Cruise market continues to draw crowds
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 email@example.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