If this is your year to take that well-deserved cruise vacation, you are not alone. According to the Cruise Lines International Association – global demand for cruising is expected to reach 32 million passengers in 2020, including a whopping 82 percent repeat factor.
Cruising offers travelers the ability to visit multiple far-flung destinations in total comfort with few (if any) hassles.
Due to steady growth, 24 ships are scheduled to debut in 2020, including new cruise lines such as Virgin Voyages and Ritz-Carlton – plus several expedition ships being launched around the world.
Below is a list of my top cruising trends for this year :
- Off-the-beaten-path expedition travel and luxury adventure ships going to Antarctica, the Galapagos, Alaska and Greenland – taking in the natural wonders in an up-close and personal way.
- Personalization. Today’s travelers need and want new ways to feel special, such as personalized itineraries, unique experiences, intimate destinations and private excursions.
- Authentic, inspirational experiences. Experiencing a city or towns hidden neighborhoods with people who live there and know it best.
- Wellness & Restoration. Step off the ship feeling better, looking better and returning home with a new and healthy attitude towards your personal well-being. Healthy, locally sourced and vegan meals are now expected and included in the daily menus. On-board spas offer everything from meditation to beauty treatments to nutritional counseling enriching the body, mind and soul.
- Solo and women travelers are on the uptick.
- Baby Boomers spend the most money on travel and have no problem taking the entire family on a cruise – and accepting the cost as a worthwhile investment and treasured lifelong memories.
- River cruising (among all ages) continues to increase in Europe and Asia. There is also a surge in interest for domestic, small-ship cruising throughout the U.S., including the Great Lakes.
- Colder climate destinations to the Baltics, Iceland, Greenland, Alaska, Canada and Antarctica are more popular than ever.
- “Skip-Gen” cruising. Multigenerational cruising will increase, however the “skip-generation” trips with grandparents and grandchildren (minus the parents) has exploded.
- Booking bigger suites on premium and contemporary ships. Travelers want more luxury and space on land and sea.
- Cruise and Stay. Most cruise passengers (over 65 percent) spend extra days before and/or after their sailing exploring the region and extending their vacations.
- Celebrity Chefs and specialty dining, particularly on the luxury brands, rival the best restaurants and dining experiences on land. Culinary and wine theme cruises continue to lure guests onboard with guests visiting local wineries and farmers markets.
- Environmental sustainability and continuing progress of developing new technology for cleaner fuel.
- More amenities, with mass and premium cruise lines offering beverage, wi-fi and specialty dining packages to be purchased prior to boarding (no one wants to be nickel an dimed).
- Legacy of Travel. With the growing popularity of DNA testing, genealogy and family heritage themed cruises provide deeper family travel experiences
Before you book your vacation, sit down and talk with an expert at your favorite travel agency. You want to be sure you are getting on the right ship, at the right price. Ask about special sales , promotions and added amenities. This includes: any 2 for 1 fares; free or discounted air programs; onboard incentives; complimentary dining choices; and the onboard entertainment/shore excursions.
You should also ask your travel agent about the onboard attire. Proper dining attire varies from ship to ship, depending on the itinerary and length of the voyage. Most cruise lines have relaxed their dress codes, but no one wants to get dressed up for dinner and find they are sitting next to another couple wearing t-shirts and sweatpants.
In addition, I would recommend flying to your embarkation port the day before the cruise and ask about all pre- and post-cruise hotel packages.
Here is a sampling of some of the cruise lines I have experienced and recommend:
ROYAL CARIBBEAN INTERNATIONAL (mass/contemporary). There’s a reason Royal Caribbean continues to be considered the best in the industry for hard-to-please teens. With many itineraries (Caribbean, Bahamas and Bermuda) on sale, Royal Caribbean is easy and convenient, with year-round sailings from Baltimore and New Jersey. Royal Caribbean boasts the biggest ships in the world, plus guests can enjoy two private islands, Coco Cay and Labadee.
CARNIVAL CRUISE LINE (mass/contemporary). If you’re looking for nonstop fun, food and activities, you’ve found it onboard Carnival. I took my two granddaughters on Carnival’s “Horizon” and “Sunrise” roundtrip NYC to Bermuda and we had a laugh-out-loud time, with 5,000 of our new best friends. Carnival is designed for families on a budget. There is literally something to do (and eat) every hour of the day and night. Activities include their first onboard roller coaster, a water park, parades and story times, a ropes course and much more. Carnival sails year round from Baltimore and NYC to Bermuda, Bahamas, Caribbean, and New England and Canada.
CELEBRITY CRUISES (premium). Celebrity Cruises will launch its 14th ship, the “Apex,” this April in Europe and reposition to Fort Lauderdale for seven-day Caribbean sailings this November. Celebrity Cruises’ mantra is “modern luxury” and its hip, cutting edge atmosphere resonates with travelers wanting upscale accommodations, award-winning dining venues, cocktail lounges and entertainment. The newly remodeled Celebrity “Summit” sails roundtrip to Bermuda from New Jersey and several ships cruising the Caribbean are on sale now through March. Ask about special sales to South America and New Zealand, and “Celebrity Xpedition,” offering the glamping in the Galapagos with dining, drinking and sleeping on the top deck.
HOLLAND AMERICA LINE (premium). For more than 140 years Holland America has been a leader in the premium cruising category with 14 mid-size to large ships with gracious service. A great value for the money, Holland America was the first cruise line in Alaska. A terrific, multi-generational cruise vacation, Holland America has many trips on sale, particularly in the Caribbean, Alaska and Europe. Travelers looking to explore Canada and New England can check out several cruises between April and October. Ask about suite bookings and savings offering free drinks, dining and gratuities through Feb. 28.
OCEANIA CRUISES (premium plus). With six elegant, mid-size ships, Oceania offers fine dining under the direction of Master Chef Jacque Pepin. Oceania is an excellent choice for adults wanting a traditional, gracious and upscale experience. With a recent $100-million refurbishment, “OceaniaNext” will debut suites furnished exclusively with Ralph Lauren décor. Ask about savings and all-inclusive options with “O-Life Choices” and special 2-for-1 fares and premium economy air upgrades on voyages to the Caribbean, Europe and the Baltics. Convenient sailings to New England, Canada & Bermuda – roundtrip New York – from July through October are on sale now.
REGENT SEVEN SEAS (luxury). The most all-inclusive cruise line in the luxury market, including free unlimited excursions, free intercontinental business class air, free wi-fi, free beverages, free transfers and so much more. The brand new Seven Seas “Splendor” debuts in February with “Luxury Perfected” promotions throughout 2020. Regent Seven Seas offers spacious suites and an outstanding level of service with all-inclusive voyages to Alaska, the Mediterranean, northern Europe, Caribbean and Asia on sale now. Ask about New York City cruises also on sale to Canada, New England, Eastern Seaboard, Bermuda and Transatlantic – plus special kids pricing throughout the summer.
SEABOURN (luxury). Seabourn is an award-winning, ultra-luxury, all-inclusive and oh-so-stylish small ship cruise line for upscale and sophisticated travelers. With a private club atmosphere, the Seabourn fleet (5 ships) has taken onboard dining to a new level with the ongoing partnership with world-renowned American chef and restauranteur, Thomas Keller. Ask about Seabourn’s 2020 Signature Savings Event features exceptional savings with complimentary verandah upgrades, shipboard and air credits plus an array of value-added amenities throughout the year – especially in the Caribbean, Alaska and Asia. Ask about 2020 Alaska & British Columbia “Ventures by Seabourn” voyages with Zodiac up-close cruising and kayak excursions with Seabourn’s excellent expedition team. The official cruise partner of UNESCO World Heritage, Seabourn also offers onboard entertainment programs featuring “An Evening with Sir Tim Rice” and guests will sail with him on the April 8, 2020 voyage.
SILVERSEA CRUISES (luxury). With over 25-years in luxury small ships cruising, Silversea sails to over 900 destinations on all seven continents, more than any other cruise line. World renowned for devoted, discreet and experienced onboard service, Silversea is also the leader in luxury expedition and adventure cruising. Heading into 12 years of expedition cruising, Silversea 2020/2021 voyages will highlight both Polar Regions (Svalbard, Norway; Lake Myvatn, Iceland; Greenland and East Greenland; Antarctica; and the Falkland Islands) in the summer and winter. Silversea “Silver Origin” is the brand-new destination-specific ship sailing the Galapagos.
“Let’s Talk Travel with AAA,” hosted by Sandy Fenton, is broadcast Saturdays 11 a.m.-noon on iHeartMedia’s WHP580. For more information, go to whp580.com and click on the link to “Let’s Talk Travel”.