The major trend in the world of cruising is that cruising itself is an ever-increasingly popular way of travel. It’s projected that a remarkable 27.2 million passengers will set sail in 2018 and there will be at least 27 new ships launched to carry them.

Cruise Lines International Association (CLIA), the world’s largest cruise industry trade association which represents more than 50 cruise lines and 449 vessels, has shared some of the biggest trends impacting cruise travel in its 2018 Cruise industry outlook report.

All budgets will cruise
Once seen as a holiday reserved for the wealthy, cruising has become popular across almost all income brackets. In fact, a third of the cruisers surveyed who have taken a cruise within the past three years, have a total household income of less than $80,000. However, survey data shows cruising still skews more to affluent consumers than other types of holidays.

Skip-gen cruising
In April 2017, CLIA’s Travel Agent Cruise Industry Outlook said that multigenerational cruising looks set to increase in popularity. While that’s true, further analysis reveals that there’s a twist in the form of “skip-generation” trips. These are voyages where grandparents and grandchildren travel together without the children’s parents. It’s predicted that these will prove to be highly popular in 2018 and beyond.

Healthy doses
It’s a general trend that travellers are seeking health conscious trips more than ever before. The cruise industry has responded with services and experiences for the mind and body, including on-board wellness seminars led by health experts, custom fitness programs, stress management, and spa services.

There are now entire cruise itineraries dedicated to weight management and healthy living including Weight Watchers cruises, and shipboard menus cater for an expanding variety of dietary needs from diabetic-friendly to plant-based meals.

Transformational cruise travel
Once it was enough to get on a ship that would take you places where you could take tours and see the sights. Then came experiential travel where there was a need to delve deeper and experience the destination, rather than merely see it. The next evolution of experiential travel sees travellers taking a step further to seek transformational experiences that really will change them.

The options are many: from cultural immersion and “voluntourism” to extreme adventures or learning a new skill — be it cooking or climbing. The goal is to return from your cruise with a changed perspective, a sense of accomplishment, and perhaps a new direction in life.

Themed cruises are not new but they may be regarded as a variation of this. Music cruises or comedy festivals at sea have become increasing popular and being on the same ship means that you may have a chance to meet and greet performers you’ve admired from afar.

Some cruises feature special guest speakers such as retired heads of state, renowned explorers, diplomats, or authors. As well as the talks, there’s often the possibility you’ll catch up with them around the ship, too.

Smart travel technology
The CLIA predicts that the coming year will see a rise in traveller-friendly on-board technologies. Several cruise lines are introducing wearable technology for cruise guests that provide a personalised and seamless experience while on-board.

Ranging from keychains to bracelets to necklaces, wearable technology on cruise ships interacts with sensors on the ship in order to do everything from turning the lights on as you approach your cabin to acting as a security agent throughout the ship.

Sustainability at sea
There will also be a greater focus on sustainable tourism. Travellers can look forward to participating in sustainable practices both on-board and off, from recycling and waste management to popular voluntourism initiatives that focus on creating a positive environmental and social impact at destinations around the globe.

Cruising is a very energy-intensive activity so it’s good to see some new energy-efficient vessels on the drawing board. We hope that green awareness translates into more environmentally friendly practices being adopted in Australian ports, too.

Millennials take to the river
Once the domain of senior — even elderly — travellers, river cruising is becoming more active and, as a result, it’s attracting younger passengers. River and small ship cruising continues to gain traction among travellers generally, including millennials. With an ever-expanding range of destinations, including the Amazon and Asia, and experiences that reach far beyond walking and coach tours, a younger generation is embracing river cruising.

Travellers warm to chilly destinations
The coming year is projected to see an increase in popularity of colder climate destinations including the Baltics, Canada, Alaska, and Antarctica. The CLIA declares that, with an array of unique excursion options, from viewing penguins to ice fishing, these high latitude wonderlands are drawing in both new and repeat cruise travellers.

While experienced cruisers may be able to choose from a bewildering range of cruise options to suit all pockets and proclivities, for most of us a knowledgeable travel agent is a necessity.

What kind of cruises appeal to you?

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