At the annual Seatrade Cruise Global conference in Fort Lauderdale, the bigwigs with some of the world’s biggest cruise lines stated, “there has never been a better time to take a cruise”. While there is most likely a bit of self-serving bravado in their proclamation, bookings already indicate a record-setting 24 million people will take a cruise this year. Additionally, cruise lines keep launching new vessels, expanding itineraries and adding amenities to attract passengers. To get you up to speed, here are the three big cruise trends of 2016 that will have you cruising into summer:
Cuba is one of the hottest new travel destinations, and although cruise lines have received permission from the U.S. government to sail there, the big-cruise lines still have not gotten permission from the Cuban government to visit. However, with the warming of U.S.-Cuba relations this may change soon and Cuba could become a major new port of call.
While Americans have been flocking to Cuba since tensions have eased, economic sanctions are still in place. U.S. residents must have an “acceptable” reason to visit the tiny island nation, such as taking a cruise with an organized people-to-people tour.
Currently, smaller cruise lines like International Expeditions and Cuba Cruise serve the country on a seasonal basis. Crystal Cruises offers a seven-night voyage along Cuba’s Western Coast, but the ship doesn’t have a port there. Carnival is planning to dip its toes into the Cuban waters later this year by sailing the 710-passenger Adina from Miami. Swiss-registered MSC currently sails to Cuba for non-U.S. passengers.
2) River Cruising
Does traveling up the Mississippi on a river make a cruise; or does it have to be somewhere more “exotic,” like a trip up the Danube, Amazon or Nile. It’s not an easy question to answer, and the beauty of the river definitely lies in the eye of the passenger. However, river cruising is certainly one of the hot cruise trends of 2016.
In some ways, river cruising has become synonymous with Europe, both because of its convenience and the sheer number of places of interest. However, Europe is far from being the only player in the exotic-cruise game. A river cruise has more to do with the on-board experience than with the size of the vessel or location of the river. Typically, river-cruise ships can accommodate less than 100 passengers, allowing the cruise company to offer more intimate adventure experiences, such as walking tours and cultural excursions in various ports-of-call.
The word “exotic” is a catchall term, typically used to describe something not readily available in your backyard. Just as cruise up the fabled Mississippi would seem exotic to a non-American, cruises along the Mekong River in Asia, the Irrawaddy River in Burma, the Yangtze River in China, the Chobe River in Africa and the Ganges in India are all popular trips for tourists and travelers.
3) All Inclusive Packages
Many cruises claim to be “all inclusive,” with your cabin, meals and activities being included in the cost. However, with many cruise lines you better bring a big bag of change with you if you want something extra, as this is where passengers can get nickel-and-dimed to death. Want a “premium” beverage? It’s going to cost you extra. Want to take an aerobics class? It is going to cost you extra. Want to dine at a “specialty” restaurant? You guessed it, it’s going to cost you extra.
As far as price comparisons between truly all-inclusive cruise options and those with extra fees, the actual cost may surprise you. Regent Seven Seas Cruises was the pioneer and has been leading the way with all-inclusive cruises for years. The company performed a price-comparison study that found when adding airfare, hotel rooms, alcoholic drinks, shore excursions and gratuities the difference between a cruise on the more luxurious Regent was only a few dollars more per day as compared to the big nickel-and-dime ships.
The take away here is, before you book, be sure to confirm exactly what you will be getting in your “all-inclusive” cruise. As more lines are starting to follow Regent’s lead, the all-inclusive option is becoming one of the hottest new cruise trends. Additionally, as the competition heats up, passengers can expect to see less out-of-pocket expenses and more included extras on all cruises.
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