Cruise mar­ket continues to draw crowds

Winnipeg Free Press - Section E - - TRAVEL -

WITH Valen­tine’s Day just hours past us, there is one thing I can say with cer­tainty trav­ellers are lov­ing more and more with each pass­ing year.

Even with all its chal­lenges, such as the oc­ca­sional Norovirus out­break and the rare ac­ci­dent, such as that of the Costa Con­cor­dia, the growth of the cruise mar­ket continues un­abat­edly.

Al­most on a weekly ba­sis I am asked about favoured des­ti­na­tions, which ships to chose for a first cruise, which ports of call are the best and how long of a cruise should be con­sid­ered.

Be­cause of the var­ied in­ter­ests each trav­eller may wish to pur­sue, I have al­ways had dif­fi­culty in pro­vid­ing a glib re­sponse to what I think is a ques­tion that re­quires sig­nif­i­cant prob­ing. This is the only way to bet­ter de­fine the real in­ter­ests of the po­ten­tial cruiser and fit a style of cruis­ing to those in­ter­ests.

How­ever, re­cent cruise re­search by a com­pany called Cruise Com­pete lays out some pos­si­ble an­swers in its sur­vey re­sults that may be of help to read­ers.

The com­pany di­vided their re­sponses into three cat­e­gories, which more or less fit most ex­pe­ri­enced cruis­ers’ def­i­ni­tions. They are con­tem­po­rary/pre­mium, lux­ury and river cruises.

Be­cause the re­sults were based on most quote-re­quested fig­ures, it should be noted those lines with the largest or most ships tend to of­ten come out on top. This will skew the re­sults some­what, but I be­lieve gen­er­ally speak­ing they pro­vide an in­ter­est­ing over­view of the sec­tor and should help clar­ify some is­sues for the con­fused.

Be­fore out­lin­ing some of these com­par­isons, there is one as­pect that fas­ci­nated me. The dif­fer­ences in book­ing win­dows, that is the time be­tween when the cruise is booked and when it sails, is sig­nif­i­cantly dif­fer­ent be­tween the three.

River cruises, which are cur­rently ex­pe­ri­enc­ing the fastest growth in the cruise in­dus­try, has a book­ing win­dow of 238 days, while con­tem­po­rary/pre­mium book­ings are done on aver­age only 136 days ahead. The book­ing win­dow for lux­ury, an­other grow­ing sec­tor, is 191 days.

Some of the most-pop­u­lar cruise lines by quote re­quest in the con­tem­po­rary/pre­mium cat­e­gory are Car­ni­val, Royal Caribbean, Princess and Celebrity. It is here where the sam­ple data may be flawed be­cause of the num­ber of berths avail­able from the top four in the cat­e­gory.

In the lux­ury cat­e­gory, it was Ocea­nia, Cu­nard, Se­abourn and Sil­verseas while in the river cruise cat­e­gory it was Vik­ing, by far the big­gest, fol­lowed by AMA Wa­ter­ways, Avalon and Uni­world.

Some other in­ter­est­ing re­sults are also il­lu­mi­nat­ing.

While the seven- to eight-day cruise is most pop­u­lar, shorter cruises of­fered in the con­tem­po­rary/lux­ury sec­tor take the next two pop­u­lar spots while the other cat­e­gories move to greater in­ter­est in the 10- to 15-day op­tions.

The Caribbean itin­er­ar­ies are most re­quested for the con­tem­po­rary/pre­mium group, with Europe ac­tu­ally in fourth place, while in the other two cat­e­gories Europe is re­quested most of­ten.

It’s also an in­ter­est­ing side note that the fol­lowup des­ti­na­tion in­ter­ests of River cruise pas­sen­gers are not at all like those of the large ships.

The itin­er­ar­ies that of­fer Asia and the Far East as well as Rus­sia and cen­tral Asia river op­tions are re­ally pop­u­lar.

Cruis­ers like see­ing the Mediter­ranean on lux­ury ships, with stops in North Amer­ica pop­u­lar in the con­tem­po­rary/pre­mium group.

Which port might you wish to de­part from? Am­s­ter­dam and Bu­dapest, fol­lowed by Basel and Paris, lead river cruise departures, while Fort Laud­erdale, Mi­ami, Port Canaveral and Galve­ston head up the con­tem­po­rary/pre­mium group. The most-pop­u­lar cruise de­par­ture ports for lux­ury ves­sels are Is­tan­bul, Southamp­ton, Barcelona and Mi­ami.

Notwith­stand­ing which port from which you de­part, if you are at all like the people in the sur­vey, here are the most-pop­u­lar cruise ports vis­ited in each cat­e­gory.

There were few sur­prises here for me, hav­ing been lucky enough to visit most of the ports listed.

Ku­sadasi, Gus­tavia, San­torini and Livorno (Florence) were the most- pop­u­lar lux­ury stops, while Vi­enna, Re­gens­burg Cologne and Pas­sau were at the top to the river cruise list. Con­tem­po­rary/pre­mium cruis­ers picked Cozumel, Nas­sau and Phillips­burg.

Since port stops are of­ten the rea­son spe­cific itin­er­ar­ies are selected, it is worth not­ing other Greek Is­lands — Dubrovnik, Juneau and Nurem­burg, — are also highly re­garded as places to visit on a cruise.

The most-re­quested sail­ing months tend to be mostly spring, sum­mer and fall for river cruises, a fo­cus on the colder months for the con­tem­po­rary/ pre­mium group, with a wider range for lux­ury op­tions, but still a stronger fo­cus on the spring, sum­mer and fall pe­ri­ods as well.

Per­haps I should not have been sur­prised, but the pop­u­lar­ity of in­side cab­ins on con­tem­po­rary/pre­mium cruises is greater than that of bal­cony re­quests. While bal­conies on river cruises are only start­ing to be added, the french bal­cony, as it’s called, is most re­quested on these ships, as full bal­conies are wanted by lux­ury trav­ellers.

Those who feel no need to make the ex­tra in­vest­ment re­quired for a bal­cony cabin will of­ten cite that other than for sleep­ing, very lit­tle time is ac­tu­ally spent in cruse-ship cab­ins.

There are a lot more sta­tis­tics in the sur­vey that may in­ter­est both new and ex­pe­ri­enced cruis­ers. You can find the rest of the scope of the sur­vey at http://www.cruisec­om­pete.com/cruise_ trend­s_re­port.php/?date=2014-02-01.

For­ward your travel ques­tions to askjour­neys@jour­neystravel.com . Ron Prad­inuk is pres­i­dent of Jour­neys Travel & Leisure Su­perCen­tre and can be heard

Sun­days at noon on CJOB. Pre­vi­ous col­umns and tips can be found at www. jour­neystrav­el­gear.com or read Ron’s travel blog at www.that­trav­el­guy.ca.

New re­search by an out­fit called Cruise Com­plete of­fers help­ful in­for­ma­tion on choos­ing the best cruise for you.

RON PRAD­INUK ASK JOUR­NEYS

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