Excitement Over European Cruises Continues to Grow On the High Seas and in River Cruising
By Mel Fabrikant Thursday, December 26, 2013, 04:34 PM EST
North American Travelers Focusing More on Itinerary and Less on Price; Gearing Up for “Quantum” Leap in Cruising at End of 2014
Excitement over river cruising is adding to Europe’s overall allure for those taking cruise vacations in 2014; combined with European deep water cruises, the continent’s cruise destinations rank second only to the Caribbean among Cruise Holidays clientele. Furthermore, Amsterdam, The Netherlands, and Budapest, Hungary, are emerging as river cruising’s top destinations. Additionally, cruisers will eagerly wait 11 more months until the most anticipated ship of 2014 begins welcoming cruise passengers. These are just some of the highlights of Cruise Holidays International’s 2014 Cruise Trends survey.* Cruise Holidays is a network of cruise-specialty travel agencies based in North America, and its cruise experts across the United States and Canada participated in the survey.
Top 10 Cruise Destinations
With its diverse itineraries, the Caribbean continues to hold the top spot in cruise bookings for the year ahead, by a wide margin. Thanks to its nearly year-round sunny weather and convenient access from the southern and eastern United States, the Caribbean drives the majority of all cruise bookings. Here is the full list of the Top 10 cruise destinations being booked by Cruise Holidays professionals across North America:
Destination Percentage of Passengers 2013 Ranking 2012 Ranking
1. Caribbean (includes Bahamas) 54.8% 1 1
2. European Deep Water Cruises
(includes Mediterranean, Baltic, Scandinavia and Greek Isles) 10.4% 2 2
3. Alaska 9.1% 3 3
4. European Rivers 5.7% N/A N/A
5. Bermuda 3.5% 4 4
6. Panama Canal 2.6% 6 (tie) 6
7. Trans-Atlantic 2.5% 6 (tie) 8
8. Hawaiian Islands 2.1% 5 5
9. South Pacific (includes Australia/New Zealand) 1.8% 8 10
10. Canada/New England 1.2% 10 N/A
Overall, there is little change in the list of top 10 destinations year over year. However, it should be noted that this is the first time “European Rivers” have been broken out as their own category in Cruise Holidays’ report. Had it been a separate category, European Rivers would have ranked fifth last year, just behind Bermuda. This year, they edge out Bermuda as the fourth most popular cruise destination. In the Caribbean, Western Caribbean sailings are most popular, followed by Eastern Caribbean and Southern Caribbean, respectively.
“The enthusiasm over river cruising, particularly in Europe, continues to add a new dynamic to the vacation market. Even travelers who have never cruised before seem particularly drawn to river cruises as an attractive alternative to a land tour,” said Kevin Weisner, Senior Vice President, Cruise Holidays International. “What’s good for the cruise industry itself is that river cruises are not eroding the business of European deep water cruises, but rather spurring even more travelers to head across the Atlantic.”
Cruise Holidays analyzed data from across its network of agencies to see where most river cruise passengers are heading in 2014. The windmills and tulips of The Netherlands, as well as cruises along the Danube and “Grand Tour” cruises of the Rhine, Main and Danube lead the way in popularity. Below is a list of the top five river cruise cities, where voyages either begin or end. The rivers or waterways most commonly associated with these cities are listed below each port, and commonly-booked itinerary lengths are also included to illustrate various options available:
City, Country % of River Cruise Bookings
1. Amsterdam, The Netherlands
“Windmills & Tulips”
Rhine (7-day), Dutch waterways (if roundtrip),
some Mosel, Rhine/Main/Danube (14-day)
2. Budapest, Hungary
Danube (7-day), Rhine/Main/Danube (14-day)
3. Paris, France
Seine (7-day), Rhone (8-10 day), Seine/Rhone (14-day)
4. Basel, Switzerland
“Rhine River Valley”
5. Nuremberg, Germany
Main/Danube 5. 4
Most Anticipated Ship
While river cruising proliferates, interest in large, new ocean-going (i.e. deep water) ships is also soaring. In fact, when Cruise Holidays experts were asked which new ship they are anticipating the most in 2014, the overwhelming response was Royal Caribbean International’s Quantum of the Seas.
This ship will not debut until November 2014, but it opened for booking in May 2013; bookings have been very impressive, according to Cruise Holidays. In fact, the ship accounts for nearly 20% of all Cruise Holidays cruise bookings looking into 2015, the ship’s first full year in service. Quantum of the Seas, the first in Royal Caribbean International’s “Quantum Class,” will carry 4,100 passengers, which is actually fewer guests than Royal Caribbean’s two most recently launched ships, Oasis of the Seas and Allure of the Seas. Quantum of the Seas will homeport in Cape Liberty (Bayonne), New Jersey, and will begin a rotation of cruises to the Bahamas, the Eastern Caribbean and the Southern Caribbean beginning in late 2014, with lengths varying between 7-12 nights.
Best Value in Cruising
Cruise Holidays experts were asked: “In which region do you anticipate the best value in cruising during 2014?” The Caribbean again placed first, with European deep water cruises and European river cruises following. Alaska and the Pacific Northwest sit comfortably in fourth place, followed by trans-Atlantic cruising.
“There are places such as the Mexican Riviera and Asia that do not appear in our list of top 10 destinations but that our cruise agents recommend for excellent value. This may be an opportunity for travelers to lock in a great price for destinations that are a little less in demand,” said Weisner. “For those seeking a Caribbean getaway, the Southern Caribbean is an ideal choice because it departs from San Juan, Puerto Rico, and gets much deeper into the Caribbean than the U.S. mainland departures can.”
On the topic of pricing, each year, Cruise Holidays experts are asked what their clients’ top reasons are for booking a particular cruise. For the fourth consecutive year, itinerary is the most popular response, followed by pricing. But compared to 2013, a full 10% fewer respondents answered that price is a major factor in their cruise decision. This gap has continued to widen each year dating back to 2011.
For more information about Cruise Holidays, or to locate a cruise professional, go to www.cruiseholidays.com, and click on “Locate An Agent” in the upper right-hand corner.
*Results are based on a survey of 133 Cruise Holidays agents from December 5 – December 22, 2013, as well as from actual booking data taken directly from more than 600 Cruise Holidays agents.
Cruise Holidays is a cruise specialty retail franchise, with franchisees in the United States, Canada, the United Kingdom and Australia. Cruise Holidays is also a distinguished provider of land tour vacation packages. Founded in 1984, Cruise Holidays is part of Travel Leaders Group, which is the largest traditional travel agency company in North America with approximately $18 billion in annual sales volume through over 6,000 locations.