Our regular column from Andy Harmer, VP Operations & Director of Cruise Lines International Association (CLIA) UK & Ireland
With the recent launch of Regent Seven Seas’ Seven Seas Explorer, a ship billed as the most luxurious cruise ship ever built, there’s no denying that there is a huge demand for luxury travel. Earlier this year, World Travel Monitor® reported the world population undertakes 46 million international luxury trips. This doesn’t just apply to land holidays – cruise is getting a piece of the action, too.
In fact, the luxury cruise sector is growing exponentially, which has triggered more investment; notably three new ocean ships in the next 18 months that come to the combined value of $1.09m.
But as the UK enters a time of change, what do we expect to happen to the luxury market? One thing’s for sure, all consumers will want value. Many might think that a luxury cruise is way out of their price range but this might not always be the case. There are some incredible offers out there, particularly when you consider what’s included.
Of course, the price of a holiday is an important factor, but the types of experiences available now play a major role in the booking process. The definition of luxury is changing and equal importance now needs to be placed on experiences, something all our ultra luxury cruise line members have acted upon.
Dining experiences are exceptional on board these ships with features that include culinary schools – you can go on land with the chef to the local market, buy and then cook your supper under the watchful eye of an experienced chef. It is this type of experience that is changing the shape of luxury. No longer are travellers content with being passive; on holiday we now want to come away having learned a skill. I’ve termed this experience the ‘sight do’ rather than ‘sight see’.
Not limited to onboard experiences, there is a strong desire for ‘educational’ visits, with itineraries and shore excursion programmes like no other. Guests don’t just see the destinations, they are fully immersed. A great example is Seabourn’s expedition programme where guests can join a naturalist in search of wildlife in Norway. Perhaps it’s a sign of what’s to come with its new ship Seabourn Encore, due to launch in December.
In April next year, we see the introduction of Silver Muse from Silversea, with itineraries that include the spectacular Chilean fjords and the Beagle Channel and Glacier Avenue at the tip of South America. Of course, luxury isn’t the preserve of ocean cruising – July saw the launch of Crystal River Cruises’ Crystal Mozart. For guests seeking high-intensity activity, Crystal can offer a 1,700ft hike to the top of Pöstlingberg for a birds-eye view of Linz, accompanied by a fitness instructor.
So for luxury cruise to thrive within this sector, it comes down to two points – value for money and innovation. If cruise lines stick with this formula, we can expect big things.
Whether you’re looking for a cultural holiday or relaxing break, find your perfect cruise with our Cruise Finder.