The cruise industry is performing well, so well, in fact, that it is outpacing other varieties of travel with its exceptional growth - a 23 percent margin over land-based travel according to United Nations World Tourism Organization (UNWTO) research. Now Cruise Lines International Association (CLIA) has listed its 10 reasons why, and I've added additional insight to match.
CLIA reiterates from its recent 2016 State of the Cruise Industry Outlook report that 24 million passengers are expected to take a cruise in 2016. That's 1 million more than last year, and 80 percent of CLIA Travel Agent Members concur, predicting higher demand.
"Cruise lines are constantly updating their offerings and providing almost unlimited itinerary options for travelers so it comes as no surprise that cruise travel is outpacing alternative vacation experiences," said Cindy D'Aoust, CLIA's Acting CEO. "A cruise vacation delivers amazing experiences in locations around the world at a tremendous value."
Here are the 10 reasons why CLIA believes the cruise industry is booming, along with my own thoughts.
1: Cruise Vacation Variety
CLIA says: "Over the past 15 years, cruise vacation options have continued to evolve and, today, there is a cruise for every kind of traveler. Ranging from family cruises complete with kid-friendly brand experiences to high-end pampering at world-class spas, there's a cruise experience for every travel desire."
My take: Not only are there a wide variety of cruise lines to suit every lifestyle, there are up to dozens of ships within each line with their own distinct personalities and set of features. And if that's not enough, theme cruises add to the enjoyment with more to see and do, with everything from "Star Wars" to music festivals at sea.
2: Best Bang for Your Buck
CLIA says: "Cruise travelers state the 'Return on Experience' offered by a cruise vacation is better than other vacation options. In addition to meals, accommodations and on-board activities that are typically included in the price, cruises also allow travelers to see multiple destinations in one trip, and for one cost."
My take: From hundreds to thousands of dollars, there's a price point for the masses all the way up to the most discerning of travelers, complete with varying levels of inclusions therein. Cruisers can choose to do as much or as little as their wallets allow; even a basic cruise is prime for exciting experiences.
3: On the River and Beyond
CLIA says: "River cruising is experiencing a big boost in cruise popularity and allow travelers to reach inland destinations that were never thought possible. River cruises now sail to more intimate spaces and lands previously thought hard to get to by cruise."
My take: In fact, the ports along the river are usually more immediately accessible than ocean ports, as highlights can sometimes be farther inland from the sea to access. But the heart of many European cities, for instance, was developed right along rivers, and so it's possible to step right off the gangplank into the hot spots.
4: A Tailored Trip
CLIA says: "Cruises offer each traveler the chance to customize a trip specifically to personal travel preferences. Whether travelers are hoping to relax by the pool or explore ancient ruins, there's a cruise and itinerary available."
My take: Of course, personalization can be enjoyed most on luxury lines with the greatest level of individual dedication to onboard service and off-board customization. But don't rule out standard and premium lines either where concierge services can often be employed to arrange extras just for you as well.
5: Cruise to Every Corner of the World
CLIA says: "Cruising not only allows travelers to travel to multiple destinations but also makes touring foreign countries accessible and less intimidating. A cruise can take travelers to foreign lands without the worry of navigating airports, restaurants or tourist sites."
My take: You'll always have a home-base of consistent quality on a cruise ship, and you might be surprised by the destinations they can take you. Expedition cruises seek out the nooks and crannies well beyond staples like the Caribbean and the Mediterranean. Think Micronesia or the Galapagos Islands, for instance.
6: Never a Dull Moment
CLIA says: "Many cruise lines offer a variety of on-board activities to keep travelers entertained, day or night, as they travel from port to port. From simulated surfing and sky diving to wine and chocolate tastings, the offerings are diverse and abundant."
My take: In many ways, cruise ships are becoming destinations unto themselves with plenty onboard to occupy a week's worth (or more) of leisure time. Multiple restaurants, theaters and unorthodox attractions are exceeding many vacation destinations ashore while taking you somewhere else entirely.
7: Multi-Generational Cruising
CLIA says: "It's hard to please everyone when it comes to vacationing, but cruising is designed to appeal to every age from toddlers to seniors. From family reunions to the family vacation of a lifetime, cruise experiences are the perfect multigenerational travel solution."
My take: Some lines, usually the mainstream ones, are better than others here. Luxury cruises usually embark on smaller ships less conducive to children, but mega ships can offer niche luxury experiences as well as popular activities for the whole family to enjoy.
8: Staying Connected at Sea
CLIA says: "While many like the appeal of being disconnected while on vacation, there are those that want or need to be connected while at sea. Today's cruises offer a myriad of Wi-Fi, onboard texting and data options."
My take: And the connection speeds are finally speeding up. Gone are the days of comparing onboard internet to dial-up as genuinely broadband options become more prevalent. The only caveat, at least for now, is that it tends to slow down as more people connect at once.
9: A Healthier Vacation
CLIA says: "With a growing emphasis on health and well-being, cruising offers a wide variety of health benefits. From the purity of ocean air to on-board fitness options, there's a way for everyone to stay healthy in both mind and body while on a cruise."
My take: Ten years ago this wouldn't have been a calling card of cruising, what with the time-honored emphasis on the all-you-can-eat buffet, which still remains. But now health-conscious dining and activity options also abound as onboard fitness centers and spas become more elaborate and active excursions are highlighted.
10: See the World, But Unpack Once
CLIA says: "Cruising gives travelers the chance to see, do and experience all areas of the world. While one can pack as little or as much into their trip as they'd like, their suitcase only needs to be unpacked once."
My take: This is probably the best selling point for any cruise. Why go to Europe and hotel hop, for instance, when you can take a river cruise and see the same sites far more leisurely while getting the added bonus of scenic sailing along the beautiful banks? My choice is always a cruise.
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