In response to an increasingly time deprived society, many members of Cruise Lines International Association (CLIA), including luxury and specialty lines, report a trend towards new short, or shorter, cruise sailings in all parts of the world. These “mini” or “sampler” cruises are proving popular with frequent as well as first-time cruisers, CLIA reports.
“Lifestyles are changing. Consumers have extraordinarily busy schedules but they also want to travel and are savvy about getting their money’s worth. As the cruise industry continues to grow, the convenience, affordability and incredible choice of short cruises are tremendously appealing,” said Christine Duffy, CLIA’s president and CEO.
In a recent CLIA-conducted survey, the association’s cruise line member lines say that short cruises have strong appeal for a broad range of vacationers of all ages, from the new-to-cruising set, to families, working professionals to honeymooners to independent travelers seeking to combine a cruise with land programs. And, perhaps because they are less expensive compared to longer voyages offered by the same cruise line, shorter cruises can stimulate last-minute travel decisions, CLIA says.
Driving the trend are a number of factors at home and abroad, CLIA says. The increase in domestic ports of embarkation – more than 30 in North America – has opened up the world of cruising to a far greater vacation market.
Carnival Cruise Lines, for example, estimates that half the population of the U.S. is now within driving distance of a cruise port. Short cruises, historically the “entry” market for the industry, are effective in building interest in the newer ports and cruise lines have responded with more offerings. Carnival officials indicate that 50 percent of the company’s capacity is devoted to short cruises, CLIA says.
Globalization of the industry also has driven the increase in short cruises. The Bahamas, Caribbean and Mexico/West Coast, traditional short cruise markets, remain strong, but travelers looking to sample the cruise experience or to find a vacation that fits a busy work life will discover new short cruises in other destinations such as Europe where many CLIA members have increased capacity, even year-round deployment, in order to attract European vacationers.
In addition to the increase in itineraries of one-week or less offered by the “large ship” cruise lines, Europe’s river cruise companies also have had success with shorter voyages, CLIA reports. Avalon Waterways, for instance, offers four-day voyages on the Danube, four-night Christmas cruises, and short “cruise-only” options that are particularly popular, according to company officials, with independent travelers who want to combine a short cruise with land arrangements or who may want to sample river cruising.
CLIA points out that shorter voyages also can represent significant savings, with a strong value proposition that extends across all price categories of cruises. The ultra-deluxe Crystal Serenity offered five- to eight-day voyages in the Mediterranean this summer and the company says it will continue to have more short-length cruises going forward. Silversea Cruises, another top of the line luxury company, offered a six-night itinerary this year.
Paul Gauguin Cruises recently introduced seven-day itineraries in the Caribbean and Europe on its new, intimate m/v Tere Moana. Oceania Cruises, another luxury line, features seven-night voyages in Europe, and the American West Coast. And luxury travelers can sample Regent Seven Seas Cruises on seven-night itineraries in Europe, Alaska, and Scandinavia. Even SeaDream Yacht Club, famous for its two ultra-luxury yachts, has a five-day Caribbean voyage.
Many vacationers, even experienced cruisers, may be surprised to discover the extensive choice of short cruises on the market, CLIA notes. Holland America Line, for over 100 years noted for roaming all over the world, including world cruises, offers voyages as short as one day. Cunard Line features an annual five-day Fourth of July Getaway from New York to Canada and New England as well as its popular six-day transatlantic crossings on Queen Mary II. Celebrity Cruises will introduce four- and five-night cruises to the Caribbean from Fort Lauderdale on the “Solsticized” Celebrity Constellation in 2012.
Louis Cruises, one of the newest members of CLIA, enables travelers to discover the Greek Islands in four days and three nights. MSC Cruises offers three- to five-night voyages in the Mediterranean, South America and the Caribbean. And, in 2012-2014, Princess Cruises will offer a new series of three- to five-day sailings from Fort Lauderdale and Los Angeles on two ships, the Ruby Princess and the Golden Princess. Holiday itineraries and repositioning voyages often are other opportunities to enjoy a shorter cruise.
Bringing the world of cruising to more and more consumers, short cruises will be an increasingly important part of the menu of choices, CLIA repairs. They will not replace other cruises – many lines have added longer voyages as well and world cruises represent a very strong growth market – but, for many travelers, a “taste” of cruising will be an unforgettable experience and, in more cases than not, the beginning of a lifetime of vacations at sea, CLIA said.