Sea changes on the horizon
Takes a look at new and developing trends in the world of cruise tourism.
You only have to wander around the Auckland waterfront in summer to notice the influx of cruise tourists into New Zealand. It’s right there staring you in the face next to the old brown ferry building – a 4000-odd-bed floating resort town, docked for the night, then replaced by an even larger one tomorrow.
Cruise tourism is a big deal: 23 million annual passengers big. More Kiwis are setting sail too, with more than 90,000 of us taking a cruise in 2016. Like any industry, it is trying to reinvent itself to appeal to new generations, while giving the loyal following enough reasons to return. Here are some of the trends to entice you on board.
Bigger is better
Royal Caribbean has the largest cruise ships on the water (Harmony of the Seas, Allure of the Seas and Oasis of the Seas), with all three liners offering a maximum capacity of more than 6200 people. Next year, it’ll add Symphony of the Seas to that list, with the soon-to-be largest-capacity cruise liner (6800+ people) coming into service in April 2018.
The company’s managing director in charge of New Zealand has confirmed Royal Caribbean’s Ovation of the Seas (the biggest liner to visit Aotearoa and still boasting a maximum capacity of 4900) will return here for another two, longer seasons from November. And the trend for floating cities isn’t slowing down – there are rumours that the even bigger Oasis ship, or something of that size, could soon be headed our way.
Not just islandhopping
It’s not just about what you’re cruising on but where you’re going that sees constant appraisal and change. The South Pacific remains the most popular cruise destination for Kiwi travellers, with 32,000-odd people taking a ship to find some island sunshine in 2016, up 50 per cent on 2015.
However, other destinations such as Southeast Asia and Antarctica have come more on to the radar of cruise travellers. Cruising in Antarctica appeals particularly to those who love natural, largely untouched environments, according to Dee Bodas at travel group Chimu Adventures.
‘‘It is now relatively easy to visit the frozen continent. There are a number of cruise ships departing from the bottom of South America, or the southern tips of New Zealand and Australia,’’ Bodas says.
Homeland is where the heart is
Despite the offers of big-ticket destinations such as Alaska, the Caribbean or the Mediterranean, the biggest increase for a destination to do a cruise holiday last year was … wait for it … New Zealand.
Due to a larger loyal deployment of P&O cruise ships, the number of New Zealanders enjoying cruise travel in local waters jumped 177 per cent yearon-year in 2016. With P&O continuing its themed, short trips dedicated to comedy and cuisine, this local trend could remain strong.
Everybody loves a gimmick
Fancy being served by a robotic barman? How about garnishing your cocktail with herbs picked fresh from the bar?
Best not to combine either with a sky-diving simulator, surfing pool ‘‘Flowrider’’ or a waterslide that descends 10-storeys. Competition is thick in this industry and cruise companies are eager to garner headlines and eke out an advantage by offering gimmicks and activities that differ from the rest.
Royal Caribbean’s offering all of the above and more across its fleet. Just to up the stakes, Cunard’s recently renovated Queen Victoria offers guests the world’s first gin tap at sea, serving its own eponymous gin.
Meanwhile, P&O’s local cruise liner, Pacific Explorer, has disco-themed waterslides for the young and youngand-heart and a barefoot bowling green after a recent renovation.
Will we be seated according to class?
Fancy ships are about to get fancier. Although sea travel has a turn-of-thecentury elegance to it, that for a long time seemed lost as it drowned in its reputation of discount package tours, booze cruises and children running
FlowRider, the surfing simulator on Voyager of the Seas, is just one of the many gimmicks and activities offered by cruise companies to stand out from the crowd.
Cruisers enjoy the sunset by the pool on P&O’s Pacific Jewel.