CruiseWhat developments can we expect to see from the cruise industry in the new year?

7 cruise industry predictions for 2023

Cruise trends for 2023 include new ships and fewer vaccine mandates.
Cruise trends for 2023 include new ships and fewer vaccine mandates. Photo Credit: Adobe Stock/Maridav

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 for both.

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 vaccine mandates.

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 experience.

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

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