BUOY, OH BUOY
Even diehard landlubbers and Millennials are getting excited about the depth of choice
It’s a well-known fact: the cruise industry is buoyant, and growing by the day. And with this popularity comes new innovations, experiences, destinations, cuisine offerings and sparkling new ships. It’s a safe bet that in 2018 there will be a cruise that caters to every taste, even for those that consider themselves landlubbers. We’ve uncovered what’s new and intriguing in the world of cruising for 2018.
NEW BREEDS OF CRUISERS
It’s true, cruisers are beginning to skew younger. Royal Caribbean is seeing an average 50 per cent year-on-year growth in Millennial sailors (aged 20-35 years) within the local market.
And with more activities geared towards them, it’s no surprise.
“This trend will continue into 2018 as they focus more on experiences, rather than acquiring possessions,” says Hoot Cruises general manager Jeff Leckey.
“To cater for this trend, the major cruise lines are providing more authentic experiences on their shore excursions, more activities on board and better connectivity while at sea.”
A rising demographic that Carnival has noticed is “honeyboomers”. They’ve seen an 80 per cent increase in couples with older children sailing without their children to experience new adventures.
“Dubbed the ‘honeyboomer’ trend, parents are embracing their alone time like never before to keep the love alive,” says Sandy Olsen, vicepresident corporate affairs for Carnival Australia.
Of course, connectivity on the high seas continues to be of utmost importance with cruisers wanting to know in advance what on-board internet packages cost and what the speeds and options are.
“The newer tech-savvy ships, such as Ovation of the Seas and Majestic Princess, have been built from the ground up with these facilities in mind,” Jeff Leckey says.
Cruise lines such as Silversea are even offering free Wi-Fi for every guest throughout their ships.
In other big technology news, Princess Cruises’ new wearable device, the Ocean Medallion, which enables personalisation and delivers an enhanced guest experience will be introduced into Australia come November 2018, onboard Golden Princess.
Meanwhile, on the new Symphony of the Seas, Royal Caribbean will introduce a “frictionless” check-in via a new mobile app where passengers will be able to use their smartphone to make embarking quicker so they can begin their cruising holiday.
NEW ACTIVITIES FOR THRILL SEEKERS
Set to be the biggest ship at sea, the 5500-guest Symphony of the Seas, sailing from April 2018, will feature a plethora of new activities on-board. Expect thrills while plummeting down the tallest slide at sea, named the Ultimate Abyss.
There’s also the world’s largest laser tag arena where guests can gear up for an epic glow-in-the-dark battle.
Meanwhile, according to Nicole Costantin, Norwegian Cruise Line vice-president, sales, the new 4000guest Norwegian Bliss will feature an open-air racetrack that lets riders travel at up to 50km/h on electric vehicles on nearly 300 metres of track.
“It isn’t the first time a Norwegian Cruise Line ship has added a go-kart track to its amenities, but the one on board the new Norwegian Bliss will be the biggest,” she says.
It will also have a water slide that sends riders out over the ocean.
FINE DINING AND IMBIBING
Expect more opportunities for exceptional dining at sea with the new Majestic Princess offering Michelin-star restaurants.
“Majestic Princess will feature 13 dining options including two restaurants with menus designed by Michelin-star chefs – Harmony by chef Richard Chen and La Mer by chef Emmanuel Renaut,” Carnival Australia’s Sandy Olsen says.
And this year’s introduction of a small bar on-board P&O Pacific Explorer has been a huge success.
“The small and hidden bar scene is incredibly popular on land and P&O has taken the concept to sea with The Bonded Store which features stylish decor in an intimate setting, as well as fantastic Archie Rose cocktails,” says Olsen, before hinting that there may be more of these innovations to come in 2018.
EXPECT THRILLS WHILE PLUMMETING DOWN THE TALLEST SLIDE AT SEA, NAMED THE ULTIMATE ABYSS
THINK SUITES WITH PRIVATE PLUNGE POOLS, GREY WASH WOOD FINISHES, EAMES LOUNGE CHAIRS, AND VELVET SOFT FURNISHINGS
“We remain committed to making sure our locally based fleet is fit-for-purpose and is at the cutting edge of revolutionising the cruise experience for Australian guests,” she says.
The giant Symphony of the Seas will feature new food offerings including Sugar Beach candy and ice-cream shop, complete with colourful lolly-packed walls.
There will also be Hooked, Royal Caribbean’s first New England-style seafood restaurant and El Loco Fresh offering Mexican fare.
With the popularity of cruising, comes more demand for variety.
Next year will see a huge range of new destinations on itineraries, ranging from the “remotest inhabited island in the world”– Tristan da Cunha, between South America and Africa – to a new terminal opening up north of Sydney in Newcastle.
A highlight of APT’s cruise schedule for 2018 is a visit to the island of Elba in the Tyrrhenian Sea’s Tuscan Archipelago National Park as part of their Moors to Rome expedition cruise.
For 2018, Silversea will visit more of the hard-to-get-to, lesser-known places for cruise ships.
“Destinations like our own Kangaroo Island in Australia, which is a hit with international guests and locals alike, thanks to a plethora of wildlife and natural beauty,” says Amber Wilson, managing director, Asia Pacific, Silversea.
Viking Cruises’ new Viking Ra will sail on a new Egypt itinerary, Pharaohs & Pyramids from March 2018.
“With her introduction, we will be one of the only Western companies to own and operate a ship on the Nile,” says Michelle Black, managing director of Viking Cruises Australia and New Zealand.
Scenic will be exploring destinations that have previously only been accessible to the more intrepid traveller, such as Cuba and the South Georgia Islands.
“Both will be featured in our inaugural season of cruises aboard Scenic Eclipse,” says Scenic national marketing manager Liz Glover.
EXTRA STYLE AND COMFORT
Raising the bar in modern cruising, Celebrity Cruises will be launching their new Edge class in December 2018 with the 2918-guest ship,
Celebrity Edge. Guests can expect revolutionary advancements including an “infinite veranda” in the 918 Edge Staterooms.
The floor-to-ceiling window can retract to create a glass railing together with folding french doors if a balcony is desired. Not only will the vista be bigger, there will now be more space in the staterooms.
Get ready for giant bathrooms and more storage. Also expect ultra modern design by renowned London designer Kelly Hoppen.
Think suites with private plunge pools, grey wash wood finishes, Eames lounge chairs and velvet soft furnishings. Best of all though is the new Magic Carpet, a bar and lounge elevated above the top deck that also serves as the disembarkation platform to transfer cruisers to their launch from ship to shore.
Meanwhile, Princess Cruises have partnered with “The Sleep Doctor”, Dr Michael Breus, to develop The Princess Luxury Bed which is designed specifically to give guests the best night’s sleep while at sea.
Not only will you sleep well on the new Majestic Princess when she launches in September 2018, you can enjoy 1000sq m of designer shopping and a dramatic over-the-ocean glass walkway.
You’ve heard of slow eating, and slow living, now comes slow cruising, coined by Azamara Club Cruises.
“We call our type of cruising ‘slow cruising’ as guests have the luxury of staying longer and experiencing more, with longer stays in port and more overnights than any other cruise line,” says Adam Armstrong, managing director, Azamara Club Cruises Australia and New Zealand. Their 2018 102-day epic World Journey departs Sydney on March 7.
Seabourn is offering new Extended Explorations voyages, which include a range of itineraries ranging from 12 to 128 days in length.
“Extended Explorations offers travellers a variety of ways to uncover new destinations by allowing guests to have an in-depth experience in a specific region or effortlessly move from one region to another,” says Chris Austin, Seabourn senior vice-president, global sales and marketing.
And Viking is offering the combination of ocean and river cruising in 2018. For example, a 15day Rhine & Viking Fjords & Shores journey combines an eight-day ocean cruise from Bergen to Amsterdam with an eight-day river cruise from Amsterdam to Budapest.
TIME FOR A REFRESH
Several ships are going into dry dock for refurbishment next year. Royal Caribbean’s Independence of the Seas will undertake a multimillion-dollar makeover in April to add a trampoline park, as well as water slides, an escape room and laser tag.
Silver Cloud, the ship that launched the Silversea fleet in 1994, is being transformed into an expedition ship, complete with a strengthened, ice-class hull for navigating polar waters.
And in May, Carnival Legend and Carnival Spirit go into dry dock to be fitted with exciting new features in time for the 2018-19 cruise season.
SCENIC ECLIPSE Explore Antarctica on the Scenic Eclipse and splurge on the Penthouse Suite at the bow, which has a 60sq m curved terrace with a private jacuzzi.