New Cruise Options Are Making A Big Splash
"Growth is spectacular," boasted
Rick Sasso, President of Celebrity
Cruises and Chairman of Cruise Lines
International Association (CLIA). Sasso's remarks were made
during the "State of the Industry" panel of top industry executives
at the Seatrade Cruise Shipping Convention in Miami on
He went onto say, "Last year, cruise lines added
992,000 more guests than in the previous year for a total of seven
million passengers. It's amazing considering in 1972 the entire
industry only carried 500,000 guests." Spectacular growth aside,
cruise lines only account for two percent of the travel market. And
considering places like Branson, Missouri, garner eight million
visitors a year, and Las Vegas 22 million, cruising has some
catching up to do.
"No Longer for the Overfed, Newlywed,
and Nearly Dead"
Indeed, cruise lines are catching up.
This year, the industry will have an 8.5 percent increase in berths,
along with similar figures for passenger growth. Executives say that
in the next 10 years, cruising will truly become a global
According to CLIA statistics, cruising clientele is
changing dramatically. 15 years ago the average cruiser was 56 years
old; today, the median age is 46, and current cruise projections are
showing the age will soon lower to 43.
"Cruising is no longer
for just the overfed, newlywed, and nearly dead," Sasso stated.
Cruise lines are heating up the competition among themselves to get
the first-time cruiser. New ships and changes to the old way of
cruising are attracting more cruisers than ever. Innovation—in new
ships, dining options, and policies (and even itineraries)—is the
industry's new mantra.
If You Build It, They Will
This year, major cruise lines will christen nearly
15 vessels. In the popular "build it and they will come" tradition,
cruise lines are building vast ships with more facilities to welcome
new cruisers. Today's cruise ships range in capacity from
10-passenger yachts to 3,000-passenger megaships. The trend is on
the bigger ships with unique offerings such as ice skating rinks,
rock climbing walls, and virtual reality centers. Nonetheless, not
all ships (large and small) have or need trendy accessories. They
are just as modern, offering new features and technologies designed
to make the passenger experience even better. All ships, along with
the entire cruise industry, seem to be undergoing a noticeable
One of the most
interesting, and certainly most tasty, changes is in the dining
experience. When people think of cruising, they immediately think of
the fabulous food along with the structured formality of it all.
Formality in any form is not popular with today's traveler. Indeed,
CLIA studies cite a perceived "lack of freedom" as one of the
reasons why about 12 percent of potential cruise vacationers have
not yet sailed.
Dining was the hot topic at the Seatrade
convention, and it has literally become a food fight among several
cruise lines. The most widely touted program is Norwegian Cruise Line's (NCL) new onboard
dining feature, dubbed Freestyle Cruising™, which was
initiated last June and is based on Star Cruises'
product in Asia.
Traditionally, cruise-ship dining rooms have
offered two daily seatings for breakfast, lunch, and dinner, with
passengers assigned to specific tables at specified seatings.
Freestyle Cruising changes all that. Passengers no longer
have to eat at certain times and sit at particular tables for the
duration of their cruise with people they may or may not like. NCL's
main dining rooms will feature open seating and serve dinner from
5:30 p.m. until midnight.
Freestyle Cruising will also
add more à la carte restaurants, creating more dining
choices. "We have more restaurants than nights of the week," boasted
NCL's President Colin Veitch. Indeed, NCL's new ships will offer
nine or more restaurants serving a variety of fare, including
French, Italian, Chinese, Spanish, and Japanese.
Princess Cruises began a program called
Personal Choice DiningTM,
which (like NCL's) breaks down the regimentation of cruise dining so
passengers can opt for unassigned, restaurant-style seating in two
of the ship's three main dining rooms. Furthermore, Princess is
expanding dining options on four of its ships with the opening of
new outdoor steakhouses. The facilities, called Sterling
Steakhouses, will be onboard the Sun Princess, Dawn
Princess, Sea Princess, and Ocean Princess.
They'll be located in a sheltered deck area overlooking the pool on
each vessel, and they will be open from 6:30 to 9:30 p.m. Passengers
will be able to pick their own cuts of meat from a selection of
rib-eye, New York strip, porterhouse, and filet mignon steaks.
Barbecued chicken, side dishes, and desserts will also be
Line has also joined in the food fight by announcing their
program called Total Choice DiningT. The program is already
in place aboard its 14 "Fun Ships." Carnival will offer four dinner
seatings starting at 6 p.m.; 6:45 p.m.; 8 p.m., and 8:45 p.m., as
opposed to the current two seatings. In addition, future ships in
the Carnival fleet will include reservations-only restaurants. The
first of those, Carnival Spirit, entering service in April
2001, will feature an elegant two-level Supper Club, offering
prime steaks and other upscale cuisine. The restaurant will carry a
nightly reservations fee of $15 per person.
"All of the lines
are evolving. Opening up the main dining room to open
seating—removing a core element of cruise structure—I think is
fairly revolutionary," says NCL's Veitch. Revolutionary for some,
but for Renaissance, could it be that imitation is the best form of
flattery? "Since the inception of Renaissance
Cruises in 1991, we have had open seating dining," states
Renaissance spokesperson, Brad Ball. He goes on to say, "Renaissance
Cruises was one of the true innovators of open seating dining with a
variety of dining venues. The R-Class ships were specifically
designed to accommodate a variety of dining options. While other
megaships (i.e., Princess, NCL, and Carnival) are jumping on the
band-wagon and trying to convert their vessels to open dining, the
R-Class ships were built from the ground up to accommodate our
Another Big Change for
While Renaissance may have been one of the
innovators in open dining options, they are changing certain policies to reflect those of
their competitors. The company has grown 28 fold in the past three
years, and now finds itself the fifth largest cruise line in the
world. With the massive growth have come major changes, which
reflect the ever-changing needs of today's traveler. Once touted as
the adults-only, smoke-free cruise line, Renaissance is now doing a
360 degree change and will allow children and smokers to sail aboard
their vessels starting December 1.
Renaissance insists it
will remain an adult-oriented, destination-focused cruise line
although it will accept younger travelers and permit smoking in
limited, designated areas. Renaissance will allow children two years
and older to join their parents, grandparents, or guardians aboard
its ships. In addition, they will offer a seasonal supervised
children's program. The cruise line will also make limited,
designated areas of its "R-Class" and "Renaissance-Class" vessels
available for cigarette smoking only (no cigars or pipes). They
emphasize that 98 percent of the ships' passenger areas will remain
Change is Good
It's interesting to
note that a cruise vacation has always allowed for constant change
of scenery and culture. The new, customized onboard amenities mimic
the whole cruise vacation experience—with so many options available,
cruising has truly evolved to offer something for
Click here to return to article index