Are we at Peak Cruise?
The cruise industry has come a long way over the past few years. With ships adding more and more features and ships selling out, the question arises: are we at the peak of cruising?
Peak oil, peak travel… peak cruise?
I use the term “Peak Cruise” to suggest that it may never improve beyond this point for consumers. The original use of “peak” in relation to the common vernacular comes from “peak oil” defined as:
The development of modern aircraft more or less reached this level in the 1970s with the Concorde or in the mid-2000s with improvements in fuel efficiency. The new supersonic Boom aircraft in development is not faster than the Concorde, but simply lighter, slower and more fuel efficient with an allegedly quieter sonic boom. Boeing has said it has no plans to produce a new midsize jet because progress has not been made enough to make the aircraft strategically advantageous.
But Peak Cruise? I would argue, yes. Despite building bigger and bigger ships with even more features – cruises sell out to the extent that when announced, the Icon of the Seas led to Royal Caribbean biggest sales day in company history. Not much more to add to the ships themselves, destinations and brands – is that the peak?
Better ships, more features
I mentioned that Royal Caribbean announced Icon of the Seas with great fanfare. Why? It features an offshore water park. Dual course water slides, four-person tube slides, infinity pools, a board that has guests suspended over 100′ above the water, two-story suites (with plastic slide from children’s room to living room), wrap-around balcony with floor-to-ceiling windows – take a look:
Ritz-Carlton has launched a line of yachts that translates its attention to detail and high quality finishes to the sea. This model seems to be growing Explora is from the scions of MSC and its ambitious ships are changing what a cruise ship can be. We’ve covered Seabourn’s Venture Antarctica Expeditions on this blog due to its all-balcony, all-suite, butler service approach to one of the hardest to reach places on earth. My travel agency sold out almost every available reservation on these ships, even at a minimum price of $9,000. Why? Because the product is perfect, but so is the destination. It’s the journey and the destination, not one or the other.
I’ve already mentioned the family cruiser, Icon, but looking at some of the more exotic and adult-oriented products, they really have thought of everything. For example, Seabourn has a special landing room where travelers returning from Zodiacs visiting penguins or seals on Antarcitca first warm up in a lounge with a fireplace designed to welcome guests on board, like a ski-in ski-out chalet.
Submarines are another exciting addition. Even the best hotels rarely offer the ability to view underwater life with the same clarity and comfort that is now available at sea.
What more can they add?
Family cruise ships have everything kids and adults could want, but I find it hard to find the features that hotel cruise ships lack. One area that I think might do the trick is a deep pool, but then I found several including the Celebrity Edge which offers plunge pools in upscale suites, or even the Viking Sauna with floor-to-ceiling windows on the edge of the ship.
On the contrary, it would be nice to see more of a concentration of luxury in the Caribbean market rather than just waterslides, but Virgin Voyages intends to disrupt the adult Caribbean market.
Despite adding more features, serving almost every destination, the cruise lines don’t seem to be wrong at the moment and I can’t really find an area where they can improve from here. Whether it’s a Princess cruise in Alaska, a Viking cruise on the Mekong through Ha Long Bay and Cambodia, an on-water theme park at Royal Caribbean or Seabourn in Antarctica, customers continue to book crossings at an incredible rate.
What do you think? Are we at the cruising peak? Is there a feature, destination, or product that you think should be on a ship that’s missing?