2012 Cruise Trends
Cruising 2012: New smoking policies, hot destinations, onboard fees
PENNINGTON, N.J. - Looking at what's in store for cruisers in 2012, here's a list of what is -- and what isn't -- likely to make waves in the next twelve months.
Making Waves in 2012
The Ka-ching Factor: Knowing that price hikes are unlikely to be viable in the current economy and without new berths to sell, cruise lines need to bring in new cash through any other means they can, from increased tips to restaurant cover charges. The trend for more for-fee options and upgrades is likely to continue as the cruise lines attempt to scrape every last dollar out of consumers.
Smoking is Being Stubbed Out: New policies to cut back smoking onboard cruise ships go into effect in January on several lines. Based on feedback from the Cruise Critic community, whose members are becoming increasingly upset by smoke-filled vessels, lines are clearly responding to pressure from their customers. It's good news if you don't smoke, great news if you want to quit, but bad news for ardent smokers.
Cruising's Worst Moment, Celebrated: The 100th anniversary of the Titanic tragedy will be observed in April 2012, and memorial cruises on Fred. Olsen's Balmoral and Azamara Journey will mark the occasion. Although most agree that it's an event that should be remembered, debate continues as to whether events commemorating the sinking of the "unsinkable" are in good taste or not.
Ship Launches Come With a Sense of Deja Vu: For the most part, cruise lines launching new ships in 2012 will not be offering anything entirely new. All the large new ships coming out in 2012 are siblings to existing vessels with some design tweaks, including those from Disney, Oceania, Costa, AIDA, MSC Cruises, Carnival and Celebrity.
Refurbs, Not New-builds: The pace of cruise-ship orders has slowed, but cruise lines continue to pour millions into upgrading older ships in lieu of building new ones. To see which ships will get a facelift in 2012, check out Cruise Critic's Refurbishment Chart (http://www.cruisecritic.com/articles.cfm?ID=521).
Steady Stream of River Ships: In contrast to their oceangoing counterparts, the river cruise lines continue to float out new ships, and Viking, which will launch six new-builds in 2012, is leading the way. River vessels have long been spartan and basic, but the more astute cruise lines -- especially Uniworld -- are redefining the concept so ships are as much a part of the experience as the ports.
Tighter Quarters: With refurbishments and new-builds alike, cruise lines are adding extra cabins -- and either taking space away from public areas or not expanding them to meet the extra capacity. This puts a lot of pressure on public facilities and dining venues, in particular.
Revival of U.S. River Cruising: The Mississippi gets two new ships in 2012. The first, the Great American Steamboat Company's American Queen, will commence regular sailings in April, following extensive refurbishment. In August, American Cruise Lines will unveil Queen of the Mississippi, the first completely new ship built for the Mississippi in 15 years.
Destinations to Watch: They include Australia, Libya, North Africa and Banana Coast.
Australia is a boom continent, both in terms of cruisers from the region and visitors to the country -- prompting the cruise lines to respond by increasing capacity and improving itineraries. Adventurous cruisers should keep an eye out for itineraries that include Libya and North Africa. If stability returns to these regions, the lines will start talking about restoring visits. For those who prefer their sun and sand made-to-measure, Banana Coast in Honduras is the place to watch; this manmade port is scheduled to open in late 2012.
Homeports Heating Up: Check out Galveston and New Orleans.
Commencing in September 2012, Disney Magic will sail the Caribbean from Galveston, positioning Disney as a drive-to option for millions of Gulf Coast and Texas cruisers. Some 370 miles east, New Orleans is also celebrating a new lease on life, with the first full complement of cruise ships sailing from the port since Hurricane Katrina.