What developments can we expect to see from the cruise industry in
2023? Here are my expectations and predictions for what is to come from
the cruise market this year, from new ships and homeports to fewer
vaccine mandates and more record sales.
1. Highly anticipated new ships (and riverboats) will debut
As always, new hardware is on the way for ocean-going cruise lines,
as well as river and expedition brands. The short list includes Explora
Journeys’ Explora I; Regent Seven Seas Cruises’ Seven Seas Grandeur;
Seabourn Cruise Line’s Seabourn Pursuit; and Silversea Cruises’ Silver
Nova – and those are just the highly anticipated luxury ships.
2. Cruise lines will seek new homeports and destinations
With the recent news that MSC Cruises has set out to develop a new
terminal in Galveston, Texas, for its fourth homeport in the US, it’s a
reminder that companies are always on the lookout for new source markets
to support, as well as destinations to visit. The exact timing of MSC’s
new endeavour is not yet known, but the future holds many more options
3. There will be fewer vaccine mandates onboard
Many big players – such as Disney Cruise Line, MSC Cruises and Virgin
Voyages, as well as brands from Carnival Corporation, Norwegian Cruise
Line Holdings and Royal Caribbean Group – have already dropped their
In an effort to expand sales to all cruise travellers, regardless of
inoculation status, the trend to open cruising to everyone is on the
move, and it’s already starting to trickle down to smaller operators,
such as Azamara and Avalon Waterways, the latter of which will do away
with its mandate, effective on 1 March. It’s likely that 2023 will be
the year that many other lines follow suit.
4. Cruise lines are likely to see more record sales
Pent-up demand from travelers to cruise again is already fuelling record sales across the board.
Not only are ocean cruise lines reporting this, but so, too, are
river lines. November 2022 was a record booking month for AmaWaterways,
and European Waterways is seeing an uptick of more than 45% for its
private charter sales, citing sustained interest by families and small
groups for a “travel bubble”. With wave season 2023 now upon us, such
records are not likely to slow up this year.
5. Advisors can expect more enhanced sales tools
Speaking of sales, cruise lines and travel advisor franchise networks
alike are in the business of supporting independent travel agents and
agency owners. That’s why Cruise Planners just launched its latest
Amenity Tracker to help keep track of all the booking details — onboard
credits, prepaid gratuities, drink packages, specialty dining, Wi-Fi,
etc. — to help efficiently boost sales and commissions. Azamara,
meanwhile, recently launched its new Azamara Alliance trade programme
for travel advisors. Expect even more support from suppliers and
consortia throughout 2023.
6. Lines may cut costs to boost recovery
Even as they currently celebrate record sales, cruise companies are
still reeling from the shutdowns of the pandemic. To further turn debts
around, cost-cutting measures are unfortunately inevitable to ensure
books are fully in the black sooner than later.
Recent reports indicate that among those brands tightening their
belts are Norwegian Cruise Line, which is corporately downsizing its
shoreside staff, as well as reducing onboard cabin service from
twice-daily to once-daily in non-suite cabin categories. It stands to
reason that other brands might make similar changes, though such
revisions are expected to have only a minor impact on the overall guest
7. More brand and ship consolidation may be coming
And last, but not least, there may still be additional acquisitions
and collaborations on the horizon as older ships continue to be retired
and brands consolidate investments. Fresh on the heels of A&K Travel
Group’s resurrected Crystal Cruises, the company is next entering into
an equity partnership with Ecoventura, an expedition cruise operator in
the Galapagos. It’s possible that other brands may yet join forces or be
bought out to further propel them forward.
Source: TravelAge West