What cruise trends can you expect to see in 2023? Jane Archer finds out
More Brits than ever are considering a cruise, according to a September survey by Clia. It’s the news the cruise industry has been waiting to hear after spending 12 months rebuilding confidence after Covid.
And while there are still challenges, cruise lines continue to push forward and offer an even better experience on board – and on land. We asked cruise line executives to consult their crystal balls and forecast the trends for 2023.
Sales for the Douro and Rhine rivers are looking good, but the Danube is still suffering from the fighting in Ukraine, says CroisiEurope UK sales director John Fair.
“The river had a stronger autumn across the industry, but much will depend on the return of US travellers [in 2023].” Fair believes it will also be a while before the Mekong returns to full swing. “This winter will be about recovery; winter 2023-24 will be good,” he says.
Silversea managing director UK and Ireland Peter Shanks adds: “The Caribbean is coming back, but close to home is still a trend.” Bernie Carter, Oceania Cruises senior vice-president and managing director EMEA, says the way that cruisers visit destinations will change in 2023.
The Caribbean is coming back, but close to home is still a trend
“People will be taking the same cruises but having different experiences,” he explains, highlighting Oceania Cruises’ tours that include watching sheep shearers at work and going behind the scenes of architectural masterpieces. “It’s happening across travel. People want a memory, not a souvenir.”
Celestyal Cruises chief operations officer George Koumpenas says the line has created new and authentic encounters tours – anything from home cooking to mosaic making – because passengers are increasingly seeking local interactions. “They want to really experience the destinations they visit,” he says.
Silversea’s Shanks believes demand for expedition cruises will continue to increase as more people seek to tick off wish-list destinations, adding: “We see that from specialist cruise agents and retailers such as Audley Travel.”
He says the ‘noise’ created by all the new entrants to expedition cruising has helped raise awareness of the sector, but points out it is still a small, niche market. “When we launch a ship it is [for] 200 guests, so it’s not difficult to make that work,” he adds.
Seabourn is one of those new entrants. Lynn Narraway, the line’s UK and Europe managing director, says expedition cruising is about the quality and level of learning and immersion.
“Travellers increasingly want bucket-list holidays that connect them deeply with these destinations,” she says. “The level of business we have indicates they are prepared to pay to get the best experience possible.”
Demand for wellness
River cruise line AmaWaterways has been a leading advocate for wellness, offering onboard fitness trainers and active excursions. The line’s UK managing director Jamie Loizou believes it’s the way the sector is going in general as wellness becomes more mainstream.
“People want to stay healthy, and the activities add to the destination experience.” Jo Rzymowska, Celebrity Cruises vice-president and managing director EMEA, believes demand for wellness will continue to grow “despite the current climate”.
She adds: “Guests crave the chance to truly unwind, disconnect and nourish their mind, body and soul.”
Energy bills and food costs may be soaring, but people will still want luxury cruises, says Rzymowska. “Research shows consumers are doing what they can to ring-fence their much-needed holidays, even as they tighten their belts elsewhere.
Our ships continue to fill from the top down for 2023.” Seabourn’s Narraway agrees: “Bookings for our ocean fleet in 2023 are very strong. We believe discerning travellers will continue to book despite recent economic issues.” Shanks believes the higher cost of living will have some impact on the luxury sector, but so far it is looking resilient.
“People want space – a hangover from Covid – and they get that on a luxury ship. More than half of our 2022 bookings for 2023 and 2024 were from people new to Silversea.”
Sustainability will be a key issue in decision-making going forward as lines look to deal with overcrowding, says Celestyal’s Koumpenas. “We must work with local communities and authorities. It’s important both for them and us.”
A-Rosa Cruises is a leading player in the green revolution, having launched the first river ship in Europe to operate on battery power. UK managing director Lucia Rowe says: “River cruising is all about [the] destination so we have to protect it.
We must be ready because one day customers will choose based on sustainability.” Silversea is following A-Rosa’s lead in 2023, launching the first hybrid luxury ship that will be emission-free while in port. “Sustainability is incredibly important,” says Shanks. “You not only have to commit to it, but do it.”
PICTURES: Bruno Ribeiro/CroisiEurope; Shutterstock/Aboutlife