your vacation dollars. In fact, the prices of air travel and hotel accommodations have increased when compared to the all-inclusive nature of cruises.iceland-262739_640

So, what’s happening on the cruise scene for 2015? Plenty. There are new ships, new itineraries, more exciting onboard activities, better on-board technology, more “foodie” experiences, and an explosion of riverboat cruises.

There are seven new ships being launched this year, including a new Royal Caribbean ship, Anthem of the Seas, in June and a new Norwegian Cruise Line vessel, Norwegian Escape, in October. These new ships are packed full of amazing technology, free Wi-Fi, redesigned staterooms, trendy public spaces, better dining options, and fantastic onboard adventure.

Royal Caribbean, the cruise line that first brought us onboard zip lines and ice skating rinks, continues to push the envelope with an innovative sports facility offering trapeze lessons, roller skating, and bumper cars on its newest ships, Quantum of the Seas and Anthem of the Seas.

 

Activities and itineraries

There are still plenty of the old reliables out there, such as vacations to the Caribbean with all of the relaxing, exciting, and fun things to see and do. Lucky for us, there continues to be an exciting game of one-upmanship between the cruise lines as each vies for consumers’ vacation dollars and time.

There are excursion offerings for those who love to be active, such as a 5- or 10-kilometer run — led by a fitness professional — that can wind through Amsterdam and end up at the Rijksmuseum. Celebrity offers a VIP Access program, “Signature Event Sailings,” which carries an extra fee but offers exclusive access to international events such as Carnival in Rio, the Chinese New Year in Hong Kong, and film events during the Cannes Film Festival.

Cruise lines continue to up the ante on the itineraries they are offering. Some are offering stops in locations they have never cruised to before. Carnival is now offering stops to several new Caribbean locations, including Bonaire and Grenada. Higher-end cruise lines, such as Oceania, are offering stops in smaller ports with longer stays to allow passengers more time to explore and to have more in-depth cultural experiences. The smaller ship size also allows the cruise line to sail into more exotic locations around the world.

Anyone who has ever cruised and tried to use the Internet to catch up on emails or to surf the web knows just how excruciatingly slow it is on a ship. The cruise lines are trying hard to improve connectivity during sailing since it has become such a huge part of everybody’s lives and vacationers want to be able to share their photos and experiences in real time.

Princess Cruise Line has an app that lets passengers text for free. Some cruise lines have actually started to offer free Wi-Fi, while Royal Caribbean’s Quantum class of ships have a new satellite system which provides bandwidth that is broad enough to allow for video streaming. Quantum class passengers can use the Royal IQ App to track luggage and an RFID bracelet that can be used to enter your stateroom and to make purchases.

 

Expanding culinary offerings

The culinary experiences offered by cruise lines continue to expand both on and off of the ship. Cooking classes with master chefs, several-course wine-pairing events, upscale restaurants, and a wider variety of eateries are part of the culinary fare that the cruise lines are offering. Many cruise lines are now providing visits to world famous restaurants, winery tours, and culinary tours as excursions.

River cruising continues to grow in popularity and is appealing to those cruisers who want to explore a country in depth. River cruises offer a smaller, more intimate ship design and capacity because the rivers limit the size of the ships. There is no compromise, however, on the stateroom size, the quality of the dining experiences, or the variety and character of the excursions and experiences. Look for several new river cruise ships to launch in 2015 and beyond.
This month, the Carnival Pride will return to the Port of Baltimore after a multimillion dollar refurbishment and will resume yearlong departures, visiting the Eastern Caribbean, as well as Florida and the Bahamas. The weeklong itineraries to choose from include a Florida/Bahamas cruise that visits Port Canaveral (Orlando) and Nassau and Freeport, or an exotic Eastern Caribbean cruise that visits Freeport, Grand Turk, and the private Half Moon Cay island in the Bahamas. The makeover program adds dining, bar, and entertainment innovations that are part of the line’s $500 million product enhancement program called Fun Ship 2.0.

Other cruise trends to watch for in the near future include more high-end cruise lines welcoming multigenerational cruisers, the addition of family-size cabins, cabins for single cruisers, and cruises becoming more popular with the younger set because of the affordability. Bon voyage!

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