The choice and quality of cruises on offer gets better and better with every passing year. Upgraded facilities, new innovations and fresh locations see customers enjoying their oceanic journeys more than ever before. Here are a few reasons to be excited about cruising in 2016.
The expanded range of activities available on cruises is astonishing. Ships feature impressive water slides (Carnival Cruise Lines), zip-lines, basketball and minigolf (Norwegian Cruise Lines), and even surf simulators, rock-climbing walls and ice rinks (Royal Caribbean’s megaliners). On-board fitness centres have improved immeasurably, too.
Expedition cruising has never offered a greater range of far-flung destinations. The Galapagos, Arctic and Antarctic are the flavour of the moment, but also opening up are remote Pacific and Indonesian islands, Papua New Guinea, the Russian Far East, Greenland and – due to the melting ice pack – Canada’s fabled Northwest Passage.
Eastern locations are now firmly in the sights of mainstream cruise companies such as Princess Cruises, Carnival Cruise Lines and Crystal Cruises. There are more visits to big-name ports such as Singapore, Hong Kong and Shanghai, and increasing stops at small ports (especially in Vietnam and India) and islands.
More ships are coming Down Under. P&O now has three ships based here, while MSC Cruise’s MSC Orchestra made its first visit this year. Maiden visits in 2016 are also expected from Azamara Quest, Sirena (Oceania Cruises), new mega-ship Ovation of the Seas and luxe new Seabourn Encore.
You can choose from more cabin types than ever. Significant innovations include hypoallergenic cabins (Crystal Cruises), single cabins (Cunard, P&O, Norwegian Cruise Lines) and purpose-built family cabins on Holland America Line’s new MS Koningsdam. Some Cunard and Royal Caribbean ships now have two-storey suites.
Though we can’t say goodbye to the buffet just yet, on-board dining has become increasingly sophisticated. Expect signature restaurants, informal bistro-style dining, menus designed by celebrity chefs and more Japanese, Mexican and other global restaurants on cruise ships. Dining times and open seating are creating more flexible choices, too.
Can’t choose between family cruising and an adult getaway? Many cruise lines such as Royal Caribbean, Princess Cruises, Norwegian Cruise Lines and Disney Cruise Line are attracting multi-generational families with on-board amenities and entertainment for kids, child-free spaces, plus plenty for everyone to enjoy together.
If you aren’t keen on the megaship experience, take heart: small-ship cruise lines are expanding as the likes of Windstar Cruises, Hurtigruten and Ponant acquire new ships, while Lindblad Expeditions sails to Europe for the first time. Expect a cosier, more personalised atmosphere and interesting ports of call.
9. Shore excursions
The average cruiser is getting younger and more active. In response, cruise lines are offering more energetic shore excursions. Expedition ships often carry kayaks, paddleboards and scuba-diving equipment. Even on mainstream cruise lines you can enjoy snorkelling, snowshoeing, white-water rafting, abseiling and waterskiing.
10. Short getaways
If longer cruises seem a bit much, cruise lines such as Royal Caribbean, Princess Cruises, P&O Australia and Celebrity Cruises are offering itineraries that last only a few days. They are perfect for a quick getaway, or for those hesitant about cruising and looking for a small “tester” voyage.