By Simon & Susan Veness
It’s no secret that we think cruising is the best holiday anyone can take. We have been devoted to the idea of sea-going sabbaticals ever since Simon first set foot on a ship back in 1969, when his family sailed from Durban to Southampton on the old SA Vaal of Union-Castle Line.
The relaxation, the style, the variety and the sheer evocative nature of cruise-ship sailing have no equal compared to staid land-based vacations, and the true romance – in the broadest sense of the word – of sailing into a new port every day and seeing a destination come to life in front of you is the very epitome of treasured travelling.
If that is the big picture in favour of maritime sojourns, the small-scale view is just as impressive. Ship technology has evolved in leaps and bounds in the past 10 years, creating onboard playgrounds of immense complexity and sophistication, not to mention extraordinary finesse and detail.
From robo-bars to luxury spas, and from unfolding sports platforms to underwater viewing windows, the opportunity to indulge in unique experiences at sea has mushroomed in sympathetic proportion to the greater numbers taking advantage of them each year.
Those numbers have increased by almost 10 million worldwide in the past 11 years – from 17.8 million in 2009 to 27 million in 2018 – and that growth shows no sign of slowing down as cruise lines add more ships, new destinations and alternative experiences every year.
In simple terms, there has never been a better time to take your next – or first – voyage because there are now so many great choices everywhere you look, and often at great prices too! With that in mind, here are our Five Reasons To Book A Cruise in 2019:
Reasons To Book A Cruise #1: The Variety
OK, we may have already highlighted this, but it’s worth pointing out the statistics behind the excited marketing-speak. The fact is, there are no fewer than 24 – count ’em, a record TWENTY-FOUR – vessels making their debut this year, adding to the 300-plus already operating around the globe, offering 537,000 passenger-berths at any one time. That’s right – there are more than half a million cruise ship berths up for grabs, and that’s just for the ocean-going version. Add in the increasing number of river-cruise ships and the stats spiral even further upward. And, of those 24 newcomers, there is an immense contrast, from the huge 183,900-ton Costa Smeralda to the boutique-small Magellan Explorer of adventuring company Antartica21.
The mega-lines of Carnival, Norwegian, MSC Cruises and Princess are all well represented, along with specialist companies Hapag-Lloyd, Star Clippers, Aurora Expeditions and Scenic Cruises. The astounding diversity of the new ships – which includes the world’s first hybrid-powered vessel, the Roald Amundsen of Hurtigruten – provides a great snap-shot of the essential variety of modern cruising, underscoring the basic truth that there is a cruise for everyone these days.
Reasons To Book A Cruise #2: The Deals
It stands to reason that where there is growing capacity, there will also be short-term gaps in demand as, even with the great growth in the industry, there won’t be enough passengers to fill every berth on every sailing. New ships tend to reduce demand for some of the older ones, and that means cruise lines will look to redress the balance by offering tempting lower-price fares and tactical discounts to ensure they stay competitive. Once again, with the sheer numbers involved, it means that Company C – with no new vessels to highlight – will have to make themselves more price-competitive against Companies A and B, who are both busily touting new-builds. And the ‘Great Deal’ scenario isn’t limited to basic pricing, either. You can also look for special offers that feature all-inclusive drinks packages, shore excursions, stateroom upgrades and/or onboard credit, which are all ways of boosting the real value of a voyage.
Happily, here at The Cruise Line, we always have a fully-stocked collection of cruise deals – just take a look at our latest Luxury Cruise Collection!
Reasons To Book A Cruise #3: The Green Initiative
Having already mentioned Norwegian adventure-cruise specialists Hurtigruten and their novel new ship, which will run on both electric and diesel-fuel power and reduce CO² emissions by 20 per cent, it is worth trumpeting some major advances in the ‘greening’ of the cruise business as a whole. Typically, the heavy fuel-oil ships of the 20th century were a major cause of greenhouse gas pollution, especially when in port, but all that is rapidly changing. Several lines, notably Carnival and Germany’s AIDA Cruises, have switched to liquid natural gas (LNG) as their fuel choice, which has meant a major change in engine design but also more positive effects for the environment. With ships increasingly taking their power from local sources when in port, thus reducing their own fuel needs and emissions, the cruise business as a whole is becoming far more socially eco-friendly, especially in more sensitive areas, and this process is likely to speed up with every new vessel launched.
Reasons To Book A Cruise #4: The Luxury
If you go back just 20 years or so in the cruise industry, it was hard to see past all the mega-ships that were being mass-produced as fast as possible in order to take advantage of the boom in cruising. Vessels were getting larger and larger almost by the month – from 70,000 tons in the early 90s to 100,000 by 1997 and then the gigantic 200,000-ton monoliths of Royal Caribbean in 2009. Carnival, Princess, Norwegian, Cunard, P&O, MSC, Celebrity, Costa and Royal Caribbean were seemingly locked in a maritime ‘arms race’ to build bigger and glitzier, but the more modest-sized lines – especially those who didn’t mistake flash for true deluxe quality – tended to get overlooked. Not any more. Seabourn, Silversea, Regent and Oceania have all invested in new, distinctive tonnage in recent times, and this year will see each of Ponant Cruises, Viking, Coral Expeditions, Hapag-Lloyd, Scenic Cruises and Star Clippers introduce their latest and greatest, all dealing in genuine luxury that eschews gimmicks and glitz for first-class service and the distinctive sea-going style that makes cruising worth doing in the first place. The sheer quality on offer is just sublime.
Reasons To Book A Cruise #5: River Cruising
While there are still plenty of great ocean ports, and regions, of the world to explore – notably places like Cuba, the Norwegian Arctic, Greenland, Chile and the fabled Northwest Passage – the one major growth area in general terms that is still far from tapped out is river-cruising. Both in Europe and elsewhere, river journeys have more than matched their big brethren for providing memorable, quality-conscious experiences, and that is especially true in 2019. The Mekong River in Vietnam and Cambodia is seeing record booking numbers, as is the Mississippi in the USA, and there are no fewer than four new vessels due to set sail along Portugal’s increasingly chic River Douro. And don’t overlook the Rhine and Danube this year, either. These traditional bastions of European river travel will see new ships from Viking, AmaWaterways, Amadeus, CroisiEurope and Riviera River Cruises, all with a far greater accent on luxury than we have seen in the past. It is just one more reminder that, when it comes to the X Factor, cruising has it in spades. All aboard now…!
Are you ready to take your next – or first – cruise? What will you be looking for this year? Give us your thoughts in the Comments section below.