Cruise Select

Could there be a more exciting time to cruise? It’s quite astounding how far cruising has come. Even since my first cruise in 1999, I’ve personally witnessed a change in cruising, not least with ships offering a wide choice of dining and entertainment venues, funkier bars, a wider range of staterooms (with increasing numbers offering verandas), more contemporary and stylish décor, and shifts away from the traditional ‘rigid structures’ with many cruise lines embracing ‘open’ or more flexible dining, and a general relaxation of dress codes, with some cruise lines abolishing formal nights altogether. There have been many influential ships that have marked new shifts in cruising, led by customer demand and expectation, and this will be no exception in the years to come as there are no fewer than at least 100 ocean ships due to launch, or ordered in ship yards, through to 2027. 2019 in particular is tipped to be a bumper year with 15 new ocean ships and at least 18 river ships due to launch. Many of these will be new additions to existing classes of ship, but some have the potential to be game changers, pioneering unique new features to enhance guests’ onboard experiences, utilising the latest technology for safety and sustainability, or representing an entirely new entry into the cruising market.

We’ve already had a sneak peek into the future of cruising with some recent launches. Initially shrouded in mystery and speculation about the super-secret ‘Project Edge’, one of the most eagerly anticipated new cruise ships to launch was the first of a new class of ships for Celebrity Cruises (the first new class for the line in ten years). Starting with the ‘revolutionary’ Celebrity Edge, which began her maiden voyage on 9 December 2018, the Edge Class of ships have been touted by Celebrity as ‘revolutionary on every level…setting a new standard of luxury and innovation at sea.’ Perhaps the most headline-grabbing new feature is the distinctive Magic Carpet, a cantilevered, floating platform – the very first of its kind – that reaches up to 13 storeys above sea level. The same size as a tennis court, this moveable deck features an open-air lounge, complete with bar and comfy couches and armchairs, transforming tendering into a much more comfortable experience, although you can simply stay to get a drink, and watch people get on and off. When the Magic Carpet isn’t acting as a tender platform, it’s an eatery or bar, positioned on decks 5 and 14, and on special days, it reaches Deck 16 for exclusive brunches and dinners ‘on the Edge’.

Celebrity Edge, and her upcoming sisters Celebrity Apex (due to launch in 2020) and the as-yet unnamed third and fourth Edge-class ships (due to launch in 2021 and 2022 respectively), have truly expanded on Celebrity’s definitive ‘modern luxury’ style. Celebrity’s Solstice class were renowned for being the first ships to offer a lawn of real grass on the top deck, just perfect for an al fresco lunch, playing outdoor games such as boules or croquet, and catching a live jazz concert; with real grass between toes, it’s easy to forget you’re at sea. This country club atmosphere has been taken to heart onboard the Edge class of ships, where the edges between indoor and outdoor have been blurred, with plenty of greenery onboard, and a plethora of panoramic windows to make the ship more outward-looking. Celebrity’s famous rooftop gardens have evolved to an entire Resort Deck, an outdoor space unlike any other on the seas, designed by the celebrated architect Tom Wright. The Resort Deck features a rooftop garden described by Celebrity as ‘a living playscape designed to awaken the inner-child in all of us’, offering live musical performances during the day, and ‘A Taste of Film’ at night, an interactive blend of food and film, or the ‘Beyond the Edge Astronomy Series’. The Resort Deck also features 2 two-storey hot tubs, expansive private Cabanas, and a Pool bar situated alongside the 25-yard lap pool, and represents a much wider vision of Celebrity’s Lawn Club, evolving the concept further. In this way, the Edge class is arguably as much about a natural evolution of Celebrity’s ‘modern luxury’ style and ethos as it is a radical revolution to cruising. The architect Tom Wright was just one non-cruise designer that Celebrity brought on board to work on ‘Project Edge’; for the interior design of the Magic Carpet, accommodation, the onboard spa, and the Retreat Sundeck and Lounge (exclusively for Suite class guests), Celebrity commissioned another big name better known for their hotel and commercial development designs, the interior designer Kelly Hoppen, while other interiors for the Edge class ships were designed by the Spanish architect and designer, Patricia Urquiola, and French design studio, Jouin Manku.

This reflects an increasing trend for cruise lines to work with non-cruise designers, as the cruise industry continues its efforts to entice ever more non-cruisers. For their first new ship in five years, and the largest ever built for the line with a capacity of 5,200 passengers, P&O have enlisted the help of award-winning engineers Eckersley O’Callaghan for the giant glazed dome roof of their new on-board SkyDome. The engineering firm’s previous work has included glass structures such as London’s Embassy Gardens Sky Pool and Bulgari’s flagship boutique hotel in New York, and the SkyDome on Iona will include a ‘hidden’ night club, boutique cinema, and a pool with a retractable stage. The two newest ships for luxury cruise line, Seabourn – Seabourn Encore and Seabourn Ovation – were completely designed by Adam D Tihany, a world leader for high-end hotel designs, as the line looked to take a holistic approach to luxury travel, rather than treat and design their ships simply as luxury cruise liners. Andy Harmer, the SVP membership and director of Clia (Cruise Line International Association) UK & Ireland, recently told Cruise Adviser magazine, ‘In 2019 you can expect to see even more cruise lines working with non-cruise designers as the industry looks to keep upping its game with unique and forward-thinking interior and exterior designs.’

‘A Greater Connection to the Sea’

There also appears to be a growing emphasis on a greater connection to the sea in ship-design, with Celebrity’s Edge Class and Celebrity Flora, Norwegian Cruise Line’s upcoming Leonardo class, and MSC’s Seaside and Seaside EVO classes, each reflecting outward-looking designs. Traditionally, many cruise ships would have a promenade wrapped around a mid-ship level deck (often called the ‘Promenade Deck’) – perhaps best still in evidence onboard the Fred. Olsen ocean-going fleet – but for some time this seemed to fall out of favour in modern ship design until it was revitalised by Norwegian Cruise Line’s Breakaway Class ships in 2013 with their ‘Waterfront’. Available on both Breakaway and Breakaway Plus ships, the ‘revolutionary quarter-mile’ Waterfront expands on the traditional cruise ship promenade to offer a variety of al fresco experiences to connect you with the sea, with oceanfront restaurants and bars. Whilst little is yet known about Norwegian Cruise Line’s Leonardo class as it’s still in the early stages, the President and CEO Andy Stuart has stated that ‘the connection to the sea is definitely going to be to the next level in this next class of ship. What we’ve learned from this class of ship is people want that…We are bringing the connection to the ocean that’s typically on the top deck more effectively down to lower decks.’ In December 2017, MSC Cruises debuted their brand new Seaside Class with the 154,000grt MSC Seaside, which they proudly proclaimed ‘incorporates a bold design and features a 360° seafront promenade’. The Seaside class ‘rewrites the rule book of cruise ship design, blending indoor and outdoor areas to connect you with the sea like never before’, with a variety of public areas making the most of sea views, from the Waterfront Boardwalk circumnavigating the ship on deck eight, offering access to a wide variety of restaurants and bars along with ocean views, and the deck 16 glass skywalk for ‘a jaw-dropping view of the sea from above’, to the ‘breathtaking sea views and sun loungers specially designed to give guests the chance to stay close to the pool like never before creating an immersive connection with water’ at the unique Panorama Pool. Even the four-deck atrium offers uniquely spectacular ocean views with its multi-level glass walls. Similarly, Celebrity’s Galapagos-bound Celebrity Flora features ‘our [Celebrity’s] innovative outward-facing design that makes the destination the centre of attention. By focusing the direction of spaces outward at every opportunity, we virtually erase the boundaries between ship and destination’. In some ways, this is reminiscent of river cruising’s promises of panoramic views as river vessels optimise views with outward-facing ships, with panoramic views offered from most of the public areas (particularly the onboard restaurants and lounges), and outward-facing cabins. Many ocean-going ships have been moving away from inside cabins, offering more staterooms with verandas, or – in the case of Royal Caribbean – ‘virtual balconies.’

Ponant, however, have offered a very different view and connection to the sea with their innovative new ‘Blue Eye Lounge’, which was premiered in 2018 on Le Lapérouse, the first of six sister ships in their new Explorer Class. Described as ‘James Bond-style’ by Daily Telegraph travel writer Soo Kim, the Blue Eye Lounge is the world’s first underwater lounge onboard a ship, described by Ponant as a ‘multi-sensory underwater space’, designed by the architect Jacques Rougerie. Much of the lounge’s interior design, including the lines, the furniture and the fittings, were inspired by cetaceans and jellyfish, and the focus is drawn towards the two portholes ‘shaped like the eye of a cetacean and looking out upon the subaquatic world’. The portholes are not your only ‘window’ to the world under the sea, as integrated digital screens project images filmed live by three non-intrusive underwater cameras, placed at the ship’s strategic points, so that guests can witness underwater life, including dolphins playing in the bow waves. An innovative sound system and vibrating sofas capturing subaquatic sounds make this a well-rounded multi-sensory and immersive experience, as Ponant also partnered with the contemporary music composer and sound design expert, Michel Redolfi, to create the sound staging of the Blue Eye lounge, developing state-of-the-art technology which ‘offers guests an experience in acoustic immersion that is unique in the world’. The Body Listening sofas ‘discreetly vibrate in unison while offering unique sensory listening through corporal resonance’ to ‘bring guests closer to the marine mammals they might see and hear behind the giant portholes’.

The importance of brand partnerships

Partnerships with brands and companies outside the world of cruising isn’t just limited to cruise ship design and interior decoration, as cruise lines continue to seek to offer new and innovative experiences onboard or ashore. Lynn Narraway, Seabourn’s managing director for the UK and Ireland, recently explained to Cruise Adviser magazine that ‘brand alliances’ were ‘key to luxury cruising,’ with the power of brand recognition enabling affluent travellers to feel comfortable. Over the past decade, cruise lines have been partnering with many celebrity chefs – from Nobu and Crystal Cruises, Jamie Oliver’s first restaurant at sea onboard Royal Caribbean, and the Michelin-starred chef Thomas Keller’s partnership with the Seabourn fleet, to P&O’s ‘Food Heroes’, and many other examples. In many ways, cruising and celebrity chefs go hand-in-hand quite naturally, as dining has always been an integral part of cruising.

Similarly, cruise lines have been pushing the envelope with their onboard entertainment, bringing some of the best and most beloved entertainment on land onto the seas, with Broadway and West End stage musicals performed onboard ships, while Holland America Line has partnered with B.B. King’s Blues Club, the Lincoln Centre, Billboard, Rolling Stone, and BBC Earth to curate onboard entertainment that’s world-class and varied. Eden is another new onboard venue onboard Celebrity Edge designed to indulge every one of your senses with a ‘fusion that creates a delightfully unexpected array of immersive experiences.’ Celebrity partnered with Variety Worldwide, a leading global entertainment and hospitality management company who specialise in fusing non-traditional theatre, nightlife and dining to create Eden as an imaginative blend of entertainment and dining, with performance artists called ‘Edenists’ who serve experiential dishes from a lively, open air kitchen.

The introduction of AI technology

As technology plays an ever-larger role in our lives, cruising is certainly no exception to this, with many ships increasingly embracing technology and apps to enhance onboard experiences. One of the first cruise lines to adapt to the new wave of technological advances was Princess Cruises, who first trialled their ‘Ocean Medallion’ on Caribbean Princess in 2017 and continue to roll out the technology throughout their fleet, starting with Regal Princess in 2018, with at least three more ships announced for 2019. The ‘Medallion’ is the size of a 10p coin, and can be worn as a wristband, pendant, clip, or simply kept in a pocket or bag, and – along with the ‘Ocean Compass’, a digital personal guide that’s accessed online, on portals throughout the ship, stateroom TVs, and mobile devices – acts as a digital concierge during your cruise. The Medallion itself enables on-demand food and drinks, interactive gaming, custom entertainment and smart navigation, unlock your cabin door, and speed up embarkation. Both Royal Caribbean and Celebrity Edge have facial recognition when you board, and guests onboard Celebrity Edge-class ships can control the lights and temperature of their stateroom from their phone. MSC Cruises will be debuting Zoe, a digital personal assistant available in every stateroom aboard the Bellissima, when the ship is delivered in February 2019, and no doubt more cruise lines will be adapting apps and AI technology to enhance customers’ experiences, particularly as AI becomes increasingly commonplace in our daily lives, with the likes of Alexa, and Netflix, which has revolutionised the way people watch TV and films by collating data based on what they’ve previously watched to offer ‘personalised’ recommendations. Cruise lines will increasingly look to bringing on technology to offer great personalisation onboard, so that each cruiser’s holiday will truly be unique to them.

Going Green

Many of the newest and upcoming ships to launch will be utilising the very best and latest technology in their engines to enhance customer experiences whilst travelling, as well as the increasingly important issue of sustainability and climate change. In December 2018, the Cruise Lines International Association (CLIA) announced a historic global cruise industry commitment to reduce the rate of carbon emissions by 40% across the industry fleet by 2030. This is a commitment which is unique across the whole maritime industry, and exemplifies the cruise industry’s commitment to environmental sustainability. Arnold Donald, the Global CLIA Chairman and President and CEO of Carnival Corporation & PLC, stated ‘we aspire to the International Maritime Organization’s vision of a carbon-free shipping industry by the end of the century.’ One of the biggest technological advances which will enable progress towards this goal is the development and adoption of liquified natural gas (LNG)-powered ships. 2018 saw the launch of the first LNG-fuelled ship – AIDA Cruises’ AidaNova (part of the Carnival Corporation family) – and by 2025, there will be 25 LNG-powered ships sailing the seas, including P&O’s Iona (2020) and MSC Cruises’ many upcoming ships. Royal Caribbean are in the early stages of developing their newest class of ship – the Icon class – which will see the introduction of the use of fuel cell technology, alongside LNG fuel, ‘ushering in a new era of shipbuilding that will dramatically reduce greenhouse gas emissions.’ With the keel laying for the first Icon-class ship planned for October 2019, and the first two ships scheduled for deliver in the second quarters of 2022 and 2024, little is known about the features or venues that will be onboard, but Royal Caribbean announced in 2016 some of the details of the sustainable technologies the ships will have onboard, continuing the cruise line’s progress and commitment to energy efficiency and reducing emissions. Already, Royal Caribbean have employed technologies such as air lubrication – reducing friction by sending billions of microscopic bubbles along the hull of a ship – and AEP scrubbers to clean exhaust gases before they leave the ship, and their newest ships are noted for producing some of the lowest emissions in the industry, emitting 20% less carbon dioxide than ships that came out just a few years ago. In a press release, the chairman and CEO of Royal Caribbean Cruises, Ltd, Richard Fain, announced ‘With Icon class, we move further in the journey to take the smoke out of our smokestacks. We are dedicated to innovation, continuous improvement, and environmental responsibility, and Icon gives us the opportunity to deliver against all three of these pillars,’ whilst the president and CEO of Royal Caribbean International, Michael Bayley, explained that ‘on this new class of ship, we began by challenging ourselves to find a new approach to power and propulsion that is safe, reliable, and more energy-efficient than ever before.’

Royal Caribbean are not the only cruise line dedicated to looking into alternative sustainable technology, beyond LNG-fuel. Whilst LNG is currently the greenest fuel on the market, emitting 25% less carbon, along with 85% less nitrogen oxide emissions and 95% less fine particle emissions, not all ports can currently support ships powered by the fuel (although as more ships are built for LNG, the number of ports that can support it will also grow), so the currently planned LNG ships will also run on distillate fuel, to accommodate itineraries that call on ports which do not currently support LNG. In 2019, Hurtigruten will debut the long-awaited Roald Amundsen, the world’s first ship with full hybrid capabilities, thereby reducing emissions by as much as 20%. The sister ship, Fridtjof Nansen, and at least a third ship will also have this innovative hybrid technology, developed by Rolls Royce, with each subsequent ship improved to enable sailing on battery-powered propulsion for progressively longer and further distances. The non-profit organisation, Bellona, which works to meet and fight climate challenges, was also involved in the project. The ships’ engines are also designed to be near-silent in order to not disturb wildlife, with Hurtigruten’s CEO, Daniel Skjeldam, declaring ‘the future of shipping is, without a doubt, silent and emission free.’ In another move towards sustainability, Hurtigruten replaced the propellers on its vessels with more fuel-efficient ones, which has been successful in reducing fuel consumption by 10 per cent since this implementation. However, the Norwegian company looks to continue furthering its commitment to environmentalism. Already considered the world’s greenest cruise company, Hurtigruten announced that its next step would be to introduce cruise ships powered with liquified biogas (LBG), a renewable and entirely fossil-free gas produced from dead fish and other organic waste. Out of its growing fleet of 17 ships, Hurtigruten aims to operate a least six of its ships on a combination of biogas, LNG, and large battery packs by 2021, with its CEO Daniel Skjeldam declaring: ‘what others see as a problem, we see as a resource and a solution. By introducing biogas as fuel for cruise ships, Hurtigruten will be the first cruise company to power ships with fossil-free fuel.’

River Pioneer

Even on the rivers, AmaWaterways will be debuting new technology with a quieter and more fuel-efficient engine onboard the AmaMagna (2019), which will cruise along the Danube exclusively. With its ‘game changing design concept to revolutionise [the] river cruise industry’, AmaMagna will be unique in the river cruise market, which generally has many more design constraints than ocean-going vessels, due to locks, bridges, and water drafts below the keel. Most noticeably, AmaMagna is twice the width of traditional European river ships, which affords the ship multiple dining options, luxurious living spaces, some of the largest staterooms on the rivers, more onboard activities and enhanced evening entertainment for its 194 guests. In another first for river cruising, she will feature an open-water sports platform, complete with zodiac boats, canoes, and recreational equipment.

A Return to Sailing’s Golden Age

Whilst many of the upcoming ships look to creating entirely brand-new features, from Celebrity’s Magic Carpet to Ponant’s Blue Eye lounge, and the increased use of AI technology to personalise onboard experiences, there is one company that steadfastly takes its inspiration from the past, and its much-awaited new vessel – launching in 2019 – is just as thrilling a new addition to the seas. Star Clippers, founded by the Swedish yachtsman and entrepreneur, Mikael Krafft, has always aimed to recreate the glory days of sailing ships, making them commercially viable again a century after their original demise. First announced in 2016 to mark the company’s twenty fifth anniversary, Flying Clipper will not only be the newest addition to the Star Clippers’ fleet, but the largest to date, carrying 300 passengers. Measuring 8770 tons GRT and powered by 35 sails totalling over 6.350 m², Flying Clipper is a near replica of the dramatic France II, the largest square rig sailing ship ever built, and will be the largest ship of its kind afloat today. Along with Star Clippers’ hallmarks, such as the cosy library, bowsprit net, and the popular al fresco Tropical Bar, Flying Clipper will also feature three pools – including one that funnels sunlight through the ship’s atrium into the dining room – as well as a water sports platform at the ship’s stern for use when at anchor, and a glass Dive bar. As with the rest of the Star Clippers' fleet, Flying Clipper will wherever possible rely on wind power and its sails, although it will also boast ecologically sound, high-tech engines.

Brand New Cruise Lines

Two new cruise lines will be entering the market in 2020, both of which mark entry into cruising from other travel sectors, with the luxury hotelier Ritz Carlton launching the first of the Ritz-Carlton Yacht Collection, and the Virgin Group’s first forage into cruising with the Scarlet Lady and the Virgin Voyages fleet. Both of these new cruise lines have such strong brand awareness they are bound to attract many non-cruisers for the first time, and both argue that they will shake up the cruise industry (and, no doubt they will). Virgin Group founder, Sir Richard Branson, has been typically confident and bombastic about the impact Virgin Voyages will have on cruising, proudly asserting that ‘there’s a Virgin twist on everything you’ll see aboard the Scarlet Lady’, and the line itself is promising to ‘throw out the traditional cruise dining rule book’ which, according to Branson, means that ‘there will be no stuffy formalities, boring buffets and no main dining rooms’. Tellingly, Branson admits he has never been on a cruise before, which seems self-evident in his remarks, given that many cruise lines have been gradually moving away from so-called ‘stuffy formalities’. That being said, it is clear to see how a ship like Scarlet Lady will appeal to non-cruisers with a strategic marketing campaign, and she (and her upcoming sisters) will certainly be a thrilling addition to the seas.

The Boom in Expedition

Another new entry into ocean cruising comes from Scenic, who have been offering river cruises since 2008. With the long-awaited debut of the luxury expedition mega-yacht, Scenic Eclipse, in 2019, Scenic are not only emerging into the ocean cruise market but tapping into the rising popularity of expedition cruising. Lauded as the ‘World’s First Discovery Yachts’, Eclipse and her sister Eclipse II (2020), will feature two onboard helicopters, as well as a seven-seat submarine, for ultimate exploration and sightseeing, and will utilise state-of-the-art technology, such as dynamic positioning system, which enables the ship to stay in position without the use of anchors in order to help protect the seas, seabed, and wildlife. Likewise, Celebrity’s purpose-built Galapagos vessel for 2019, Celebrity Flora, will also utilise this anchorless technology. With fifteen new expedition and adventure ships launching up until 2020, expedition cruising will no doubt see a boom in the 2020s (with further new ships, too), including from cruise lines such as Crystal Cruises, Seabourn and Silversea.

The Desire for Authentic Experiences

Much of the rising popularity of expedition cruising (and, indeed, cruising in general), can be attributed to guests looking for more meaningful experiences. It seems that this desire to experience something unique and memorable, or immersive, is something which unifies cruisers of all ages and types, and was highlighted to Cruise Adviser magazine by several industry leaders, including Antonio Paradiso, the UK and Ireland Managing Director of MSC Cruises, who noted that ‘Generation Z are travellers who will always seek to explore the world, and it is this that makes a cruise the perfect choice for them,’ while Seabourn’s Lynn Narraway explained that ‘today’s luxury traveller is seeking out experiences that reflect their destination on a deeper level, rather than being content with the traditional five-star options.’ Similarly, according to Peter Shanks, Silversea’s UK managing director, baby boomers ‘are curious and adventurous travellers and very much appreciate real luxury. For them nowhere is too far away, they want to create “do you remember when…” and “once in a lifetime” moments and they want to see it now before too many people find it.’ It is becoming increasingly important for cruise lines to offer exciting and different itineraries, with unique and memorable experiences which will help guests not only gain a deeper insight into the destinations they are visiting, but to have incredible moments that they will cherish forever, especially if it’s dinner party brag-worthy or Instagrammable.

One cruise line which has revamped its itineraries – to great acclaim – is Fred. Olsen Cruise Lines, who have over the past five years or so really upped the ante with itineraries, looking to tie in their itineraries as much as possible with events and special interests, such as the Monaco Grand Prix, New Year at Sydney Harbour, and the Cadiz Carnival, to name just a few. Their small ships have always been able to enjoy greater access to more intimate and unusual ports, but the reintroduction of its fly-cruise programme onboard Boudicca in 2016/17, which expanded Fred. Olsen traditional Amazon, Caribbean and Panama Canal fly-cruise itineraries to include southern Africa, the Indian Ocean, and the Arabian Gulf, has also helped to transform Fred. Olsen’s itineraries, which in 2018 helped to see the line awarded Cruise Critic’s ‘Best for Itineraries’ for the fourth consecutive year. Alongside this enhancement of their itineraries, Fred. Olsen have also looked to improve their shore excursions, with more active and immersive options available than they were traditionally known for, particularly with the introduction of their RIB boats onboard their fleet. As with the revitalised itineraries, Fred. Olsen’s efforts with their shore excursions were rewarded in 2017 and 2018 with another Cruise Critic Award for ‘Best for Shore Excursions’. Other cruise lines, such as Seabourn, have looked to creating new programmes and partnerships to enhance their shoreside offerings in order to appeal to guests looking to experience more from travel. Seabourn’s official partnership with UNESCO offer in-depth curated tours designed to enable guests to immerse themselves in the culture, history, and architecture of the destinations they visit, while their ‘Ventures by Seabourn’ programme offers guests with a sense of adventure the chance to get out and see destinations up close with experts on expedition-style excursions in kayaks and zodiac boats in destinations such as Alaska and Antarctica. Whilst shore excursions on most ocean cruise lines are not included in the cruise fare, so are treated as optional extras for a supplement, most river cruise lines tend to include excursions as standard. For river cruise lines, the shoreside experiences they offer are one of the most important marks of distinction from competitors. Many river cruise lines offer ‘exclusive experiences’, from after-hours tours of world-class museums and private concerts or dinners in a palace to specialist cooking classes. However, an increasing number of river cruise lines are looking to enhance both their shoreside and onboard activities further, with Avalon Waterways adding new ‘Adventure Hosts’ on their European river cruises from 2019 to offer adventurous onshore activities, and we have already seen how AmaWaterways will boast the only open-water sports platform on the rivers.

Cruising for the Mind, Body and Soul

This shift towards adding more adventurous or active options on river cruising reflects another growing trend. Not only are people wanting to experience more and immerse themselves in destinations, they also want to be more active and healthy, and even more mindful, looking after mind, body and spirit – and, with cruise lines starting to tap into wellness, there’s no need for self-care to go off the deep end whilst on holiday. Whilst gyms and spas have been a long term feature on cruise ships – with CanyonRanch spas featured on Regent Seven Seas Cruises, Celebrity, Oceania, and Cunard, and Viking Cruises boasting one of the finest spas at sea onboard their ocean-going vessels with their LivNordic Spa – a variety of cruise lines have started to really capitalise on the wellness trend, from daily complimentary yoga classes on specific sailings with Star Clippers, and the introduction of Wellness Hosts to hold fitness classes and lectures onboard AmaWaterways’ fleet to programmes created in partnership with wellness leaders. Both Holland America and Seabourn offer a range of onboard activities in collaboration with well-known names and brands to appeal to their distinct guests, from culinary and entertainment, to wellness. Seabourn looked to wellness guru Dr Andrew Weil – founder and director of the University of Arizona Center for Integrative Medicine – for collaboration and, as a result of this partnership, every ship in their fleet has a Dr Weil Wellness Guide onboard to create a personalised wellness programme for guests, as well as give talks and lectures, while Holland America teamed up with O, The Oprah Magazine for their onboard range of wellness activities designed to spread happiness and peacefulness, including morning meditation sessions, beauty talk sessions and classes on healthy eating. Weight Watchers is one of the best-known brands in the diet and food industry, and has partnered with MSC Cruises to create an experience – the ‘Voyage to Wellbeing’ – which provides cooking demonstrations onboard, as well as a variety of classes – from cardio dance to Pilates – as well as wellness seminars.

Wellness is also a key feature of Virgin Voyages’ onboard activities, with the President and CEO Tom McAlpin explaining ‘we are all so busy with life, work and family that vacations are critical for us to be able to rebuild our energy, so that we can live our best lives. With well-being at the heart of everything we do at Virgin Voyages, sailors will come back feeling rejuvenated, not like they need a holiday from their holiday.’ As a completely new cruise line, Virgin Voyages are able to fully capitalise on the increased importance of wellness to people’s lives by incorporating well-being into the ships’ programming from the very beginning. Plans for what the brand calls ‘Vitamin Sea’ include a wide variety of complimentary group fitness classes on board, and many venues – both outdoor and outward-looking – to enjoy activities, from sunrise and sunset yoga on the Crow’s Nest, a secluded sundeck with a 360-degree view, the Virgin-red running track (‘The Runway’), which forms a ‘halo-like vision over the ship’, to The Athletic Club where guests (or ‘sailors’) can detox and retox in the outdoor training zone, complete with boxing ring, strength and gymnastics equipment, cabanas for relaxation, and a sports bar for post-workout socialising. Other areas of the ships dedicated to fitness will include the B-Complex, with Build, Burn, Bike and Balance rooms, dedicated to strength, spin, yoga and cardio, each offering dramatic ocean views, and Technogym ARTIS-equipped Burn and Build gyms. For those looking to centre themselves and enjoy a moment of reflection or serenity, the Scarlet Lady and her sisters will feature a Well-being Pool, and Redemption, the ship’s spa, inspired by an underwater cave will offer a hydrotherapy pool, mud room, salt room, cold plunge pools, quartz beds, and spa treatments, while fresh cold-pressed juices are served at the Gym and Tonic bar.

There will never be a dull moment to cruise...

Could there be a more exciting time to cruise? I feel certain that there will never be a dull moment to cruise! This is a constantly evolving and adapting industry, that offers and delivers more and more each year, with its finger constantly on the pulse of customer expectation. The former perception of cruising as something reserved solely for the wealthy and the elderly very often seems a distant memory of the past in terms of ocean cruising (although it can be said to continue to cast a shadow over river cruising). Over its 140+ year history, cruising has had to adapt to many challenges - such as the competition of Concorde and airplanes as a quicker and cheaper mode of travel, or its perception as ‘boring,’ ‘stuffy,’ and just for the elderly - and has always succeeded in rising to whatever challenge. The leaps in technological advances over the past couple of decades and the rise of social media means that we have a society that expects things on demand, while with the likes of Netflix, they expect personalisation and the anticipation of their needs and wants, and cruising will have to keep up and adapt. During the last decade, we have seen a greater shift towards ‘experiences’ – whether onboard, or ashore - rather than amenities as a focus, and technology looks to continue to play an even greater role in onboard customer experiences (even prior to embarking). Throughout the 2020s, there will no doubt be a continuation of this shift, as well as a greater focus on sustainability as cruise lines tackle to deal with this sensitive and important issue, utilising state-of-the-art technology to reduce emissions and limit damage and disturbance to the wildlife and seas as much as possible, and implementing practices such as banning single-use plastics. An increased focus on well-being and desire for authentic experiences on land are as important at sea, too, with cruise lines tapping into these areas to appeal to non-cruisers and enhance the cruising experience for all. There may well be new forages into cruising from other non-cruising travel brands, leveraging their well-established brand awareness just like Ritz-Carlton and the Virgin Group have, which can only lead to an ever-increasing diversification of cruising, which already offers so many choices. It has long been an adage of the cruise industry that ‘there is a cruise out there for everyone,’ and this saying will never be truer than in the years to come.

If you would like to find out more about cruising, or to book a cruise, contact our dedicated cruise specialists today!

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