The cruise trends to watch out for in 2024

Blockbuster partnerships, an array of hotel-like touches and included excursions are all trends to watch out for in the cruising world in 2024, reports Jane Archer

“It could be our biggest year ever,” says Clia UK & Ireland managing director Andy Harmer. Cruising has bounced back from the pandemic far better than ever imagined – and in 2024, agents will be reaping the rewards. Stats for 2023 show that British cruise passenger numbers are up by 15% compared with 2019, while cruise line results continue to beat expectations.

And as Carnival Corp becomes one of the latest firms to reveal record revenues – $6.9 billion for the third quarter – on the back of soaring bookings, we look at other trends in cruise as the sector gears up for another bumper year.

Overnight stays in port

Late or overnight stays in multiple ports are becoming increasingly common on cruise itineraries, as lines both big and small offer extra shore time for passengers. Oceania Cruises has factored more than 100 overnight stays in popular cities – such as Seville and Istanbul – into its summer 2025 programme.

Virgin Voyages’ 2024 European cruises include overnights in Ibiza, Mykonos, Lisbon and Amsterdam, while Dubrovnik is one of its late-stay ports.

International sales vice-president Shane Lewis-Riley says: “It gives time for our Sailors to explore beyond the ports and spend more money, which is good for destinations. It’s a win-win for everyone – we will definitely do more overnights.”

Azamara may have pioneered the trend of putting the destinations before the ship, and staying late or overnight in multiple ports back in the 2000s, but it is not resting on its laurels. More than 50% of port calls in Europe in 2024 are a late stay or overnight, and starting in 2025, it will offer double-night stays in ports including Bordeaux and Seville.

Both long and short itineraries are benefiting from overnight stops – for instance, P&O Cruises has added overnights in Valletta to its Mediterranean roster.

On Viking’s epic World Cruise itinerary, two overnight stays in new cities plus a double night in Bergen have been introduced for the 2024-25 season, giving guests nearly three days to explore the port and its surrounding region.


Getting the best cruise value

It seems cruise lines can’t throw enough into the price, as cruisers seek more bang for their buck. Drinks, shore excursions, speciality dining – nothing is off the table when it comes to the ever-more inclusive packages being offered.

Princess Cruises has added complimentary casual dining into its Plus and Premier packages (respectively $60 and $80 extra per person per day) to make them more attractive.

Oceania Cruises has new Simply More prices that include up to $1,600 shore credit per cabin or suite, which passengers can use to buy any excursions they fancy, as well as including flights, transfers and drinks with lunch and dinner. “Guests are coming to us for destinations so we are focusing on what they want – excursions,” says Nikki Upshaw, Oceania’s senior vice‑president for global sales.

Azamara has complimentary new cultural AzAmazing Celebrations events on shore by day, or on board in the evening; starting winter 2024‑25, Ponant is including selected excursions on all cruises bar those on Paul Gauguin.

Havila Voyages, which operates Norwegian coastal cruises, has seen “real success” after launching a time‑ limited £400 per person onboard credit offer for passengers to spend on shore excursions, so it has extended the promotion to the end of November.

Celebrity Cruises offers an All Included fare, covering drinks, tips and Wi‑Fi. There is an opt‑out, but Giles Hawke, vice‑president and managing director for the EMEA region, says: “A considerable number of UK guests opt for the ease of our All Included package.” Nicko Cruises commercial director Michelle Daniels says the line decided to promote its all‑inclusive pricing in the UK. “It’s what people want now, and we believe that will continue.”

Silver nova docked

Floating hotels

One of the biggest trends in cruise is, ironically, a move away from the idea of ships and water. Crystal and Azamara have dropped the word ‘cruise’ from their names, while Seabourn bills itself as a line of luxury floating hotels. That’s also the concept behind new cruise line Explora Journeys.

“We are going beyond the idea of a cruise,” says UK and Ireland managing director Antonio Paradiso. “The look and feel of Explora I is of a boutique hotel, to build a bridge that will engage a new‑to‑cruise audience that we’ve not spoken to before.”

Many of the crew, known as hosts, have hotel rather than ship experience; there are various restaurants to choose from instead of a main dining room; and cruises, called ‘journeys’, are as flexible as possible so passengers can plan their holiday according to time and budget.

“It resonates among guests familiar with luxury hotels,” says Paradiso. This all comes as a slew of hotel brands – from Ritz‑Carlton, which launched its first ship Evrima in 2022, to Aman Resorts and Four Seasons – announce launches of yacht‑style cruise ships.

MSC Euribia cruise

Celebrity cruise partnerships

In a similar change of direction, several cruise lines are striking up partnerships with lifestyle brands from outside the cruising world. Cunard has teamed up with the British Film Institute to show blockbusters in The Pavilion cinema on new ship Queen Anne, while Virgin Voyages has signed up Jennifer Lopez as chief celebrations officer.

In the kitchens, Holland America Line has hired TV chef and restaurateur Masaharu Morimoto as a fresh fish ambassador, and Explora Journeys is partnering with world‑renowned Michelin chefs to curate menus for Anthology, the only extra‑cost restaurant on Explora I.

Italian chef Mauro Uliassi boarded Explora I from its launch in Europe to New York, where US‑based chef Emma Bengtsson took over, and partnerships will continue to change as the ship moves around the world. “You have to book a year in advance to get into Mauro’s restaurant. These partnerships will help to attract bookings,” says Paradiso.

Cruise trends chef

Sustainable cruising

One trend that isn’t going away any time soon is the move by cruise lines to make ships more environmentally friendly. Clients are increasingly asking for the green credentials of the ships that they travel on. “Sustainability has always been important but now even more so,” says Roberto Bruzzone, Silversea Cruises’ senior vice‑president for marine operations.

Modern ocean‑going vessels have onboard water treatment plants that are often superior to what’s on land, while sophisticated energy‑capture systems heat water and power air conditioning, reducing fuel consumption. This summer, there have been some key developments in the use of alternative fuels and battery power as lines chase net zero emissions by 2050.

Royal Caribbean International reported ‘success’ for a 12‑week biofuels test on Symphony of the Seas in Europe, while MSC Cruises made history when new ship MSC Euribia completed the industry’s first net zero greenhouse gas emissions voyage. The vessel was powered by bio‑LNG (liquefied natural gas) produced from manure. In August, Silversea unveiled Silver Nova, which operates on LNG and marine oil, and has a bank of batteries to provide extra power.

The company claims it is one of the most ‘environmentally conscious’ ultra‑luxury ships in the world. On the rivers, Riviera Travel has pledged to reduce clients’ carbon footprint by 20% by 2028. Plans include cutting paper usage and converting river ships to be able to run on greener energy.

Paradiso, who also heads up MSC Cruises in the UK, says: “Three years ago there was little interest [in sustainability] from consumers. Now they are paying attention. For millennials it is a key driver in their decision‑making.”

PICTURE: Scott Anderson

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