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Cruising’s Multiple Personalities

Written by: Kuki

To the uninitiated, with assistance from cruise line marketing campaigns and word of mouth from their friends and neighbors, many people view cruising through mental images of fine dining, fancy dress, lively fun on sun decks, and Las Vegas style floor shows. Today’s cruise industry is much more complex than that; cruising today has multiple personalities.

Through the 1990s and into the early 21st Century, outside of differences in decor, and some minor differences in onboard programming, it could have seemed that one cruise on a cruise line would be very similar to a cruise on any other line. Though there were a few small niche cruise lines,  variations were basically  budget cruises, mass market cruises, and luxury cruises. The major factor separating them; price.  The pricing categories remain similar today, though the industry may have branded them with new verbiage, sneaking “premium” and “ultra-premium” into the mix, while mass market lines are now referred to as “contemporary”.

Today however the variances in cruise lines are much more clearly established. Plus I think the cruise lines have become ”fleat of fleet” enough to change ships within their line to adapt to the “cruise personalities” passengers are looking for.

The most dominant personality in the industry at this time seems to be the “cruise vacationer”. And the “cruise vacationer” generally favor itineraries cruising in the Caribbean. Caribbean cruisers goal is to simply relax. The want to spend their vacations enjoying the ship’s amenities; relaxing time on sun decks, umbrella drinks, lots of culinary choices, and plenty of live entertainment (particularly in the evenings). In ports of call they are mostly interested in spending times on beautiful beaches, some sight-seeing, shopping, perhaps some adrenaline inducing activities like zip-lining, jet-skiing, para-sailing, etc. They want a vacation, rather than having a desire to travel. They want something similar to a resort style vacation, but with a little more adventure. And honestly the cruise lines do an outstanding job of meeting those demands throughout the Caribbean, and to a lesser extent the Mexican Riviera.

Then there are “the travelers”. Other than perhaps a first time visit to the islands in the Caribbean, the travelers aren’t going to happy with a Caribbean cruise. Travelers want to see the world, experience different cultures and sights. This is a very fast growing sector of the cruise industry, and all of the cruise lines have reacted by redeploying ships all over the globe to meet the demand. Where a few niche lines, or the smaller ships of the luxury lines used to be some of the only options on many more exotic itineraries, today all categories of the industry are allowing the travelers many more choices in this area. With an eye to the interests of the travelers most cruise lines in areas around the globe are designing very port intensive itineraries. If it’s not a different port almost every day, then they are offering itineraries with more overnights in ports of call; something you rarely see on a Caribbean sailing.

Onboard activities as well as entertainment are also addressed differently on the cruises where the majority of passengers are likely more interested in the next port of call, than a late night comedian.

The “cruise traveler” is still quite different from the “world traveler”. It’s not that they don’t have the same wandering spirit, as they probably do. But for a variety of reason, they are willing to give up some of their wanderlust in favor of more secure and less stressful travel; still being able to return to the creature comforts and luxuries a cruise ship has to offer after day of exploring another port. As you often find the demographic on more exotic itineraries a bit on the older side, I’m guessing many of the people were world travelers, who may now find themselves with less physical abilities to endure the riggers of the “world cruiser” they used to be, yet still have the urge to travel, see more, and learn more. And cruising certainly eases most of the burden, while still fulfilling the urge.

While the cruise lines have moved ships to further reaches of the world, there has also been a concerted effort by them to attract the local populations in those areas. The Europeans are a fast growing segment of the cruise industry.  Where their choices to cruise closer to home were quite limited, today they have more variety in cruise lines sailing close to their homes than sail the Caribbean waters at certain times of year. There’s more major cruise lines moving ships to Australia, and ships homeporting in Dubai. It’s no longer just ships sailing around the globe. It is a true globalization of the cruise industry. It also holds true that the ” cruise travelers” demographic meshes well with the locals boarding the ships in these distant areas, as they appreciate the oppurtunity to experience the different cultures blend together onboard.

Taking the traveler personality a step  further are the adventure/explorer cruise lines. These sailings are on smaller ships (in some cases less than 100 passengers) which venture into waters larger ships simply cannot go. They specialize in providing passengers with very up close, intimate experiences with the nature and wildlife of the areas they visit, such as Antartica and the less traveled inlets of Alaska. These lines are more attractive to those who might normally fit in the “world traveler” category, as in many cases they will take those passengers to areas and sights which are almost unreachable by land. They will also attract a mix of the “cruise travelers” who are willing to give up a few of the creature comforts of standard cruise ships to step into a more adventurous experience.

Currently the most “IN” category in cruising is River Cruising. Though River Cruisiing has been around for some time, the recent surge by River Cruise companies to add many more new ships to their fleets is working effectively to draw more interest.  They’ve been adding many modern amentities more familiar to those who have to this point experienced more typical cruising. Their main attraction is they travel slowly down rivers, allowing passengers to view places they would never visit on larger cruise ships. They also generally dock in the center of towns and cities they visit, and include tours of the areas in their fares. While I don’t believe they presently have much attraction for first time cruisers, they are certainly drawing “cruise travelers” who are interested in a more personal experience of the cultures within the areas they can access by river cruise, as well as the “world travelers”, giving them ease of access which would be much more limited by land travel.

Certainly all of these cruise personalities, combined with a few even more niche cruise alternatives, such as sailing ships, and barge cruising have expanded the selection and choices to enable you to match your personality with the personality of the cruise. It’s a bit like dating. You can research and experiment to find a personality that most directly lines up with yours. These days many people are using the services of dating services to find their matches… such as E Harmony, Match.com, etc. When it comes to cruising, it’s an excellent idea to use the “dating services” of experienced and knowledgable travel agents. They are best equipped to be your “cruisematch”, and find you your cruise soul mate.

- A View From the Kuki Side of Cruising -

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