Report Shows Cruising’s Growing Appeal

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PHOTO: Cruise ships at a port in The Bahamas. (photo via Brand X Pictures / Stockbyte / Getty Images Plus)

Cruising continues to grow in popularity with the American public.

Cruise Lines International Association (CLIA) estimates that by the end of 2019, approximately 30 million people around the world will have set sail on a cruise, and it’s likely that Americans make up a sizable chunk of those choosing to cruise.

In 2017, CLIA found that nearly 12 million cruisers were from the United States, making it one of the leading markets.

New research from YouGov also revealed a strong appetite for cruising among U.S. travellers.

The survey found that three in 10 (31 per cent) of Americans had been on a cruise and one in six (16 per cent) plan on taking a cruise within the next 12 months.

In addition to knowing how many people have cruised, the YouGov analysis reveals travellers’ intent to cruise.

The survey found that 6 per-cent of Americans say that it will be their first time cruising. Twelve per cent indicated that they have been on a cruise before and plan to take another cruise within the next 12 months—market size of 31 million people. There are 46 million Americans who say that they have been on a cruise but do not plan to take one in the next 12 months, and 64 per-cent (approximately 160 million) Americans have not been on a cruise before and don’t plan on going on one within the next 12 months.

Within the never-cruised segment, there are a few important data points. These non-cruisers are likely not taking a vacation in 2019, but many could be considering travel in the coming year.

Among total cruisers, demographics give insight into who is looking to cruise in the future. Seven per-cent of first-timers were millennials, 8 per-cent were Gen-Xers, 4 per-cent were baby-boomers, and 1 per-cent were silent generation.

When it comes to repeat cruisers, 16 per-cent were millennials. Eleven per-cent were Gen-Xers, 10 per-cent were baby boomers, and 12 per-cent were silent generation.

Those who lapsed a year or more between cruises were most likely to be silent generation cruisers at 32 per-cent. Baby boomers made up 23 per cent of this group, Gen-X was 17 per-cent and millennials were 14 per cent.

The YouGov survey also found that first-time cruisers were more likely to be African American, live in cities and more likely to vacation with their children. Two in five are parents with children under the age of 18 and more than one-third have travelled for business and leisure this year.

When targeting this group, go beyond traditional social media. Ads in podcasts, movie theatres and billboards catch the attention of first-timers.

Couple taking a selfie on a cruise ship
PHOTO: Couple taking a selfie on a cruise ship. (photo via michaeljung/iStock/Getty Images Plus)

Like first-timers, a family is a big consideration for repeat cruisers. Many are parents and many more bring family members with them when they cruise.

YouGov found that repeat cruisers were more likely to look to advertisements when choosing which cruises to take and preferred ads tailored to them. Social media advertising was also more appealing to the repeat cruiser and they most frequently use Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

Cruising is more popular with East Coast and travellers in southern states, likely because the proximity to homeports simplifies travel. Regardless of location, however, cruising’s ability to act as an intersection between experiential travel and innovation and convenience appeals to a wide variety of Americans.

MSC Cruises goes in big on the U.S. market

The MSC Meraviglia's promenade ceiling is alight with LED lights that change patterns and even put on a show.

The MSC Meraviglia’s promenade ceiling is alight with LED lights that change patterns and even put on a show. Photo Credit: Rebecca Tobin

NEW YORK — The MSC Meraviglia arrived here on Monday from Europe, with MSC Cruises executives noting more than once that it is the largest cruise ship to dock in Manhattan.

The Meraviglia (pronounced Mer-a-VEE-lia) is sailing three cruises from New York, and then it will reposition to Miami for the winter season. The Meraviglia joins the MSC Seaside, the line’s year-round ship in the Caribbean, and the MSC Divina and MSC Armonia this fall. For the first time, MSC has four ships serving the North American market simultaneously. 

The Meraviglia, one of the largest ships in the fleet, carries 4,488-passengers at double occupancy and is 171,598 gross tons. In the U.S., only Royal Caribbean’s Oasis-class ships are bigger.

Night views: The MSC Meraviglia's pool deck.

Night views: The MSC Meraviglia’s pool deck. Photo Credit: Rebecca Tobin

“This is a perfect example of our commitment to growing in the North American market,” COO Ken Muskat said in brief remarks Monday night. “We are the fastest-growing cruise line in the world. … We are growing in North America in a very big way.” 

Even so, he added, “We’re very passionate about our European roots and our European style. You’ll see that in the decor, you’ll see that in the hardware, you’ll see that in the culinary experiences, and you’ll also see that in our entertainment.” 

The European flavour is on display the moment guests step into the center promenade. The ceiling is made up of thousands of LED lights that change into different patterns and put on an evening light show. On various visits to the promenade over the course of the evening, the ceiling changed from a pattern reminiscent of the Galleria Vittoria Emanuele in Milan to a cloud-filled sky to a homage to the Sistine Chapel.

The dramatic Swarovski crystal staircase on the MSC Meraviglia.

The dramatic Swarovski crystal staircase on the MSC Meraviglia. Photo Credit: Rebecca Tobin

The vessel is massive with plentiful public spaces. There’s a full-size, indoor basketball court. One big area with a swimming pool gives way to another big area with a swimming pool. When you get on the elevator and your guide says, “Press the button for Deck 16,” it’s not even the top deck; there are 19. 

Although it is mega in size, the Meraviglia is broken down into smaller gathering spaces that make it seem positively intimate at times. Take the Carousel Lounge, which is purpose-built for MSC’s exclusive Cirque du Soleil at Sea shows. It’s a small theatre in the (almost) round, and guests are close enough to the performers to make eye contact.  

A selection of tapas at the Hola! restaurant. The restaurant features culinary creations by Michelin-starred chef Ramon Freixa.

A selection of tapas at the Hola! restaurant. The restaurant features culinary creations by Michelin-starred chef Ramon Freixa. Photo Credit: Rebecca Tobin

The Meraviglia has no shortage of celebrity and brand partnerships. In addition to the Cirque du Soleil performances, a tapas restaurant features the dishes from Michelin-starred chef Ramon Freixa. The Chocolat and Cafe bear the name of pastry chef Jean-Philippe Maury. The kid’s clubs are Lego designed. A partnership between MSC and Martha Stewart includes curated shore excursions, gift packages and onboard holiday dinner menus.

Royal Caribbean voyages to double the fun at the private island

CocoCay's waterpark opened earlier this year.
CocoCay’s waterpark opened earlier this year.

Royal Caribbean International has added nearly 40 sailings in the coming year that will feature two stops at its Perfect Day at CocoCay private island.

The four-day cruises on Navigator of the Seas from Port Canaveral and Mariner of the Seas generally sandwich a stop in Nassau between the two visits to nearby CocoCay.

Royal Caribbean will sail three Navigator cruises that stay at CocoCay late into the night.

Entertainment will include traditional Bahamian-inspired activities, including a Junkanoo Jam Up Party, an island barbecue and performances by a calypso band and fire dancers, topped off with fireworks.

Both Virgin Voyages and MSC Cruises are preparing to offer private beach attractions in the Bahamas that provide evening activities.