Cruising has been the fastest growing segment of the travel industry with an estimated share approaching 20% of revenue. 2017 saw 27 million cruise passengers embark on cruises utilizing 537,000 beds across 314 major cruise ships worldwide. In 2019 there was an estimated increase over 2017 of 14% with a majority of ships operating at near 100% capacity. Because of this dramatic increase the industry had almost 50 new ships on order by the end of 2019.
The Elephant In The Room: The global pandemic has seriously impacted the cruising world. There are a number of reasons for what has transpired but very little of it is the fault of the cruise lines. Overall cruising is safe with the only serious health issue involving cruise ships prior to the coronvirus-19 pandemic being norovirus outbreaks. Norovirus is a virus that is highly contagious, causes severe stomach problems and is commonly associated with outbreaks where groups of people are in close contact. The number one location involving norovirus outbreaks is schools followed by offices. Because of the impact of a coronvirus outbreak on a cruise ship the cruise companies have become very expert at dealing the these situations.
If you have ever been on a ship when norovirus was diagnosed you understand how well prepared cruise ships are to deal with it. Ill passengers are confined to staterooms. Crew with sprayers filled with disinfectant are everywhere. Railings and door knobs are usually drenched in disinfectant and a common joke is that if you stand still too long you’ll get sprayed down too. We’ve experienced 2 of these outbreaks and there was very little spread or impact. Dealing with covid is actually very similar.
Cruising was blindsided by covid-19 just like everyone else and suffered from a panic reaction by governments and it’s still going on. Very little spread occurred into the general population from infected cruise passengers while airlines were found responsible for the majority of international spread. Airlines are still being allowed to fly with lax health requirements even today.
While suffering a major reversal of fortunes because of the covid-19 pandemic, cruising has too many avid followers and advantages over the competition to not recover. Currently 2022 bookings are showing an increase over bookings at the beginning of 2020. Some smaller companies may fall away but the financial growth history of the major cruise companies has large investors ready to infuse more cash to help jump-start cruising.
The major attractions to cruising are fairly well known; good dining, entertainment, nightlife and exciting destinations and mostly all-inclusive. Todays newer ships offer amazing activities from ice skating to surfing to onboard amusement parks. There are few land-based resorts that provide anything near what today’s cruise ships offer.
Breakfast On Ice!
In our case I’m not sure of any leisure pastime that can come close to what we routinely expect from our cruise. What can match the amazing experience of having breakfast as you watch a glacier drift by your window. How about cocktails while looking down on Piazza San Marcos as you ship sails into Venice.
If you had suggested to us in the past that we would soon cruise into Paradise Bay in Antarctica on a bright sunny day or witness steaming lava pour into the ocean soon after Sunset, we would probably have laughed. How about watching the changing leaves as you sail up the St. Lawrence or seeing a pod of humpback whales breaching in mid-ocean.
Have The World Come To You…
We have traveled a lot over the years with many trips being two or three days in a hotel and than moving on to another destination with more nights in a new hotel. Packing and moving suitcases can be a pain and waiting for your next room to be “ready” can be frustrating. About twenty years ago we took our first cruise and after settling into our stateroom the destinations just came to us. A whole week or more in one room with the scenery changing constantly outside our window! On a number of travels we’ve had problems at times finding a restaurant open (pizza from a convenience store?) or having no idea what dinner would cost. Now, no matter how far from home or how exotic the local food – dinner is waiting for us back on board the ship! – running late? there’s always the buffet.
Dollar for dollar cruising has been one of the best values in travel, which has a lot to do with its popularity. Cruises come in a wide range of lengths and destinations with a number of price levels. There’s probably a cruise out there to fit almost anyones’s budget.
It’s going to be a struggle for the cruise companies coming out of the pandemic shutdowns and governments aren’t make it easy. Start-up costs are going to be high and they are going to try and recover some of the losses with fares going forward. That may put a damper on some people being able to afford it or even believing the higher cost is justified. All of that will sort itself out and 2022 is most likely to be a resurgence year for cruising.