Meeting & Event Planners will want to keep up with cruise trends that are aligned with their own evolving needs, so Landry & Kling has put together the 2016 Top 10 Cruise Trends for planners. Our South Florida location gives us the opportunity to visit ships and meet face-to-face with cruise line executives to keep up with the latest industry news, and we’re happy to pass along this “insider info” to you! 

10 Top Cruise Trends Meeting Pros Want to Know

River cruises are hot!

River cruising is the fasting-growing type of cruise. Along with the proliferation of new and upscale ships (including new Crystal River Cruises), river lines are offering more inclusions, including WiFi, regional wine pairing meals, butler service, and guided excursions. River ships are visiting more exotic regions of the world with in-depth cultural experiences included. Innovative stateroom and suite designs are designed to bring guests closer to the passing scenery.

This is great news for planners who want a more relaxed and immersive destination experience, and the newest ships carry 190 passengers – perfect for private charter.

Exotic Destinations & Off the Beaten Path Ports

Cruise lines continue to expand into China and Asia Pacific with new and refurbished ships geared to the Asian market; while river cruise companies venture into Vietnam, Cambodia, and Myanmar. Expedition cruising to adventure destinations like Galapagos and Antarctica is also growing, with more ship choices from premium and luxury lines like Celebrity, Silversea, and Crystal Cruises. European itineraries will include visits to wine-rich areas in France.

Closer to home, small ships are offering adventure-seekers voyages into more remote areas of Alaska, Baja Mexico and Central America. In the quest for new experiences, cruises lines are adding less-visited Caribbean islands and developing new “private islands” to add to their itineraries. And of course, cruise lines are gearing up to visit Cuba, with Carnival’s new social impact-focused fathom brand set to begin cultural exchange voyages to the island in 2016.

Focus on Food

Cruise lines continue to upgrade menus and add more specialty dining onboard ships. New Norwegian Getaway raises the bar on freestyle choice with 29 dining options, including many along the oceanfront promenade. You’ll find interactive culinary experiences (including Chef’s Table), fine dining venues, more celebrity chef and restaurant partnerships, and expanded dietary options.

Many premium and luxury ships feature Culinary Arts Centers with top-of-the-line cooking stations and destination-inspired cooking classes.  “Shopping with the Chef” and other culinary shore excursions are gaining in popularity.

Entertainment: Big Name Acts & Jaw-dropping Experiences

When it comes to entertainment, the trend seems to be “Go big, or go home” with world-class partnerships, high-tech productions, and immersive experiences.  Here’s a sampling:

  • Tony Award-winning Broadway shows (Norwegian Cruise Line and Royal Caribbean ships)
  • Transformative spaces and multi-media, multi-sensory shows (Quantum-class Two70, for example)
  • “Vertical” aerial acts in the Centrum areas
  • Interactive dinner shows, with Cirque performers or world-class magicians 
  • IMAX theaters and movies alfresco with giant LED screens
  • Celebrity Cruises rolling out 18 new shows in 18 months, plus 10 entertainment experiences throughout each ship

Multi-Generational Appeal

With more families and multi-generational groups taking to the seas, cruise lines are creating onboard experiences and dedicated venues that appeal to all ages. New partnerships for family programs include Carnival’s Seuss at Sea and expanded Dreamworks Experiences on Royal Caribbean ships. Teens-only programs and spaces are being added to ships while  “adult-only” spaces offer serenity and relaxation. Multi-deck sports areas with elaborate water parks, slides, ropes courses and extreme rock climbing walls continue to thrill guests of all ages.

Technology Advances

Meeting and event planners concerned about staying connected at sea (or on rivers) during their cruise event can rest assured: Cruise lines are rolling out advanced WiFi technology and less costly Internet packages that make it easier than ever to email, tweet and post. Some cruise lines even offer free Wi-Fi. Trends include:

  • New technology to deliver increased bandwidth and faster, more reliable Internet connections
  • More wireless access, lower rates
  • Social Media packages (as low as $5 a day) in addition to Internet packages
  • Free Wi-Fi for select suite guests (Oceania, Celebrity, Royal Caribbean)
  • Free Wi-Fi for all (Silversea, Regent Seven Seas, and many river cruise lines)

More Themed and Special Interest Cruises

Special interest, affinity groups, and theme cruises will continue to be a growing trend as more event planners realize the benefits of using a self-contained cruise ship venue. Fundraising cruises are also gaining in popularity as universities, hospitals, and other organizations earmark a portion of the cruise price for a worthy cause. Rock Legends III Cruise is a successful example of this.

More Exclusive, “Luxury” Experiences

Expect to see more private-access decks and suite complexes on resort-style ships, including the Haven on new Norwegian ships and MSC Yacht Club on MSC ships. You’ll also find reserved onboard cabana areas with VIP service, and private cabanas on cruise line islands, with ceiling fan, air conditioner, table and chairs, and misting shower on the private terrace. 

Royal Caribbean International is putting together an all-inclusive Suite Class package of premium amenities similar to Celebrity’s Suite Class debuting in May 2016.  Guests in select Royal Caribbean suites will have round-the-clock services of a “Royal Genie” personal assistant, complimentary Wi-Fi, concierge service, special in-suite dining and complimentary specialty restaurants.

Shorter Cruises on Upgraded Ships

In response to increased demands, cruise lines are adding more three, four and five-night itineraries – on bigger, newly refurbished ships. Even luxury lines like Crystal and Silversea are offering “getaway” cruises to the Caribbean, Asia, and Europe. Carnival, Celebrity, Royal Caribbean, Disney, and Princess have upgraded ships sailing short cruises from South Florida. See our “Cruise Gems” page for an updated list of unique short cruises.

More Outdoor Areas, Sports & Fitness Options

It’s easy to stay fit at sea! New ships boast multi-level sports decks and plenty of heart-pumping outdoor activities (ideal for team-building events), including zip lines, rock climbing walls, bungee trampolines, expansive ropes/obstacle courses; and impressive water parks with adrenaline-rush activities like racing slides, splash buckets, and twister waterslides.

Cruise lines continue to offer guests more venues where they can dine, relax, and shop while taking in the fresh ocean air. New ships, including MSC Seaside, Carnival Vista, and Norwegian Escape feature expanded waterfront promenades with indoor/outdoor restaurants, bars, and entertainment spaces. Celebrity is adding a new multi-functional Rooftop Terrace venue on Celebrity Infinity and Celebrity Summit.