Want to know what’s on the horizon for the industry? What destinations will you be booking and what will you be asked about? It’s all here in our guide…
Cruise lines and tour operators cannot be considered major players without an ambassador. Typically designers, chefs or celebrities, these creative influencers help fly the flag while promoting a brand feature or USP; note Kelly Hoppen’s visionary makeover of the cabins on board Celebrity Edge, APT’s linkup with chef Luke Nguyen, and Princess’s collaboration with TV presenter Philip Schofield. There’s also Silversea’s partnership with American photographer and photojournalist Steve McCurry, who has been brought on board to chronicle Silversea ships and itineraries, and help customers to discover authentic experiences and destinations.
The cruise traveller experience is about to get a shake-up with the introduction of the Ocean Medallion on Regal Princess this November. ‘Experience Intelligence’ aims to make a cruise more interactive – the Ocean Medallion is a real-time device that can be pinned to clothing, carried or added to a wrist strap, enabling passengers to access their cabin without a keycard, pay for food and drinks, locate travel companions and access the ship’s digital portal. It also learns about the wearer’s preferences, offering options to personalise the trip and maximise the experience. We’re placing bets that the industry will be watching this new innovation closely. Celebrity is working on a smartphone app with a similar functionality that will allow remote-control drinks ordering and cabin access, while Crystal’s new portal, Crystal Connect, above right, will enable guests to access the internet as well as shipboard information, including daily menus, activities, shore excursions and port maps.
Be prepared for an influx of clients enquiring about Australia and New Zealand as their ultimate bucket list destinations. Tony Roberts, vice president UK & Europe of Princess Cruises, says that both are on the up – and according to the cruise line, more UK guests are now travelling to Asia than the Caribbean, although Norwegian’s Nick Wilkinson, speaking at the recent CLIA Cruise 360 Conference, pleaded with agents to sell more Caribbean islands to help them recover following Hurricanes Irma and Maria.
Conservation and the environment
This is a hot topic as cruise lines continue to work to find solutions to environmental issues. Kerry Anastassiadis, CEO of Celestyal Cruises and chair of CLIA Europe, highlighted key issues at CLIA Cruise 360, including sea conservation and water management. According to Anastassiadis, ships produce cleaner water than many cities, while gas emissions are reduced with the aid of the latest technology which has been created by the ships themselves. According to Cruise Nation, cruise liners are already investing in environmentally friendly initiatives around waste disposal and water efficiency to reduce their carbon footprint. Royal Caribbean’s Icon Class ships, planned for 2022, will be powered by liquefied natural gas and use fuel cell technology to reduce gas emissions. Plans are also in place for what is being dubbed the ‘World’s Greenest Cruise Ship’ which will use retractable solar panels and a future-ready hybrid engine.
According to Robin West, manager of expeditions at Seabourn, sub-Antarctic South Georgia is a ‘destination on steroids,’ with the ability to reduce even seasoned travellers to tears. If your client is into wildlife, entice them with the fact that they’re likely to see 250,000 pairs of king penguins along with fur seals and albatrosses; West believes that the South Atlantic ocean island is the greatest natural wildlife sanctuary on the planet. Tip: include South Georgia when selling Antarctica.
Cruise lines are also raising the bar when it comes to interiors; expect décor inspired by boutique hotels and world-famous restaurants, fresh design schemes and contemporary furnishings. “Decor is getting a makeover, but rather than scrap whole fleets of vessels and start again, it is all about upcycling, and making the old new,” says Debbie Stevens from The Cruise Line. “A very modern, sophisticated visual style is being adopted across the industry, moving away from the outdated typical ‘cruise’ look and leaning more in the direction of hotel chic.” If your client wants to experience this for themselves, keep an eye on new ship launches from Celebrity, Saga and Azamara.
Learning and immersive experiences are definitely on everyone’s radar for 2018, says Richard Tarrant, head of marketing at Voyages to Antiquity. “With an average of two experts per voyage, our guest speakers complement the places visited by providing fascinating insights through lectures, helping passengers get under the skin of the cultural, historical and natural treasures of cruise destinations in the process,” he says. “Our 2018 summer season continues to go from strength to strength with bookings up by 10 per cent year on year.” Azamara and Tauck also specialise in immersive itineraries, to enable guests to ‘travel deeper.’
Milos, a volcanic Greek island in the Aegean sea with more than 75 beaches, is a relatively under-the-radar cruise destination – but not for long. “Milos is a geographic marvel famed for its natural beauty, culture and history, including its catacombs and amazing beaches, some accessible by car, some by boat, including incredible Sarakiniko,” says Kerry Anastassiadis, CEO of Celestyal Cruises. “Thanks to our mid-sized, cosy vessels, we were able to introduce the island to the global cruise industry in 2014. Since then our passengers have enthusiastically requested that we again bring them to this astonishing destination, and we’ve decided to give them a full day on this uncrowded, unspoilt gem on our new Idyllic cruises.” If your client is a fan of Greece and the islands – and let’s face it, who isn’t? – pass on this insider tip.