Image by: Seven Seas, Explorer spa infinity pool, aboard the Regent Seven Seas.
Want to know what the future of cruising might entail? One of our favourite travel writers, Andrea Black, has summed it up perfectly.
All aboard: What is the future of cruising?
Andrea Black February 4,2021
Like any keen cruiser, I can’t wait to step on board a ship again when it’s safe to do so.
Whether it’s a luxury yacht, an ocean liner, a river-cruise ship, or expedition ship, there really is a vessel that will appeal to every taste, and then there are the incredible destinations. There’s a lot to be excited about when charting the future course of cruising.
One of the joys of cruising is there’s such a range of activities to do on board, depending on the ship and the itinerary. I have fond memories of spotting puffins in the Arctic with world-renowned wildlife experts on an APT expedition cruise in Norway, roller-skating and skydiving on Royal Caribbean’s Anthem of the Seas, diving off a Star Clippers tall ship into the Mediterranean in the Greek Islands, and being invited to visit the Queens Grill duplex on Queen Mary 2 to toast a newly-wed couple, who met on board and spent a good portion of their year cruising with Cunard. All of this before even entering port.
I like to linger as long as possible in a destination, so will look for itineraries that offer late departures or overnights in ports to really get to experience the culture.
Cruise lines have got savvy to the fact that cruisers don’t want to step off a ship and onto a coach tour; we’re keen for a more bespoke experience tailored to our interests. Some highlights from my adventures include a Princess Cruises’ Local Connections Program on Maori meeting grounds at Waitangi in New Zealand’s Bay of Islands after paddling a waka taua (war canoe) across the water and an Azamara Local Immersions tour visiting artist Cezanne’s home in Provence.
Building a bridge
Like travel on land, it makes sense that cruising can progress to a responsible restart within Australia using crew and ships that have gone through all the required quarantine procedures. Cruise Lines International Association (CLIA) managing director Australasia Joel Katz has welcomed the Australian government’s statement that it’s working with the industry and state and territory agencies to develop a framework for the staged resumption of cruise ships in local waters.
Already, Australian-flagged cruise lines such as Coral Expeditions have been sailing around the Great Barrier Reef with seven-night itineraries on board Coral Discoverer. And this month Coral Expeditions has new itineraries exploring South Australia, the Great Australian Bight, and the coral reefs and islands of Western Australia and Queensland with guests capped at under a hundred. Meanwhile, luxury cruise line True North is sailing along the Western Australian coast at the moment.
Image by: True North, sailing through Rowley Shores Marine park near Broome, WA.
It has a 10-night Perth to Dampier cruise that departs in March and takes in Ningaloo Reef and the Abrolhos Islands. The vessel has its own helicopter so you can get another vantage point of the incredible coastline.
Other cruise lines have confidence that demand in Australian waters will be high. French luxury small-ship brand Ponant, for example, has added a second ship to sail Western Australia this year. And APT has planned eight brand-new cruises around Australia on the MS Caledonian Sky for 2021-22 from the Great Barrier Reef to Kangaroo Island, King Island to the Abrolhos Islands, as well as the east coast of Tasmania.
When cruising fully recommences we can anticipate an impressive fleet of new vessels. Step on board a ship these days and it feels more like a boutique design hotel than a giant floating resort. Leading the way in fusing incredible interior design with a more intimate feel will be Virgin Voyages. British designer Tom Dixon OBE was tasked with reimagining the modern cruise experience in some spaces on Virgin Voyages first ship, Scarlet Lady. It has also reimagined the onboard dining experience, which is timely in the Covid era.
Image by: Virgin Voyages, Sea Terrace
Gone is the buffet and the main dining room; instead, Virgin offers 20 food outlets to choose from. Another highlight will be the newly launched Ritz-Carlton Yacht Collection. Its first superyacht, Evrima, is designed to combine the residential feel of Ritz-Carlton resorts with the innovative design of the world’s most stylish yacht interiors. The menus are by chef Sven Elverfeld of Aqua, the three Michelin-starred restaurant at The Ritz-Carlton Wolfsburg, and reflect cultural traditions of each port visited.
Viking Cruises adds another river ship to its fleet on the Nile River. Viking Aton is a state-of-the-art ship with the clean Scandi aesthetic for which the cruise line is known and accommodates just 82 passengers. We can look forward to the arrival of much-anticipated ships from P&O with Pacific Adventure and Pacific Encounter calling Australia home. The ships will have the private Byron Bay Beach Club and a family pool area under a sliding glass roof. Regent Seven Seas’ Seven Seas Explorer, meanwhile, will have its maiden Australian season in 2022.
Cruise lines know we’re an intrepid bunch so have been working hard on planning itineraries to new destinations with bespoke shore excursions. Some highlights include discovering the Aleutian Islands, the 1900km chain of 14 large volcanic islands and 55 smaller ones that forms the Pacific Rim of Fire’s northern arc with Aurora Expeditions itinerary from Alaska to Japan.
Or perhaps you’d prefer to tour the Mexican Riviera. Celebrity Cruises has announced cruises crossing the Panama Canal departing from Los Angeles in 2022. A universal trend is that travellers desire unique immersive experiences on shore, and cruise lines are catering to this need by offering more bespoke port adventures.
Want a barista to take you to the best cafes and coffee roasters in Melbourne? You got it with Princess Cruises. How about a musician to show you the best jazz clubs in New Orleans? Holland America Line can organise that for you. Want to sip Champagne with a princess in her Austrian Castle? Your chariot awaits via Uniworld.
Whatever floats your boat
There’s no doubt that one area, in particular, will be booming: expedition cruises. Even the staunchest anti-cruiser is bound to love a small-vessel adventure or expedition cruise. Imagine travelling with a small group of like-minded passengers and following Shackleton’s crossing in Antarctica or spotting blue-footed boobies in the Galápagos Islands. Next-generation ships just add to the appeal.
Lindblad Expeditions’ first purpose-built polar ship, the 126-passenger National Geographic Endurance, features the X-bow, which slices through waves to afford the smoothest, most comfortable ride imaginable in all sea conditions. And Hurtigruten has the world’s first hybrid electric–powered expedition cruise ship, MS Roald Amundsen, equipped with large battery packs that significantly reduce emissions. Whichever cruise you’re dreaming of, now is the time to consider booking to take advantage of price reductions and upgrades.