Cruise Lines Set Their Sights on Luxury
More baby boomers and Gen X’ers are looking for more-inclusive high-end sails.
Over the past nine months, mid-tier cruise lines have increasingly set sail toward a more affluent demographic. Royal Caribbean acquired a majority share in luxury cruise line Silversea in July, its first foray into the luxury cruise market. MSC Cruises announced in October that it will invest $2 billion euros to construct “ultraluxury” cruise ships to debut in 2023; that same month, AAA Travel reported that “sailings on small, luxury cruise lines have grown over the last year by high double-digit percentages in some cases.”
“The upper premium and luxury markets are attractive to cruise lines as there is an emerging trend of baby boomers and Gen X’ers desiring more-inclusive cruises,” says Thomas Matesic, senior executive director of cruise product and revenue management at International Cruise & Excursions, Inc. Matesic points to new upscale options, which often include gratuities, complimentary premium beverages, and unlimited Wi-Fi. Cruise lines looking to attract travelers in these demographics will most likely continue the trend of ordering new ships instead of trying to make an existing fleet work. “Newer ships have modern conveniences such as USB ports and electrical outlets built in, as opposed to a retrofitted older vessel,” Matesic adds.
But travelers aren’t looking for just conveniences. Today’s luxury ships tend to have experiences built into the booking price, such as shore excursions, wine tastings, and curated dining selections, while many contemporary cruise lines charge an additional fee. There is a level of value-seeking and sophistication shared by baby boomers and Gen X’ers, along with having a higher disposable income than members of younger generations, so they’re more likely to opt for a cruise that includes more offerings instead of paying extra fees onboard.
Matesic also recommends having options dedicated to the desire for casual comfort food as well as fine-dining options to provide variety on longer cruise journeys. “Many RCI® members have shared that they love fine dining, but when sailings are longer than 10 days, they’d like, on occasion, to eat at a restaurant dedicated to more everyday fare.” Think simple lasagna and a good burger as opposed to crab cakes with rémoulade and veal fillet on rhubarb. Cruise lines that can provide variety as well as inclusive offerings will be well set up to draw in luxury passengers.
Photo credit: Simon Harvey Photography/Silversea Cruises