Holiday Cruise Trends for 2016

holiday cruise trendsOctober was a global ‘Plan a Cruise Month’, so cruise lines will be giving prospective cruisers plenty of reasons to start planning their winter holiday trips. And why wouldn’t these holidaymakers choose to cruise? There are nearly 1,000 cruise ports and destinations around the world, according to Cruise Lines International Association’s 2016 State of the Cruise Industry report and worldwide the demand for cruising has increased 68% in the last ten years. And the end-of-year holidays—Thanksgiving, Hanukkah, Christmas and New Year’s—make for the most festive cruising experiences.

Let’s take a look at what might nudge consumers to “take to the seas” this holiday season and what cruise lines might be doing to make sure their trips are especially memorable:

Taking the Family Along

If the holidays are time for togetherness, enjoying a vacation aboard a cruise ship certainly keeps everyone on deck—even if everyone is enjoying their own adventures. A cruise also takes the pressure off of adults to cook and keep family members entertained while blustery weather keeps them inside all day. Customers just need to find the right ships offering the right range of accommodations—some are more child-friendly than others, for instance—and offer activities that appeal to various age groups.

For more, read It’s a Family Affair: Multigenerational Travel and Four Generations of Travelers Mean Four Kinds of Travel Marketing

Keeping Customers Connected

While most people don’t want to spend the holidays (or vacation) working on their laptops in their cabins, the need does arise. And so does the desire to get online, stream media, check e-mail and touch base with friends and family back home and wish them seasons’ greetings. In fact, one-in-five passengers consider it important to be plugged into the web while afloat, according to a Cruise Critic poll cited in CNN.com’s The Cruise Ships with the Best Wi-Fi.

That’s why more cruise lines are offering Wi-Fi or otherwise expanding their tech capabilities. Take Royal Caribbean, for example, who introduced a fleet of “smart ships” offering passengers an experience complete with cocktail-mixing robots, RFID powered wristbands, and mobile apps. Service from a robot likely won’t make or break a would-be cruiser’s decision to book a holiday cruise, but their choice of cruise line or ship may be heavily influenced by their need to get online while they’re onboard.

Additional insights into delivering the technology that today’s customers demand, see Mobile and Millennials: 4 Ways Hospitality Brands Must Accommodate.

Voluntouring

Many people look for opportunities to help others—to give back—and volunteer their time and resources when they’re steeped in the holiday spirit. ‘Tis the season of giving, isn’t it? This sentiment may carry over to how they choose to spend their vacation time, making a “voluntourism” cruise an attractive alternative to the standard cruise offering. Cruise lines such as Carnival’s Fathom brand are bringing “impact” travel to customers, enabling them to, according to their website, “build community with like-minded travelers, become immersed in another culture, and work alongside its people to create enduring social impact.”

Read Making a Difference on a Volunteer Vacation to learn more about the voluntourism trend.

Giving the Gift of Cruising

A cruise vacation can be an inspiring gift and quite a generous one. A lucky future cruise-goer might wake up on Christmas morning to find a cruise line or cruise travel agency gift card under the tree. Who knows, maybe they’ll schedule their trip for next Christmas or New Year’s? And for those already on the ship, many cruise lines offer special packages for use on board to help passengers celebrate a special occasion. And the ship’s stores are filled with items for purchase—just wrap and go. These gifts can come in handy during a holiday trip when presents are being exchanged onboard.

The winter holidays are a magical time to experience all that cruise lines have to offer and travel suppliers need to be sure to tie their offerings up with a bow. It’s important they tie their amenities and messaging together to appeal to today’s consumers, whether that’s a family traveling with a social agenda or a stack of connected devices, or a grandparent looking to give a gift they’ll never forget.