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Cruising Trends for 2010

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It wasn’t long ago… I remember quite clearly all the concern about what was going to happen cruise ships (and the world) with the worries of Y2K, and the chaos it would create.

Now, a new decade is soon upon us, and if you take a look at the changes which occurred in the cruise industry this past decade, it will take a pretty creative imagination to envision what the industry will look like in 2020.

This decade ends with the debut of Oasis of the Seas; bringing some of the most talked about changes from our long standing vision of what cruise ships are in the history of the industry; as well as being half again as large as the largest cruise ship presently sailing. Whether she is on your to do list or not, one certainly has to admire the technology and engineering involved in bringing her from vision to reality.

Whether she will lead a charge to build ships larger yet, and lead to more ships that are a destination themselves is anyone’s guess. And since I am not an engineer, in this week’s Blog I’ll concentrate more on the trends we’ve seen grow legs which are already in the onboard product, and how they may continue to expand.

Cruise ship dining has gone through very drastic changes in the past decade. It’s come quite a way from when the mass market lines had one or two main dining rooms for dinner service for all passengers, and a single buffet restaurant available for breakfast and lunch.

It began slowly, early in the decade, with some cruise lines opening up portions of their buffet restaurants for casual dining in the evening. Then later, when NCL introduced its innovative Freestyle Dining, offering the choice of dining when you wanted, as well as a choice of several different restaurants; a ripple of change in the way cruise lines feed the passengers began, and has grown to a wave of change, with most every cruise line in the world being swept into it.

There is little doubt in my mind that this trend will continue, and change, and morph. I believe it’s quite likely that the upcoming decade will see the traditional cruise ship dining room disappear entirely. I think the trend to more variety in choice, in smaller venues, will soon be the standard. No doubt some of those venues will still have the cost of the meals included in your cruise fares, but more and more of those restaurant choices will carry a surcharge of some amount.

Along with the trend to more alternate restaurants, there’s been a trend to having “signature chefs” design and attach their reputations to various cruise ship dining venues. “Signature” or “Celebrity” chefs are all the rage on land, and the cruise lines have already begun to jump on that bandwagon for promotional purposes, and that trend will certainly continue. Though they’ll have to tack on service charges to dine in those restaurants to pay for those signatures.

Recommended Dress Codes onboard is a practice that has certainly diminished over the past decade. There are still a few cruise lines which feature formal nights, but there’s been a growing trend to more relaxed dress requirements for passengers. Some call for “resort casual” wear, and others yet have basically dropped most if not all standard suggested dress minimums. Even many of the traditional luxury lines have, or are testing, more relaxed dress standards.

In my view this trend will continue, in part because of the airline’s recent changes to charging extra for checked baggage. Though the trend to relaxed dress codes on ships began earlier, the airline policies give the cruise lines good cover for continuing to relax them. And it well could be that the customers have been requesting less formal dining arrangements.

Entertainment may be the area featuring the most dramatic and innovative changes to what has basically been fairly standard entertainment venues and types of entertainment available on cruise ships.

The initial signs of what I think will become an industry wide movement, is the recent licensing of the Broadway play Hairspray on Oasis of the Seas, and NCL’s announcement that the Blue Man Group will be appearing as a daily show on their upcoming Epic.

Until recently the “headliners” in cruise ship theatres have been young, unknown entertainers, possibly on their way up, or older better known names, more likely on their way “down”. I think it’s very likely that a trend to more high profile, better known, and more current celebrities will build. At least for some time I believe the cruise lines will be willing to part with the dollars required to attract these types of acts in order to distinguish them from their competitors. Partially responsible for this move has been the success of various music themed group cruises and charters.

And like Las Vegas, the cruise lines will see that the cost of licensing such things Broadway, or Cirque de Soleil shows, can bring significant payback in terms of promotional value.

In fact, I can envision some cruises featuring some performances by very current “Stars”, with either a surcharge to enter the venue to see their performances, or an overall higher cruise fare, which would serve the same purpose.

I’ve just touched upon several changes and trends that I foresee. I’m sure there’s going to be many that occur, that I’d never dream of.

What visions do you have for the future of the cruise industry in the upcoming decade – and do you think these changes will enhance the cruise experience?

– A View From the Kuki Side of Cruising –




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Comment from Dave Beers
Time December 16, 2009 at 11:06 am

Where did 10 years go? I remember helping get our work computers Y2K certified.

Anyway, I can easily see the main dining room assigned seating thing go away. I also think some mainstream cruise lines will look at the Modified American Plan where you get two meals per day included but have to buy all other meals or snacks. If cruisers think they have to hand over their cruise card a lot now, well, just wait. Using the reservations system such as on the Oasis, cruisers could layout their day and pay for it from the cabin. Mainstream cruising is going to be ala carte in a big way over the next few years.

Comment from Mike M
Time December 16, 2009 at 5:05 pm


The future has been here for quite awhile. It is called Star Cruises of Asia. Their cruises are basically ala carte and the more you pay the more you get. The cruises are big with gamblers but their entertainment is more “big time” and they were the first with multiple dining venues. No wonder they were and still are part owners of NCL. I predicted a long time ago that cruise lines would be using the Star model in the future and I see that prediction coming true.

The ship will become the destination and the “travel” aspect of cruising will become the back seat. It may take awhile but I do believe it will become that way for the entire industry.

Take care,

Comment from Paul Motter
Time December 17, 2009 at 1:45 pm

I love this topic – who else would think to write about cruising in 2020 when we just finished the marathon of growth for 2009 we have been anticipating since 2006.

This is actually a great topic, and it deserves a lot of thought.

Lets look at some of the other trends you forgot to mention: drive-to cruises. More people want to cruise from close to home. That says that cruising in itself can be an activity, that you dont NEED a big ship just to attract cruisers.

However, the bigger ships out there are commanding the higher prices, so it is obvious there is also a market for those.

River cruising in Europe has quietly exploded while we were not looking. That says people want TRAVEL experiences from their cruises, and more up-close. Interesting.

I agree that dress codes will continue to diminish. In the future there will be no formal nights or even dress codes. There will just be signs that say “we request no jeans or t-shirts in the dining rooms.”

We already know people want balcony cabins, but the advent of ships with 80% verandas was another 2000 decade development.

Anyway – this is a great topic – thanks for starting it!

Comment from Marc
Time December 17, 2009 at 2:52 pm

One trend I have started to see, and believe will grow even more, is that many mainstream cruisers who cruised in big suites are moving up to luxury ships. Yes, you sometimes end up with less space but I am amazed by the number of Princess, Celebrity, and HAL cruisers I have run into who have not gone back. With Seabourn and Silversea debuting new larger ships, I imagine they will be trying even harder to get the large suite passenger to move up.

The other trend I see is the return to “classes” on ships. So many, of the mainstream lines give sometimes significant benefits to the large suite passengers.

Comment from Chris
Time December 17, 2009 at 10:18 pm

I watch the changes you discuss with dismay and disappointment. It seems that almost everything I loved about cruising is dying a slow death. Count me among those people who loved dressing to the nines on Formal Nights. It was like stepping in to a movie roll to play a hand of blackjack in formal wear after dinner. An experience now often ruined by the fellow sitting next to you dressed like an aging hippie beach bum. I’ve always looked forward to making new friends at dinner and sharing my daily adventures with them each night, those days are likely gone forever soon, as it seems people would rather be an anonymous face in a sea of thousands then run the risk of meeting someone that might have a slightly different world view then their own. Soon to be gone as well are the days when your waiter and busboy treated you like they had known you forever by the third night. Nothing can ever replace that level of service or its Upstairs/Downstairs feeling of glamor. No longer will I be as willing to try some exotic new flavor for dinner with this concept of a la carte either. If I have to pay extra for it I’d better know I’m going to love it before hand. Come to think of it if I have to pay for everything extra, plan out where I’m going to eat every meal (often having to factor in what I can afford), and eat with people that don’t know a necktie from a cumberbund, all while getting service from people who won’t see me twice in their lifetime, and participating in events with people who have known me all of 5 minutes then I might as well be taking any ordinary vacation anywhere. Oh wait, I forgot if I plan my own vacation I can pick a place that is happy to let me bring my four legged child with me as well, unlike cruising. All I can say is thanks cruise industry you are slowly killing one of the things I have most cherished in my lifetime.

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Time February 8, 2011 at 11:57 pm

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