North American travelers are focusing more on itinerary and less on price, according to Cruise Holidays International’s 2014 Cruise Trends survey and river cruising is adding to Europe’s allure for those taking cruise vacations.
In 2014, Cruise Holidays says combined with European deep water cruises, the continent’s cruise destinations rank second only to the Caribbean among Cruise Holidays clientele. Furthermore, Amsterdam, The Netherlands, and Budapest, Hungary, are emerging as river cruising’s top destinations.
Top 10 Cruise Destinations and Top 5 River Cruise Cities
With its diverse itineraries, the Caribbean continues to hold the top spot in cruise bookings for the year ahead, by a wide margin, Cruise Holidays reports. Thanks to sunny weather and convenient access from the southern and eastern United States, the Caribbean drives the majority of all cruise bookings.
Overall, there is little change in the list of top 10 destinations year over year. However this is the first time “European Rivers” have been broken out as their own category in Cruise Holidays’ report. Had it been a separate category, European Rivers would have ranked fifth last year, just behind Bermuda. This year, they edge out Bermuda as the fourth most popular cruise destination. In the Caribbean, Western Caribbean sailings are most popular, followed by Eastern Caribbean and Southern Caribbean, respectively.
“The enthusiasm over river cruising, particularly in Europe, continues to add a new dynamic to the vacation market. Even travelers who have never cruised before seem particularly drawn to river cruises as an attractive alternative to a land tour,” said Kevin Weisner, senior vice president, Cruise Holidays International. “What’s good for the cruise industry itself is that river cruises are not eroding the business of European deep water cruises, but rather spurring even more travelers to head across the Atlantic.”
Cruise Holidays says it analyzed data from across its network of agencies to see where most river cruise passengers are heading in 2014. The Netherlands, as well as cruises along the Danube and “Grand Tour” cruises of the Rhine, Main and Danube lead the way in popularity.
While river cruising proliferates, interest in large, new ocean-going (i.e. deep water) ships is also soaring, Cruise Holidays says, with many agents anticipating arrival of Royal Caribbean International’s Quantum of the Seas.
This ship will not debut until November 2014, but it opened for booking in May 2013. Bookings have been very impressive, according to Cruise Holidays. In fact, the ship accounts for nearly 20 percent of all Cruise Holidays cruise bookings looking into 2015, the ship’s first full year in service.
Quantum of the Seas, the first in Royal Caribbean International’s “Quantum Class,” will carry 4,100 passengers, which is actually fewer guests than Royal Caribbean’s two most recently launched ships, Oasis of the Seas and Allure of the Seas, Cruise Holidays said.
Quantum of the Seas will homeport in Cape Liberty (Bayonne), New Jersey, and will begin a rotation of cruises to the Bahamas, the Eastern Caribbean and the Southern Caribbean beginning in late 2014, with lengths varying between 7-12 nights.
Best Value in Cruising
Cruise Holidays agents were asked: “In which region do you anticipate the best value in cruising during 2014?” The Caribbean again placed first, with European deep water cruises and European river cruises following. Alaska and the Pacific Northwest sit comfortably in fourth place, followed by trans-Atlantic cruising.
“There are places such as the Mexican Riviera and Asia that do not appear in our list of top 10 destinations but that our cruise agents recommend for excellent value. This may be an opportunity for travelers to lock in a great price for destinations that are a little less in demand,” said Weisner. “For those seeking a Caribbean getaway, the Southern Caribbean is an ideal choice because it departs from San Juan, Puerto Rico, and gets much deeper into the Caribbean than the U.S. mainland departures can.”
Cruise Holidays agents were also asked what their clients’ top reasons are for booking a particular cruise. For the fourth consecutive year, itinerary is the most popular response, followed by pricing. But compared to 2013, a full 10 percent fewer respondents answered that price is a major factor in their cruise decision. This gap has continued to widen each year dating back to 2011, Cruise Holidays reports.