Last updated: 03:00 PM ET, Wed December 30 2015

13 Trends Coming to Cruising in 2016 (And What They Mean)

Cruise Line & Cruise Ship | Cruise Lines International Association (CLIA) | Jason Leppert | December 28, 2015

13 Trends Coming to Cruising in 2016 (And What They Mean)

Image courtesy of CLIA

Cruise Lines International Association (CLIA) has revealed its “2016 State of the Cruise Industry Outlook” report accompanied by 13 telling trends and a new infographic. Overall, the key word for the industry remains growth, as lines continue to expand and evolve to meet new consumer demands.

The most staggering statistic is the expectation that 24 million passengers will take a cruise in 2016, up significantly from the 15 million a decade ago in 2006 and the 1.4 million when CLIA first measured passenger numbers in 1980.

This coming year, CLIA member lines are matching with more than a $6.5 billion investment in new oceangoing ships. And 8 out of 10 CLIA member travel agents said they also expect to see higher cruise sales in 2016. Plus, the global impact of the industry accounts for $119.9 billion in economic stimulation.

"In an effort to make cruising the best overall vacation experience available, the industry is continuing to evolve to ensure there truly is a cruise for every travel style and budget," said Cindy D'Aoust, CLIA's Acting CEO. "By creating unique ships, new experiences and access to destinations around the world, the evolution, appeal and value of cruise travel continues to drive the overall growth of the industry.”

Let’s now list and analyze CLIA’s “Lucky 13 Cruise Industry Trends” below:

1- Rise of the River Cruise — River cruises are growing in popularity, introducing the value and unique travel experience to new cruise travelers. CLIA cruise line members currently deploy 170 river cruise ships with 18 new river cruise ships on order for 2016, an increase of more than 10 percent.

Our Take: Remarkably, Viking River Cruises (not a CLIA member) alone sails another 60 riverboats, with six more planned for 2016, beyond the listed numbers, making the ubiquitous line the clear leader in spearheading the charge in river growth and popularity.

2- More Ships, More Options — In 2015, there are a total of 471 cruise ships with an additional 27 new ocean, river and specialty ships scheduled to debut in 2016.

Our Take: It’s going to be a busy year as cruise lines launch new ships such as Holland America Line’s Koningsdam, Royal Caribbean International’s Harmony of the Seas and Ovation of the Seas, Carnival Cruise Line’s Carnival Vista, Regent Seven Seas Cruises’ Seven Seas Explorer and Seabourn Cruise Line’s Seabourn Encore, just to name a few.

3- On the Map — Five years ago, cruise travel was almost unheard of in Asia. Today, the region is the fastest growing in the cruise industry. Between 2012 and 2014, passenger volume grew from 775,000 to nearly 1.4 million passengers, a 34 percent compound annual growth rate.

Our Take: The Chinese market is booming, and the cruise lines are heeding the call. Carnival Corporation will have six ships in the region in 2016. Princess Cruises’ next Majestic Princess is also on the way as is an entirely new cruise line dedicated to the market. Plus, Norwegian Cruise Line is building a new ship specifically for China, and Royal Caribbean International already has its new Quantum of the Seas there.

4- G'Day for a Cruise — While Asia continues to grow rapidly, Australia also continues to experience record growth. In fact, Australia's cruise industry surpassed a major milestone in 2014, exceeding more than one million passengers in a calendar year. In ten years, Australia's cruise passengers have grown more than six-fold, from a base of 158,000 in 2004.

Our Take: In fact, P&O Cruises Australia just introduced another two ships to its fleet, formerly from Holland America Line, that were just celebrated with a procession in Sydney Harbour. G’day, mate!

5- Cruise Specialists — The cruise industry continues to leverage the expertise of cruise specialists to help guide travel decisions. Today, there are more than 30,000 CLIA-member travel agents globally compared to 12,000 travel agents in 2010.

Our Take: While more and more passengers know exactly what they want to book, travel agents continue to advise potential guests on the best cruise line suited to them, an invaluable service that doesn’t cost any more to use. 

6- Connectivity and Cruising — The cruise industry has made consumers' desire to stay connected while traveling a priority. Most of today's cruises offer a myriad of Wi-Fi, onboard texting and data options.

Our Take: And even more exciting is the expanding presence of high-speed internet at sea. Gone are the days of a connection that trickles thanks to new technologies employed by the likes of Carnival Cruise Line and Royal Caribbean International.

7- A Love for Luxe — The desire for luxury travel continues to rise. Specialty cruise lines are responding with yachting experiences, concierge services, exclusive tours, gourmet dining and personal butler service.

Our Take: There has been no greater time for growth in the luxury segment than now, as all the major lines are anticipating new ships. Crystal Cruises, in particular, is accelerating like no other with not only ocean, river and yacht vessels but also two pairs of jet airliners.

8- Brands at Sea — Cruise lines are leveraging the cross-promotional appeal of brands to appeal to new cruise travelers. From family-friendly household names like LEGO and Dr. Seuss, to upscale luxury brands like Hermes and Veuve Clicquot Champagne, and even dining options like Johnny Rockets and Margaritaville, brands are setting sail on cruise lines.

Our Take: Disney Cruise Line pioneered brand synergy with its library of in-house properties and franchises, but the competition is no longer as far behind as they once were. With so many more potential partnerships, the future in this arena is bright. 

9- Ships Are the Destination — While cruise ships were once considered a mode of transportation to get to a desired destination, today, for many, a cruise ship offers the experience of a destination. Today's latest ships offer unprecedented onboard experiences and amenities for travelers, from Broadway productions and designer shops to zip lining and bumper cars.

Our Take: And they keep getting bigger. Royal Caribbean International is set to launch its third Oasis-class ship in 2016, a slightly larger version of the Allure of the Seas before it, and a fourth is scheduled to come online in 2018. Already new to Harmony is a collection of lengthy waterslides that can take advantage of the ship’s increased size.

10- Stay the Night — Many cruise lines are offering overnight stays at designated ports of call to give cruisers an opportunity to fully immerse themselves in the experiences available at the destination.

Our Take: Azamara Club Cruises especially does this right with its AzAmazing Evenings when its ships not only stay overnight but also present an included nighttime experience that dramatically showcases the destination, from concerts to fireworks. 

11- Grand(parent) Travel Experiences — Intergenerational cruising has become a popular selection for family reunions or the family vacation of a lifetime. With cruise amenities designed to satisfy every age from toddler to seniors, cruises provide the togetherness (and the independence) that makes intergenerational family travel a success.

Our Take: My parents embraced this philosophy and took me along on cruises since before I was two years old, so I have seen the evolution of multigenerational venues evolve, and there is no better time to bring the whole family aboard. I mean, the Carnival Vista is going to have an IMAX theater at sea next year. How cool is that for all generations?

12- Cruise Voluntourism — More "voluntourism" cruises are available in 2016 with several ships including excursions to help areas of need around the world. These service-oriented cruises offer a wonderful opportunity to make a meaningful difference in the communities cruise ships visit and a rare experience to embrace and impact local culture.

Our Take: The most high profile example of this is the forthcoming new Fathom brand from Carnival Corp. set to bring social impact sailings to the Dominican Republic and cultural immersion cruises to Cuba. See the world and do good. It doesn’t get much more rewarding than that.

13- Culturally Customized — Cruise lines are continuing to customize cruise ships based upon passenger cultures. From shopping and dining preferences, vessels are being outfitted to serve guests as well as pay homage to their ports of call.

Our Take: China, China, China! While this new market is garnering the most attention right now, there are plenty of other markets like Germany and aforementioned Australia that plenty of other cruises are tailored to.

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