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China Cruising Wave of Future

Good friends of ours are going to China in a little over a month. This is not something on our bucket list but if that ever happens, we’d probably do what our friends are doing.

They’re going on a cruise.

It could be our friends are ahead of their time. The way things are going in the cruise industry, when you gaze over the horizon it’s possible there will one day be more cruise ships in Asia than in North America.

Impossible?

Think again.

Unless it’s just a trend that will runs it’s course (unlikely), the mini-exodus of cruise ships to the other side of the world is likely to continue. Consider these few facts…

• Presently five Royal Caribbean ships (yes, five!) are scheduled to have home ports in QuantumChina next year — Mariner of the Seas, Voyager of the Seas, Legend of the Seas and two of the newest ships, Quantum of the Seas (leaving in May) and Ovation of the Seas (2016). The new ships will be permanently based in Shanghai and Tianjin, respectively.

• A new cruise terminal is in the planning stage for Krabi, a little-known city and the fourth most visited place in Thailand.

• South Korea this month passed two laws related to cruising, one of them to allow foreign casinos to operate on ships.

• Japan is now allowing Chinese tourists to visit without a visa, providing they are traveling on specific cruise ships (including three from Costa Cruises and Mariner of the Seas) approved by the Japanese minister of justice.

• According to a recent study, there is the potential for 83 million cruise passengers from China alone. To give this some perspective, last year the number of cruise passengers on ships world-wide — according to another study — was just over 20 million.

It seems people in China are discovering what many of us discovered long ago, that cruising is a great way to vacation, and the growth of the Chinese economy is allowing them to experience it. Since there are millions more Chinese than North Americans, get ready for the shift of ships.

And maybe a new bucket list.

Today at portsandbows.com: Disney jolly over England

Carnival Imagination
4 nights
April 26, 2015
Los Angeles (return): Catalina Island, Ensenada 
Inside: $199
Cost per day: $49
www.carnival.com

Good Times For Cruise Business

It seems like every time we turn around, we’re finding yet another person (or couple) who has discovered what great value cruising is, in general. The latest came during a weekend visit to friends who just completed their second cruise, and these “newbies” are grandparents of seven.

After two cruises, they’re committed.

Yesterday, this trend was confirmed. Again. The Cruise Lines International Association, which monitors trends of all kinds on behalf of the cruise lines, announced its “State of the NassauCruise Industry Report.” If you’re one of the people who believed cruising was in serious trouble after the Costa Concordia and the Carnival Triumph, it is in the best interests of your education to read on…

According to CLIA’s research:

• There is likely to be a 60 per cent increase in cruise passengers this year.

• Cruise lines intend to launch 22 new ships in 2015, covering the oceans, rivers or specialty (adventure) destinations to explore.

• The roll call of ports, worldwide, has climbed to 1,000.

• It’s possible these increases will account for a million jobs for the first time.

• More than ever, passengers are demanding and receiving that cruise lines cater to their needs with innovations to accommodations like WiFi ship-wide, phone connectivity and multigenerational cruises.

And here’s a nugget that might surprise you. In this age of doing everything ourselves online, seven of every 10 cruise passengers uses a travel agent.

Cruising has never enjoyed such popularity. Some of us have just been lucky enough to enjoy it earlier.

Today at portsandbows.com: All the latest cruise news

Norwegian Spirit
10 nights
March 16, 2015
Barcelona (return): Casablanca, Funchal, Santa Cruz, Arrecife, Malaga
Inside: $449
Cost per day: $44
www.ncl.com

Surveyed Cruisers Miss Etiquette

We’re not quite sure when dress etiquette started undergoing what has become a dramatic change, but it seemed to us that it started with Casual Fridays. That would place it in the ‘90s, when the dot-com boom began to consume the way business was done, even at the highest levels.

Dot.com meant California (Silicon Valley) and the “C’ in California has always had a double meaning, “Casual” being the other one. It quickly spread and Casual Fridays were the one day of the week that workers — even managers — could dress down, as opposed to dressing up. It penetrated every business including, eventually, the cruise business.

When you go on a cruise ship today, you’ll likely see passengers wearing pretty much whatever they want. This is light years from when “proper” attire was compulsory in the dining rooms of the cruise world, etiquette that has gradually regressed to “no shorts and Cunard diningtank tops” although we’ve been on cruise ships where that’s not enforced.

This is topical this week because of a survey from Great Britain. It was conducted by Cruise.co.uk and among the discoveries was one that 70 per cent of the passengers/respondents want a return to “formal evenings” on cruise ships.

Now, this is the British, who discovered Casual Fridays some time after North Americans did and who generally consider themselves more “proper” than the rest of us when it comes to things like manners and etiquette. Cunard, the cruise company that the British upper-crust most identifies with (even though it’s owned by Carnival), is the last bastion of formal dress…although  (for men) suits and ties have replaced tuxedos in the compulsory department.

There is a generation, maybe two, of people accustomed to dressing casually for work — not just on Fridays. Returning to “formal evenings” on cruise ships to appease the formally-friendly elderly demographic will risk chasing away the young families that cruise lines crave.

In short, get used to golf shirts for men and capri pants for women, and blue jeans (ripped perhaps) for both when you sit down to enjoy your evening meal on a cruise ship.

That genie is out of the bottle.

Today at portsandbows.com: Getting up to date on cruise news

Royal Caribbean Navigator of the Seas
7 nights
January 4, 2015
Galveston (return): FalmouthGeorge TownGrand CaymanCozumel
Inside: $335
Cost per day: $47
www.royalcaribbean.com

Cruise Question: To Surf Or To Drink?

An online travel agency called Cruise Holidays conducted a quickie survey on its Facebook page recently, asking readers to choose between two options for “something free” if going on a cruise:

• Free Internet

• Free drinks

The creators could’ve called it De-vices vs Vices but they didn’t. They also resisted the Burrowing Owl wineiPhoneurge to call it a “straw poll” although that’s what it was. What they did call it was “shocking” because when the results were compiled, nearly one-third of the respondents said “free Internet.”

Think about that. Drinks on cruise ships are expensive — all drinks, including soda pop. One estimate is that a couple could save more than $1,000 on a 10-day cruise with a free drinks package. Plus people go on cruise ships to get away from the office, so to speak, right? Plus holidaying and partying and socializing usually comes with a generous number of drinks (alcoholic or not), and that’s a big part of being on a cruise.

Yet 32 per cent of the people who responded to the question chose free Internet. Maybe it shouldn’t be such a shock. After all, people are infatuated with — dare we say addicted to? — “devices.”

What would you choose?

Today at portsandbows.com: More flights to ports from Canada

Norwegian Star
7 nights
November 30, 2014
Los Angeles (return): Cabo San Lucas, Mazatlan, Puerto Vallarta
Inside: $299
Cost per day: $42
www.ncl.com

Travel Agents Find Carnival Customer Reading Preferences a Little Offline

Just when you think everything is going digital, it's not. Just when you think people who cruise can find everything they need to know online, they can't. Just when you think the travel agents who sell cruises are happy simply to send their customers to "www…" they aren't. Agents have told Carnival they want a BROCHURE.

At the risk of offending people who want to save every tree, printing a brochure isn't exactly a sign of the times. It may be a sign of the cruising times, which means cruisers like to leaf through pages and not screens, or it Carnival-WWell copymay be a sign of the "older demographic" that's always associated with cruises.

But Carnival?

These are the funs ships, the young ships, the hip ships. Travel agents, who are the front line of selling cruises, are responding to what their customers want. Not only that, the research compiled during Carnival's Quarterly Travel Agent Survey revealed what the cruise passengers want in the brochure.

Some of their preferences may surprise you…

• Detailed itineraries by DESTINATION. They care more about where they're going than where they're coming from…debarkation over embarkation.

• Deck plans and stateroom photos. Is there a cruise ship anywhere that doesn't have its deck plan, and photos of its staterooms, on the company website?

• Ship overviews and onboard highlights. Again, all online.

• An at-a-glance ship deployment grid. This probably is quite valid, because it's not always easy to figure out, quickly, which ship is going where and it can sometimes be frustrating to navigate a website trying to find where your favorite ship goes.

Meanwhile, print companies everywhere are likely celebrating what the travel agents are saying. And yes, Carnival will print the desired brochure.

Carnival Splendor
8 nights
December 11, 2013
New York (return): Port CanaveralNassauFreeport
Inside: $339
Cost per day: $42
www.carnival.com

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