If it’s not on Instagram, did your vacation actually happen?
The authentic, off-the-beaten-path, Instagrammable vacation is what vacationers want today, according to recent studies.
In cruising terms, this translates to small ports, far-flung locals and activities they won’t find on every single mega-ship.
Cruises are obliging.
They’re taking travellers to destinations that include the Galapagos Islands, French Polynesia, Cuba and even Antarctica.
“There is a special allure for Americans due to Cuba being a forbidden travel destination for so many decades,” says Laura Carlson, principal travel advisor in Houston. “The Galapagos Islands are amazing because the animals have no fear of humans, so you are standing about 5 feet away from them while they pose for your photos. Additionally, Antarctica is a popular destination and books up fast.”
Formerly, a Caribbean cruise—which is an easy, accessible vacation for anyone and everyone —was the go-to for cruisers. But today, new and seasoned cruisers are taking on the complicated spots, craving the previously inaccessible locations.
According to the International Association of Antarctica Tour Operators, visitor numbers making shore landings in Antarctica reached close to 52,000 during the 2017/2018 season, an increase of 17 per cent from the previous year.
This is despite of—or because of—the fact that the ships may only carry a maximum of 500 visitors at a time, and only one ship can visit each site. There is a maximum number of ship visits daily, with no more than 100 passengers onshore at a time.
And then there’s the journey itself.
“Accessing the Antarctic Peninsula involves two days at sea crossing the infamous Drake Passage—this is a notoriously unpredictable stretch of ocean,” says Frances Armitage, senior PR executive at Chimu Adventures in Sydney. “We are living in an increasingly experiential society, and Antarctica has ultimate bragging rights, yet is still a safe and accessible thing to do if you have the money and time.”
Even the ships travelling to more popular destinations like Mexico or the Caribbean are working hard to create the off-the-beaten-path experiences on and off the water to attract vacationers.
For example, Seabourn and Holland America are some of the ships that stop at Dominica, where visitors can tour the volcanic mountains, rainforests and geothermal springs. Princess cruises stop at Bequia, which is a 7-mile island where you can visit the open-air food market to try the local cuisine or check out the Old Hegg Turtle Sanctuary.
Many people are opting to extend their trip with a land-based tour for a few days either before or after the trip, says Jenni Fielding, marketing manager at Cruise 118 in the UK. More than half—or 57 per cent—of cruisers extend their vacations in the port cities, and 68 per cent of millennials do this, according to the Cruise Lines International Association study.
“Seasoned cruisers are looking for something new. Not just new port of call, but also new land-based experiences when they get there,” Fielding says.
They’re also choosing ships that offer onboard experiences that can’t be found elsewhere.
Carnival Vista just added the RedFrog Pub and Brewery, which creates beer out of desalinated seawater. And on Royal Caribbean’s Symphony of the Seas, former Olympians perform in its water acrobat show.
Now that is something you can brag about on Instagram.