January 15, 2013

January 15, 2013
Top 13 Cruise Trends for 2013

Welcome to another day in my life. Today is Tuesday and I hope you are having a beary safe and great week so far. It is another busy week for Dab the AIDS Bear and me. Last night, we were at a reception for Timothy Ray Brown "The Berlin Patient" here in Fort Lauderdale.

One of my favorite ways to take a vacation is to go on a cruise. You get to see several places, some one does all the "driving" and you only have to unpack and pack once. (Not to mention I don't have to cook for up to two weeks!)

But what the top top trends for cruising in 2013? Well I will blog about that today and tomorrow.

The cruise industry's theme for 2013 might just be "what's new is old."

Rather than building brand-new vessels, Cruise lines are focusing more on improving their existing fleets with major refurbs, better use of existing onboard spaces, telecommunications upgrades and renewed focus on humanity's age-old love affair with the sea (translating into more outdoor spaces on ships and expanded uses of deck space). Companies are returning to their "all-inclusive" roots, either with more fare inclusions (luxury lines) or more inclusive packaging (mainstream ships).

So what's actually new? Cruise lines are bringing more and more brand names onboard and updating their menus for the realities of 21st century dining. And as the world seemingly gets smaller, look for more standardization across worldwide cruise companies and a more international passenger base.

To find out which cruising trends you will be raving (or complaining) about in 2013, here are the predictions for what the future of cruising holds.

The Trend of Refurbs, Not New-Builds, Continues In 2011, there were five new cruise ships from U.S. oceangoing lines; in 2012, there were four. In 2013, there are just two major new-builds on the horizon -- Norwegian Breakaway and Royal Princess -- but the trend of refurbishments takes hold for another year, with 10. Half of this year's refurbs are coming from Royal Caribbean, which will be sending five ships into dry dock (with more slated for 2014) for upgrades that range from new dining venues and poolside movie screens to nurseries for babies and toddlers and bow-to-stern Wi-Fi. Norwegian Cruise Line is spending $30 million to add four single cabins, a Brazilian-style steakhouse, 24 more suites and bow-to-stern Wi-Fi to Pride of America. And in the mother of all refurbs, Carnival will spend $155 million to entirely morph Carnival Destiny into Carnival Sunshine -- with so many changes the ship even gets a new name.

British lines are not left out of this trend, as P&O, in a multimillion-pound project, is updating cabins on Arcadia and Ventura, adding a new late-night dance venue on Arcadia, an adults-only deck space on Ventura and infusing single cabins into both. So who is building new ships in 2013? River cruise lines are, with 14 newbuilds: one each from Scenic and Avalon, two from AmaWaterways and a whopping 10 from Viking.

Name Brands Are Heading Out to Sea
barbie-stateroom-royal-CaribbeanNo-name coffee, custom-made song-and-dance revues and generic theme cruises are stepping aside for big-name, branded food and entertainment onboard. From Blue Man Group, "Hairspray" and "Chicago" to Starbucks Coffee at sea, cruising is expanding its partnerships with kids' entertainment companies (Barbie on Royal Caribbean, Nickelodeon on Norwegian, Hasbro on Carnival), exercise phenomena (TRX and FlyWheel) and celebrity chefs (Food Network stars Guy Fieri on Carnival and Geoffrey Zakarian on Norwegian). Norwegian Breakaway will introduce a couple new Broadway shows at sea: "Burn the Floor" and "Rock of Ages." Even theme cruises are brandeding with sailings touting "Top Chef," ESPN and the Coachella music festival.

Packaging Is All the Rage
While the cruise industry hasn't gone as ancillary-fee-crazy as the airlines have, they are adding more fee-based amenities and services, such as additional specialty dining options, priority boarding, late disembarkation and faster cabin access. Furthermore, they are taking things people have traditionally paid for on an a la carte basis (think drinks and shore excursions) and packaging them together for a one-time price. For instance, Carnival, Royal Caribbean and Norwegian now offer, or are testing, beverage packages that include unlimited drinks, such as beer, wine and cocktails. A handful of cruise lines also are testing unlimited Internet packages, and others offer bundles that combine two or more specialty dining experiences or multiple shore excursions. In 2013, we expect to see more such fee-based services, as well as a variety of new packages.

Luxury Cruising Keeps Getting More Inclusive
silversea-cruises-champagneAs contemporary and premium cruise lines have continued to offer better suites and ship-within-a-ship complexes, the more traditional luxury lines have struggled with how to distinguish the high-end experience they offer from the upscale experience that can now be had on the bigger ships. Smaller-sized ships and better service have proved inadequate as differentiators, so luxury lines are turning to all-inclusive pricing schemes as a main distinction. Crystal, Regent and Silversea cruise fares now include gratuities, all beverages, most dining (or all of it, depending on cruise line) and even select shore excursions. Even luxury-lite line Azamara, which was happily nickel-and-diming a few years ago, is including select beverages and onshore experiences in its prices. In 2013, we expect to see more luxury lines move in the all-inclusive direction.

The Party Moves to the Atrium
The Cruise ship atrium, once the spot for more sedate cruisers, is becoming a bustling locale for passengers to dance and play -- especially after the sun goes down. Surrounded by bars, and visible from multiple decks, the atrium will be this year's hotspot. Celebrity Reflection, which made its U.S. debut in December 2012, turns the atrium into a club at night, playing dance favorites and encouraging passengers to join in the Electric Slide. Royal Caribbean uses its Centrum for aerial shows, sending entertainers attached to bungees flying through the air. Carnival entertainers lead passengers from its theaters to atriums for post-show dance parties. The atrium will become the heartbeat for many ships in 2013, which is perfect for those who want to participate in the action or those who just want to watch.

Tomorrow I will finish blogging on this topic. Hope you have a beary safe and great day!

Until we meet again; here's wishing you health, hope, happiness and just enough.

big bear hug,

Daddy Dab