Cruise in 2009: Trends and new itineraries

Cruise in 2009: Trends and new itineraries

Jane Archer looks at what will define the cruise travel sector in 2009, from discounting to ship launches

Discount is the new buzzword in the cruising industry as cruiselines struggle to fill vessels with the UK in a full-blown recession.

Half-price cruises are now the norm, with additional sweeteners such as onboard credit and cabin upgrades being thrown into the mix to persuade people to book. Most cruiselines have also now removed fuel supplements, which has made prices more attractive.

One agent speaking off the record said clients are booking, but only a few weeks before departure. “The news is so bad they don’t want to commit to anything too soon,” he said.

As high-street retail stores discovered on Boxing Day, when Selfridges took £1 million in an hour, people will buy if the price is right. Reader Offers managing director Peter Beadles said: “Business is up, but people are paying less.”

Voyages of Discovery reports its busiest ever December after halving early booking prices on its summer 2009 no-fly voyages from Harwich, while P&O Cruises reported an influx of bookings in response to its annual Wave promotion.

Wave usually starts after Christmas, but Complete Cruise Solution, the sales arm of P&O Cruises, Princess Cruises, Cunard and Ocean Village, decided to launch early to tempt people to part with their money.

CCS sales director Giles Hawke said: “We are not slashing fares, but they are closer to the late price than the early booking one because we want to secure bookings.”

Norwegian Cruise Line started its turn-of-year year sale in mid-December, offering up to £400 off per cabin and requiring deposits of only £100 per person.
Such low prices are not good for cruiselines’ margins but, on the positive side, they could attract new-to-cruise clients looking for a good-value holiday.

Passenger Shipping Association director Bill Gibbons said: “You buy cruises, including all meals, in pounds, so it’s easy to budget. Cruising has always been good value, but with all the discounts this is a good time to book.”

Beadles said: “We hope the low prices will attract first-timers because we know that after they have cruised once they will come back again.”

Cruise trends for 2009

Look out for more short cruises, allowing regulars to get their cruise fix on the cheap and first-timers to sample a holiday at sea. Holland America Line and Norwegian Cruise Line have debut cruises of four nights or less from the UK this year, while Viking River Cruises has new cruise breaks on the Rhine.

There are 13 new ships launching. Most notable are Yachts of Seabourn’s Seabourn Odyssey, the first ultra-luxury cruise ship to be launched for six years, and Royal Caribbean International’s giant Oasis of the Seas, which holds 5,400 passengers and boasts the first zipwire and carousel at sea. The ship will have inside balcony cabins with views over Central Park – a park with real shrubs that is open to the elements.

Cruising from the UK will grow as more clients look to save money by not flying. There’s more capacity too, with Princess Cruises’ 2,600-passenger Grand Princess taking over from the 1,950-passenger Sea Princess and Fred Olsen Cruise Lines replacing Braemar’s planned flycruise season from Rome with a season of cruises to Northern Europe from Dover.

New itineraries

Viking River Cruises is offering rail-cruises for the first time for clients who want to avoid flying. It also has a new 12-night Danube Adventure from Passau to Bucharest. Prices start from £2,145 per person including flights.

Voyages of Discovery is going in search of warmer waters in the Far East in 2009/10, giving agents something new to sell the cruiseline’s fans who have done Antarctica. Discovery will be cruising from Barcelona to Singapore and back via the Indian Ocean, South Africa and the Suez Canal, offering cruises of 15 to 41 days. Prices start at £2,195 per person including flights.

Silversea is abandoning its planned French Polynesia season and instead bringing its 132-passenger exploration ship Prince Albert II back to northern Europe this summer to cruise around Norway, Spitsbergen and Greenland. Prices start from £1,517 per person cruise-only.

Peter Deilmann River Cruises is operating its first winter cruise season in 2009, with Christmas market cruises and new year voyages. Prices start from £445 per person cruise-only.

Hurtigruten has added a third ship in Spitsbergen for summer 2009 to meet demand for Arctic cruises. The vessel, Expedition, will operate 13 cruises. Prices start from £3,456 per person for eight days cruise-only.

Cunard’s Queen Mary 2 will be celebrating its fifth anniversary with its first round-Britain voyage. The eight-day cruise departs Southampton in October. Prices start from £987 per person.

Jane Archer is Travel Weekly’s newly appointed cruise editor. She will work with news editor Michelle Perrett and community editor Emily Ashwell to increase our cruise coverage across the TWgroup, in print and online. All press releases should be sent to


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