SINGAPORE, 4 July 2022: Globally, cruise demand is growing daily. Guests are returning with a bigger appetite for immersive and authentic experiences, premium cabins and longer cruises.
With much of the world now open to fully vaccinated people and with plenty of unused annual leave, travellers are making up for lost time by embracing the world around them once more, choosing to travel for longer, spend more and visit all the places they have been unable to in recent years.
Where to next for the cruise industry? Braydon Holland, Senior Director Asia, Norwegian Cruise Line (NCL), shares insights on the ‘great comeback’ and the voyage from choppy to calmer waters.
Now, as many markets in Asia start to reduce restrictions and re-open to travel, the cruise industry is perfectly poised to capitalise on the pent-up demand locally too.
After 500 days on pause, we began our ‘great cruise comeback’ on 25 July 2021 with Norwegian Jade out of Athens. It was an emotional moment for us and our crew, who hail from over 100 nationalities worldwide. They were so happy to be back at work, and the positivity and excitement were truly palpable.
Our 17-ship fleet is now fully operational, and today we’re counting down to the first new class of ship for our brand in a decade, the Prima Class. When Norwegian Prima launches in August this year, she will lay claim to the title of the most spacious new ship and the highest staff-guest ratio in her competitive set. She will be the first of six new ships to be launched over six years; a construction schedule we remained committed to throughout the pandemic – a testament to our belief that the Prima Class will truly be a game-changer for our guests and the industry.
We welcome the innovations and pace of change that has been brought about by the pandemic, and we are glad to see the industry sail through these choppy waters to enjoy new, blue horizons that await travellers.
CRUISING HABITS POST-PANDEMIC
The needs and preferences of cruise-goers were already evolving even before the pandemic – from having increased expectations around the choice and quality of dining options available on board to the range of amenities, activities and entertainment to choose from; as well as the depth of destination immersion they are seeking within each itinerary.
However, the pandemic accelerated the pace of some of these changes and introduced a range of new demands from consumers, particularly in the health and safety space. Consequently, we’ve seen rapid innovation within the industry as cruise lines were creatively tasked with introducing new ways of facilitating things like contactless check-in and ensuring the quality of air filtration throughout the ship – two changes guests on NCL ships will find long outlast the pandemic given the positive impact they continue to have on our guests’ experiences.
THE FREEDOM TO CHOOSE
The post-pandemic pursuit of freedom buoyed by a remote working culture means that travellers have the power to choose how they want to spend their holidays. They are seeking itineraries that offer opportunities to enjoy experiences that they could not indulge in for the past two years.
That is why the appeal of longer cruise holidays is going from strength to strength. Today’s cruise guest is seeking out more deeply immersive travel experiences, and after having their wings clipped for so long, they are willing to spend longer doing so. They are making up for lost time, seeking out holidays that visit multiple destinations – a trend that cruising is perfectly positioned to capitalise on, arriving at a new destination each day with all the benefits of unpacking just once.
At NCL, we’re responding by delivering itineraries that are port-rich with minimal sea days, together with longer stays and overnight calls for destinations where nightlife abounds. For example, in Asia when Norwegian Jewel sails the region from October 2023, she will offer a collection of 10-12-day voyages that feature no more than two sea days per cruise, many of which are open-jaw, allowing guests to book-end their cruise with land packages that extend their stay. And at up to 21-days in length, our suite of Extraordinary Journeys is growing in popularity – combining lesser-known ports with bucket-list destinations that are not on any typical cruise itinerary, such as Tahiti, Antarctica and Namibia.
For guests from Asia in particular, cruising offers the ultimate way to tap into the growing trend of travelling together as a group or multi-generational family; with a range of accommodation options available to suit every taste and budget; the ability to explore on shore separately; before coming together as a family at dinnertime in a new restaurant each evening.
One of the most significant trends we see is the increasing demand for freedom and flexibility from our guests to holiday their way. As the pioneer of Freestyle Cruising, NCL offers cruise-goers an experience tailored exactly to their desires, all with no schedule to follow except their own. There are no formal dress codes, fixed dining times, tables or entertainment times. Travellers are free to indulge in one of the wide-ranging dining options and choose from various entertainment options, depending on their tastes.
KEEPING IT SAFE
Last but not least, travellers today are more concerned with their health and safety and want to enjoy their holidays without having to worry about interruptions to their cruise plans.
Alongside pre-cruise testing, guests will find that all crew and passengers aged 12 and over are fully vaccinated. In addition, we’ve implemented new and enhanced technologies like contactless check-in and embarkation with facial recognition technology to allow for a safe and seamless trip. Across the fleet, cutting-edge sanitation equipment and medical-grade air filtration are installed to ensure maximum hygiene. And on-shore, we continue to work very closely with our land partners to extend our health and safety procedures in the destinations and communities we visit.
With these measures in place, we believe that cruising is now the safest way to travel.
STAYING AHEAD OF THE WAVES
We can’t wait to return to Asia in October 2023, giving local cruise-goers the chance to experience our unique ships from their doorstep with sailings to beautiful destinations in Japan, Malaysia, Thailand, the Philippines, Singapore, South Korea and Taiwan on board Norwegian Jewel.
And as we continue to double down on delivering exceptional cruise experiences, we will also strive to reach net-zero emissions by 2050 across our operations and value chain. This pursuit will be one of the most defining voyages that we will take in our 55-year history as the world transitions to a low-carbon economy.
The past two years have provided us with the time and opportunity to rethink and refine almost every element of the cruise experience. Throughout, we’ve maintained focus on our twin mantras: ‘Guest First’, which puts our guests at the heart of every single decision we make, together with ‘Partners First’, which sees us continue to provide ongoing support and dedicated resources for our agent community around the world, and specifically in Asia.
As an industry, it’s fair to say we’re emerging from the choppy waters better and safer than ever. Our guests are certainly telling us they’ve never felt safer and that they are thrilled to be back on board. We’re committed to doing the best we can to deliver exceptional cruise experiences and support our travel partner community, all while ensuring that future generations can continue enjoying clean, blue waters during their holidays at sea.