|More inclusive pricing, new ships and new technology are among the most anticipated developments of 2016, according to our cruise experts. // Photo of ships docked at Grand Turk by Susan J. Young|
As the first week of the new year dawns, what most excites trade and consumer cruise experts about the cruise industry in 2016? What are our experts' top picks for most anticipated happening or top cruise development?
New Cruise Ships
|The Haven's lobby/lounge on the new Norwegian Escape. // Photo by Susan J. Young|
"I am most excited about all of the new ships coming into the industry in 2016," stressed Drew Daly, general manager of network engagement and performance, CruiseOne and Cruises Inc., Fort Lauderdale, FL. "The new ships not only offer the most advanced product, but there is always a 'buzz' in the media and with potential new cruisers."
That ultimately brings more long-term cruise business, said Daly. "The recent launch of the Norwegian Escape and the upcoming Carnival Vista, Harmony of the Seas and Holland’s Koningsdam, to name a few, all promise to keep consumers wanting to come back and book a cruise vacation."
From another perspective, "I'm most looking forward to the new Regent Seven Seas Explorer to see what Frank Del Rio meant when he said, 'We threw everything but the kitchen sink at this vessel,'" said Anita Dunham-Potter, a veteran cruise writer, editor at ExpertCruiser.com and @ExpertCruiser on Twitter.
Dunham-Potter, based in the Pittsburgh, PA, area, also said Viking Ocean's second ship, Viking Sea, will be a welcome addition to the upper premium market, and then the Seabourn Encore will debut. She believes "2016 will be a great year for luxury cruising."
|The launch of Crystal River Cruises was cited by several experts as a "most anticipated" 2016 development. // Photo by Crystal Cruises|
Evolution of Crystal Cruises
The evolution of the Crystal Cruises luxury portfolio was cited as the top pick of Mary Jean Thompson, luxury travel advisor with TravelDesigns by Campbell, Dallas, TX, and a member of the Virtuoso Cruise Committee and Virtuoso Marketing Committee.
Thompson, who just returned from a cruise on Crystal Serenity, says "Crystal's service and entertainment are over the top, providing so many opportunities for our team of advisors and for our clients."
She's particularly excited about the upcoming spring launch of Crystal River Cruises, and says her agency has already reservations on the books for this new luxury river product. Additionally, she's excited about sales opportunities for Crystal's new yacht cruises, luxury air and ocean cruises.
Similarly, "the most exciting trend I see for 2016 is the debut of the new all-inclusive river cruises with Crystal Cruises," says Ruth Turpin, a luxury travel advisor with Cruises Etc., Fort Worth, TX. Turpin cites Crystal's excellent reputation and huge past passenger following as a big benefit for travel advisors who sell cruises.
"People have really been wanting a true luxury river cruise and Crystal is providing this with one ship in 2016 and four in 2017," says Turpin. Daly too cites the evolution of Crystal as one of the most interesting developments of 2016.
|Espresso, Royal Caribbean new reservations system, is accessible from mobile devices. // Photo by Susan J. Young|
More Cruise Technology
Vicky Garcia, COO and co-owner of Cruise Planners, an American Express Travel Representative, Coral Springs, FL, is most excited to see the launch of new technology. “More travelers are using mobile technology while researching travel options, planning their cruise, and cruising,” Garcia said.
"We know this will continue to be the trend as more consumers use their smart phone as their ‘life remote,’" she added, noting she's happy travel agents and cruise lines are innovating and keeping up with technology.
“What I am most encouraged about in 2016 is the entire industry seem to be spending much more time and energy talking about value or added value and features and the benefits of their ships instead of price,” stressed Mark Conroy, principal, Mark S. Conroy & Associates; former president of Regent Seven Seas Cruises; and a CLIA Hall of Fame member.
|Celebrity Cruises has focused on value within its pricing structure. // Photo by Susan J. Young|
Garcia also cited inclusive pricing as her runner-up choice for a top development in 2016. “Inclusive pricing structures add value to guests’ experiences while increasing commissions for travel agents,” she said.
"I am most excited about the trend toward 'personalized' cruising," said Jean Newman-Glock, a renowned Washington D.C.-based travel writer and social media expert.
Owner of JNG Worldwide, she regularly publishes articles in such consumer publications as National Geographic and Travel & Leisure. She specializes in luxury travel and tweets as @Jeannewmanglock on Twitter. "I recently sailed on Silversea Cruises, Azamara Club Cruises and Viking Star," Newman-Glock said, noting that "the new ease with which I could customize each day ashore is so appealing to new and repeat cruisers," she said.
For example, Newman-Glock reports that ruisers can now secure private cars and drivers at reasonable costs. She also is encouraged by the many personalized, accessible options from both cruise lines and expert travel agents that allow passengers to join small groups or wander on their own.