There was a time when a slow, gentle trip across the ocean was the only way to get anywhere interesting. With the arrival of the jet and air travel for the masses, cruising lost its cachet and the industry lost its way. A few, old ships catered mainly for an older clientele. But things are beginning to change
Now the fastest growing sector in the UK travel business, cruising is taking different approaches and broadening its appeal. Even the language is changing. SeaDream Yacht Club is a cruise company offering what it describes as “chic informality”. There’s none of the tie-wearing formality or z-list crooners banging out karaoke-style hits after dinner.
Meanwhile, Princess Cruises is offering outdoor cinema and World Cup football matches on a giant screen—clearly designed to appeal to a crowd one would not have associated with cruising only a few years ago. Edwina Lonsdale, managing director of Mundy Cruising, explains: “As cruising has become more mainstream, the cruising companies have created a range of products to appeal to the luxury market. So, for instance, some of the larger ships now have excellent spas or destination dining. There’s also been a move to appeal to adventurous travelers with cruises to Antarctica or the Amazon.”
As if to highlight this desire for on-board action, a new class of bigger ships is launching. Typical of these is Royal Caribbean International’s Adventure Of The Seas. If the thought of a full-size theatre, spanning five decks isn’t impressive enough, the ship also houses a climbing wall, in-line skating track and an ice-rink.
At the other end of the market, ships are getting smaller as consumers with a desire for greater privacy look for more intimate ways to holiday. As Lonsdale says: “On a yacht you’d expect less cabin space and more deck space, where on larger ships, you’d expect more cabin space. I guess it depends if you want a sun lounger on deck or on the balcony of your cabin.”