(posted on Travel Agent Site)
Faster, more innovative technology, meaningful connections and a boom in luxury expedition cruising are on the horizon for 2018 in Cruise Planners’ annual list of predictions for cruise travel.
“Change is an exciting part of the travel industry,” said Vicky Garcia, COO and co-owner of Cruise Planners, in a written release. “Things that were once considered innovations are now expectations. The level of technology, luxury accommodations or custom travel experiences that travelers expect are high. Travel agents continue to be the essential part of delivering these experiences to travelers.”
Knowing consumer demands are evolving, here are Cruise Planners’ 2018 travel trend predictions directly from the home-based travel agency:
1. Luxury Expeditions – Getting down and dirty doesn’t always appeal to explorers, but stately accommodations and champagne toasts in exotic locations just might. Expedition cruising is taking travelers to the far corners of the earth on small-ship cruises with modern amenities, delicious cuisine and authentic experiences in a style explorers from days of old could not even fathom.
The Scenic Eclipse, Scenic Cruises’ new 6-star luxury discovery yacht launches in 2018 and is equipped with a helicopter and submarine. Hurtigruten is expanding its fleet, starting with the MS Roald Amundsen, and making sailing Antarctica and the Arctic more immersive and environmentally sustainable.
Private yacht charters are gaining popularity with intimate experiences and stellar service as guests travel to hard-to-reach destinations. For guests not looking to charter a ship, small ships such as the Crystal Esprit offer the exclusivity of yachting with only 62 passengers.
2. BIG Little Extras – Travel agents are curating meaningful moments for their clients that surprise and delight. From booking a photographer to capture a proposal in front of the Eiffel Tower to arranging a scenic helicopter transfer to a five-star hotel, travel agents are making dreams come true that travelers didn’t even know they had.
Travel agents are upping the wow factor of the world’s most iconic museums and monuments by scheduling early admittances or private evenings for guests. Cruise lines and tour operators are partnering with cultural hot spots to provide the exclusive tours and experiences that money simply can’t buy, either before the crowds arrive or after the sun goes down.
3. Skip-Gens – “Skip-Gen” travel are vacations where grandparents take the grandkids on a special adventure, leaving the parents behind to enjoy their own time off. Vacations are the perfect time to make lasting memories while taking the time to learn from each other.
Grandparents might figure out how to take the perfect selfie while grandkids hear about life *gasp!* before cell phones.
4. Experiences of a Lifetime – Whether it only happens once or only happens once a year, travel agents are sending their clients to events offering a once-in-a-lifetime experience that also give their clients serious bragging rights when they return back home. Travelers are already planning trips for 2020’s Tokyo Olympic Games and the Oberammergau Passion Play in Germany. Annual celebrations such as Germany’s beer festival, Oktoberfest, or India’s color festival, Holi, take cultural immersion to a new level for travelers looking to not only see a destination, but experience it at its height of celebration.
5. Room for One, Please – Traveling solo doesn’t have to mean traveling alone as cruise lines and tour operators make it easier and more comforting for those looking to explore the world with like-minded travelers. For retirees, Millennials and everyone in between, solo travel could be as complex as wanting to find oneself or as simple as being the only family member on the trip not sharing a room with a significant other.
Cruise lines such as Norwegian Cruise Line, Royal Caribbean International and Holland America Line feature single cabins on select ships while other cruise lines, including AmaWaterways, offer waived single-supplement fees on select sailings so solo travelers only pay one cruise fare. Tour operators, including Contiki, offer roommate-matching programs where solo travelers are assigned a roommate of the same sex.
6. Intuitive Tech – Technology is elevating the entire travel process, starting with trip planning. Virtual reality is giving travelers a 360-degree peek at what their destination may be like while Cruise Planners’ exclusive Alexa Skills are keeping travelers connected to their travel agents hands-free. Smart technology on board continues to innovate, most notably with Princess Cruises’ Ocean Medallions which will be available on their entire fleet by the end of 2019.
7. River Cruising for All – Just as ocean cruising has seen major shifts over the past two decades, river cruising is coming out of its shell, diversifying its offerings and targeting more than just Baby Boomers.
U by Uniworld is designed exclusively for travelers aged 21-45, offering the allure of backpacking through Europe, but without the backpacking, hostel stays or uncertainty. Families are finding river cruising to be an appealing multi-generational trip with children’s programming including AmaWaterways’s Adventures by Disney sailings and Tauck Bridges itineraries.
The variety of on-shore experiences are expanding with more active excursions, such as the Avalon Active Discovery itineraries and more culturally immersive opportunities such as cooking in a local’s home.