Seven significant cruise industry trends we’ll see in 2018

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Cruise experts with professional knowledge of the cruise industry and upcoming cruise line innovations, offer these “crystal ball” predictions for the most noteworthy trends of 2018:

1. The “New Chic” in Cruise Ships: Ultra-Luxury Hoteliers Have Entered the High Seas Arena, Offering Intimate Yacht Experiences. Ultra-luxury brands such as The Ritz-Carlton & Virgin Voyages have new yachts on order and are adding cruising to their brand offerings.

Virgin Voyages is new to the seas and already pre-booking for its 2020 sailings. From dining and entertainment to wellness and rejuvenation, nearly every single element of the Virgin Voyages journey will bring a unique Virgin style to the high seas. You must be 18 years of age or older to sail Virgin Voyages. (Virgin is taking $500 deposits for the opportunity to advance book their voyages.)

The Ritz-Carlton is taking its legendary service and unmatched luxury to ocean venues. Beginning in 2019, the company will offer voyages on three lavishly-built, intimate yachts with space for only 298 guests. Accommodations include 149 suites, each with its own balcony, and several luxurious duplex penthouses.

As with The Ritz-Carlton on land, cruises feature:

• Thoughtfully designed, modern interiors

• Destination-based activities with local chefs, artists and musicians

• Luxury amenities, including The Ritz-Carlton Spa

• Exceptionally fine dining, including a restaurant from Sven Elverfeld of Aqua, the three Michelin-starred restaurants at The Ritz-Carlton, Wolfsburg, and Panorama Lounge Voyages range from 7 to 10 days and include overnight and daytime ports of call. The first yacht sets sail in 2019. Reservations open May 2018.

2. There are 2,553 True Ocean Front Restaurants at Sea – The Cruise Lines are Taking Cues from Hoteliers by Expanding Culinary Choices. Offerings span a world of cuisine, from Italian Mediterranean, Pan-Asian, and Churrascaria (Portuguese Barbeque) cuisine, to traditional steakhouses, authentic New York pizza joints, and specialty offerings like the Ice Cream Café, to name but a few. Whatever cuisine you’re craving, the cruise lines have you covered. To see a list of all the cruise lines’ restaurants and what they offer, click here.

Remarkable gastronomic experiences include:

• Table La Rive – An exclusive dégustation experience on Scenic River Cruises at a 10-seat executive chef’s table. This elegant and intimate dining experience includes a six-course dégustation menu replete with sommelier paired wines.

• Ultimate Vintage Room Dinners aboard Crystal Cruises, (Our favorite) – The Vintage Room promotes wine education and the vast range of fine wines available on board. Crystal’s Ultimate Vintage Room Dinners are one-of-a-kind culinary experiences featuring some of the rarest wines in the world. They are only offered a few times each year on both Crystal Serenity and Crystal Symphony. Depending on the wines selected, these exceptional dinners are priced at an estimated $1,000 per person. The first Ultimate Vintage Room Dinner was an eight-course French meal prepared by Master Chef André Soltner, former chef/owner of world-famous Lutèce, paired with, among others, a nearly impossible-to-get 1959 Château Lafite–Rothschild, Pauillac, Bordeaux and a Screaming Eagle 1996 from Napa Valley, considered its dream year.

3. Personalized Well-Being Experiences –To meet growing demand from travelers, MSC Cruises has launched a personal wellness program with TechnoGym. Each enrolled guest has an entirely personalised cruise experience, which is customized with shore excursions, gym classes and healthy food options that are specific to their needs. “The global wellness travel segment is projected to grow by nearly 10% annually over the next five years, as consumers are increasingly seeking out ways to combine being active and healthy with their vacation,” says Gianni Onorato, chief executive officer of MSC Cruises.

MSC Divina will also be launching the first Weight Watchers cruise in the Caribbean.

Seabourn has introduced a fleet-wide mindful living program with American celebrity Dr. Andrew Weil, which encompasses physical, social and spiritual well-being. The new program focuses on the daily practice of meditation and yoga through a selection of complimentary session and is the first of its kind at sea.

4. “Millennials only” allowed – River and small ship cruising continues to gain traction among the millennial generation. With exciting new itineraries and destination experiences that provide the perfect “Instagram moment,” the younger generation is embracing river cruising.

In a controversial move, U by Uniworld has imposed an age requirement of 21-45 for those who cruise on their line.

Other lines are enforcing a minimum age to sail. You must be 18 years of age or older to sail Virgin Voyages. On a similar note, children are prohibited on Viking’s ocean cruises.

5. Children and Family Camps at Sea. Each year the programs get more and more sophisticated. A book that details every aspect of the family cruise vacation experience: Hot Off the Press, the “Sea Tales 2018 Family Cruise Travel Planner” is the Ultimate Cruise Resource for Families. The 2018 edition has updated information and new sections that cover family suites and children’s dining, as well as details about the popular onboard cruise line characters from children’s books and movies. See the book here.

6. The Excitement of Exclusivity … So Many New Ships—So Many Choices … Plus, Which Lines are All-Inclusive – There is nothing like an inaugural cruise and this year there will be so many choices. You will have been written into a page of history as a member of the “elite” group of passengers present for the very first sailing of a new ship. Not to mention, there are some serious bragging rights that go along with being able to say, “I was on the maiden voyage of that beautiful ship.” See a list of the new ships here.

It’s important to know what is included on your cruise vacation. This chart details everything from bottled waters, to specialty coffees, to Wi-Fi and shore excursions included in your cruise fare. See the all-inclusive amenities chart here.

7. Cruise Lines Are Coining New Vacation Words – Here’s a “Cheat Sheet”

• Skip-Gen cruising – Multigenerational cruising is projected to increase in popularity, as forecasted by CLIA’s Travel Agent Cruise Industry Outlook in April 2017. But there’s a twist: “skip-generation” trips, with grandparents and grandchildren traveling together without their parents, are predicted to be highly popular in 2018 and beyond.

• Boomerang cruising – Round-trip cruises are always popular, however ‘boomerang cruising’ seems to be a growing trend within the industry. Cruisers travel to one destination and spend some time in port before booking a different cruise home, either days or weeks later.

• Back-to-back cruising – Cruise agents are seeing more bookings for back-to-back trips, during which cruisers will drop anchor at one port and board another ship to continue their journey elsewhere. Perfect for travelers with plenty of time, you could book as many back-to-back cruises as you like.