MSC Cruises Adds New Accessible Shore Excursions

MSC Cruises today announced the roll out of its accessible shore excursions program to five more ports this winter and three additional ports for summer 2020.  MSC Cruises aims to ensure that guests have the largest variety of shore excursions possible to suit all needs. Hence MSC Cruises is introducing its Accessible Tours Program, extending the availability of tailored shore excursions for those with varied mobility, the company said in a statement.  “MSC Cruises is committed to offer an incredible choice of shore excursions designed to suit all tastes, giving guests the freedom to make the most of every moment ashore,” said Jean-Pierre Joubert, Head of Shore Excursions at MSC Cruises. “We have always been sensitive to the needs of our guests, and constantly strive to offer the best possible service, meeting international accessibility standards. This program is unique because for the first time we offer accessible tours available in both popular cruise regions of the Caribbean and the Mediterranean.”  The tours and excursions have been created with careful consideration for safety and accessibility, allowing all guests to explore each destination in total comfort: tour routes are completely step-free and accessible to wheelchairs wherever possible; only short distances are covered; timings are run at a slower pace; and accessible restrooms with wide doors are planned along the route. Family members and friends can also join these inclusive tours, with the comfort of small groups led by professional tour guides experienced in working with guests with varied mobility.  The Accessible Tours Program includes the San Juan (Puerto Rico) shore excursion that combines the best highlights of San Juan into one accessible tour. Escorted by their own tour guide, guest will enjoy a leisurely stroll in the Old Town, and experience panoramic driving tour of the spectacular old Fort San Cristobal, the breathtaking El Capitolio, the famous Casa Olimpica and other popular landmarks. The Marseilles (France) excursion will bring guests to a hill with views of the city, after which they will travel back in time while exploring historic landmarks including the Old Port and accessible parts of the 17th-century Fort Saint-Jean.

MSC Cruises announced the rollout of its accessible shore excursions program to five more ports this winter and three additional ports for summer 2020.

MSC said it aims to ensure that guests have the largest variety of shore excursions possible to suit all needs. Hence MSC it is introducing its Accessible Tours Program, extending the availability of tailored shore excursions for those with varied mobility, the company said in a statement.

“MSC Cruises is committed to offering an incredible choice of shore excursions designed to suit all tastes, giving guests the freedom to make the most of every moment ashore,” said Jean-Pierre Joubert, Head of Shore Excursions at MSC Cruises. “We have always been sensitive to the needs of our guests, and constantly strive to offer the best possible service, meeting international accessibility standards. This program is unique because for the first time we offer accessible tours available in both popular cruise regions of the Caribbean and the Mediterranean.”

The tours and excursions have been created with careful consideration for safety and accessibility, allowing all guests to explore each destination in total comfort: tour routes are completely step-free and accessible to wheelchairs wherever possible; only short distances are covered; timings are run at a slower pace, and accessible restrooms with wide doors are planned along the route. Family members and friends can also join these inclusive tours, with the comfort of small groups led by professional tour guides experienced in working with guests with varied mobility.

The Accessible Tours Program includes the San Juan (Puerto Rico) shore excursion that combines the best highlights of San Juan into one accessible tour. Escorted by their own tour guide, the guest will enjoy a leisurely stroll in the Old Town, and experience the panoramic driving tour of the spectacular old Fort San Cristobal, the breathtaking El Capitolio, the famous Casa Olimpica and other popular landmarks. The Marseilles (France) excursion will bring guests to a hill with views of the city, after which they will travel back in time while exploring historic landmarks including the Old Port and accessible parts of the 17th-century Fort Saint-Jean.

Report Shows Cruising’s Growing Appeal

Bahamas, cruise, ship

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.

Cruise companies reducing Mediterranean presence

Ongoing instability in the Mediterranean region is prompting cruise companies to trim capacity there, with the latest example coming from Celebrity Cruises, for summer 2017.

Celebrity said it will keep the 2,850-passenger Celebrity Equinox in Miami next spring after it completes its winter cruise schedule, instead of returning to the Mediterranean, where this summer it will operate cruises out of Athens and Barcelona.

The move will draw down Celebrity’s Europe deployment next summer from five ships to four and give it a year-round ship in the Caribbean for the first time since 2010.

Other companies also plan to move capacity out of the Mediterranean and into the Caribbean.

Carnival Corp. in a June 28 conference call said it expected a 10% capacity reduction in the Mediterranean region next year, and a 5% increase in Caribbean capacity.

“We are rebalancing our portfolio to optimize the current demand environment,” Carnival Corp. CEO Arnold Donald said.

The moves come as the Mediterranean was again rocked, this time by a failed coup attempt in Turkey and the truck massacre in Nice, the third major terrorist attack in France in the past nine months.

Cruise lines had already largely stopped calling in Istanbul after a series of terrorist attacks there this year. After the coup, many cruise lines also suspended calls elsewhere in Turkey, such as Kusadasi.

Most are in a wait-and-see mode, such as Carnival Cruise Line, which replaced the Carnival Vista’s calls in Kusadasi on July 17 and 20 with sea days and said it will evaluate future calls there “in the coming days.”

Some travel agents said client demand for Europe remains healthy.

“For us, our European business is still very strong,” said Jeffrey Bateman, vice president of operations at Crown Cruise Vacations in Princeton, N.J.

Bateman said most of his clients on Equinox cruises that had been scheduled for Europe next summer had rebooked other Celebrity European cruises.

Prices have been softening for Europe, according to a survey by SunTrust Robinson Humphrey analyst Patrick Scholes, who said advertised prices for cruises in southern Europe in June fell 1.3% year over year, compared to a 7.4% increase in May.

Frank Del Rio, CEO of Norwegian Cruise Line Holdings, said cruise lines remain reluctant to drop Europe in the summer.

“Analysts ask me, why don’t you put the ship in the Caribbean in the summer instead?” he said. “Well, because even a bad year in Europe is better than a good year in the Caribbean, especially in the summer.”

In 2014, a mass migration of ships from Europe to the Caribbean led to a pricing bloodbath. Donald said that’s unlikely in 2017, when Carnival’s expected Caribbean capacity growth will be 5%. In 2014, it was 20%.

The Equinox will add to the overall capacity in the Caribbean, but several travel agents liked having more itinerary options for Celebrity in the summer.

“I view the year-round vessels in the Caribbean as a plus,” said Valerie Harris, a CruiseOne franchisee in Atlanta. “They lend a hand with creating and maintaining a cruise line’s presence in the region, which in turn may establish brand loyalty.”