2014 is already shaping-up to be a better year for both cruise passengers and cruise lines than 2013. With Carnival Triumph in the rear-view mirror, almost out-of-sight, Carnival Cruise Lines, announced January, 2014, was their busiest booking month in company history. With their recent safety upgrades in place, newly announced Carnival Live concerts ready to rock, overall consumer confidence has been bolstered. Consumers have spoken with their high booking volumes.
According to BrandIndex, it took Carnival 334 days to restore its consumer perception levels which was half the time needed by BP (British Petroleum) and Toyota to recover from their troubles.
The world has never had as many cruise ships sailing to as many destinations as it will in 2014. That's terrific news for consumers because that means more options and better deals. Several more new cruise ships will debut this year than 2013, which yielded the smallest crop in decades.
There will be a nice showing of five new cruise ships making debuts. The first two are replicas of previously introduced cruise ships, Norwegian Cruise Line's recently introduced, Norwegian Getaway, and Princess Cruises' Regal Princess. The third ship to debut in 2014 will be the first brand new cruise ship ever built for TUI Cruises, Mein Schiff 3. Costa Cruises' Costa Diadema is a ship design previously introduced by sister company, Carnival Cruise Lines in 2008.
The most anticipated cruise ship to debut in 2014, is undoubtedly, Royal Caribbean's Quantum of the Seas. It will be the first of three, possibly four ships in Royal Caribbean's 10th generation of cruise ships. At 168,000 tons, carrying 4180 passengers, Quantum of the Seas will be the world's third largest, and longest cruise ship ever built. When the North Star is fully extended, passengers will soar 305 feet above the ocean. When passing New York's Statue of Liberty, passengers will, for the first time ever, come eye-to-eye with Lady Liberty.
Besides Royal Caribbean's previously introduced surfing and boogie boarding pools, Quantum will be the first ship to have a sky-diving simulator, indoor basketball court, rollerskating and even bumpercars. It will also be the first ship with a circus school including a flying trapeze.
Like homes with great rooms, Quantum will have its own version at 3-stories with 270° views, offering floor-to-ceiling glass wall. Images, views and entertainment will change through-out the day, making this the most continuously used room aboard any cruise ship.
Taking cabins to another level, Quantum of the Seas will no longer have traditional inside cabins as they will be transformed into virtual view balconies, complete with floor-to-ceiling LED monitors with same views of actual oceanview balconies. Bottom line, this ship will be a true game-changer with technological innovations never imagined aboard a cruise ship.
Looking for deals?
Now, more than ever, your email inbox and snail mail box are inundated with Wave Season specials.
Most major cruise lines have joined the fun, not to be left out by offering their version of perceived discounts. Many of these cruise sales are offering the same mundane enticements that they offer all year. Like greeting card makers that invent holidays to encourage card purchases, cruise lines don't like missing out on a chance to hold a sale even if there's really no true value to their offers.
However, while sifting through the sand, you may find some gold flakes. Some cruise lines actually offer good deals. Celebrity Cruises, for example, is offering FREE drink packages (value up to $132 per cabin per day), FREE gratuities (value up to $30 per cabin per day) or shipboard credit up to $300 per cabin. Other cruise lines like Oceania and Regent Seven Seas are enticing cruisers with FREE internet packages.
I strongly recommended consumers make their cruise buying decisions based on merit not hype. The holiday season's deals tend to offer lots of stuffing and no meat. Many deals offer meager shipboard credits and reduced deposits to disguise higher cruise prices. There are so many cruise ships from many different cruise lines sailing to countless destinations around the world. Recent promotions from Royal Caribbean and Norwegian Cruise Line include "Kids Cruise Free" offers on select sailings. Free dining in specialty restaurants is now available on Norwegian Cruise Line's new Norwegian Breakaway and brand new Norwegian Getaway on cabins with a balcony and higher. Do your homework so you can score the best ship, cabin and price. After all, it's part of the fun.
Hot destinations: 2014
The world's most popular cruise destination is unquestionably the Caribbean followed by Europe, Australia/ Asia, Alaska and South America. More ships, itineraries are on tap for 2014. Because of so many ships vying for your vacation dollars, cruise lines will be strongly competing to get your bookings.
It's going to be another banner year for Hawaiian Islands sailings, spearheaded by the only US flagged large cruise ship, Norwegian Cruise Line's Pride of America. Because Pride of America is US flagged, it doesn't need to visit a foreign port. In 7-nights, it spends 85 hours in port, including overnights in Maui and Kauai. The foreign flagged ships coming from Los Angeles and San Francisco, spend around 50 hours in port during 15-night sailings. Demand for these sailings continues to grow and more passengers and ships will visit the "Islands of Aloha."
Revitalizations, new destinations, more port time and technology are trending in 2014. Cruise lines continue to make their older ships relevant for the next decade. New ports are being sought after, developed and opened this coming year. More ships will sail and passengers sourced from AustraliAsia region.
Technology is probably the biggest trend topic for 2014 as onboard internet, hosting multiple devices will be stretched further than ever before. Onboard intranets are being transformed to keep passengers better connected and informed while onboard. The skies and seas are no longer the limit. Watch for more outrageous innovations never before imagined aboard a cruise ship over the next few years.
As I frequently say on TV interviews, from somewhere out on the seven seas, I'm Stewart Chiron, The Cruise Guy®, and I approve your vacation!