Industry Watch: Cruising Looks Ahead to Bright Future

A cruise line ship sails past a beach and palm tree

Report charts increase in safety, sustainability and steady demand

Editor’s Note: This week, The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention removed its “Cruise Ship Travel Health Notice” recommending individuals against traveling onboard cruise ships. 

Incentive planners, as part of a group of frequent cruisers, are on-board with updates made to operations of cruise ships over the last year, according to a report by Cruise Lines International Association (CLIA). The 2022 State of the Cruise Industry Outlook report charted a course to a healthier, more sustainable future after two years of rethinking everything from protocols and fuel to meus and wastewater disposal.

The report noted that although passenger levels were down 81% in 2020, more than 75% of ocean-going capacity had returned to service by January 2022 and nearly all are projected to be in operation by August. Passenger volume may take another year or more to return.

Celebrity Cruises was one of the first to set sail again back in June of 2021 and it plans to launch the luxury, 1,073-foot Celebrity Ascent in the Caribbean in December of 2023. Carnival Cruise Lines announced in February that when the Alaska cruise season opens in May, all of its fleet will be back in service.

“The 2022 State of the Cruise Industry Outlook report provides an opportunity to reflect on how far our industry has come as CLIA ocean-going cruise lines have welcomed more than 6 million guests onboard since resuming operations in July 2020. While our focus on health and safety remains absolute, our industry is also leading the way in environmental sustainability and destination stewardship,” said Kelly Craighead, president and CEO of CLIA.

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Safety at the Center

Cruise lines have doubled down on implementing layered safety protocols, including requiring vaccines for passengers and crews. Many have implemented reduced capacity, increase indoor air ventilation, staggered arrivals and departures, contactless transactions mobile apps to reduce touch points.

Even the old mandatory large-group-gathering safety drill has been updated on many trips to an app guests can access through their phone or television. The same virtual portal allows cruisers to read menus and book reservations for dinner or excursions.

“With science-backed protocols that are leading the way across the entire travel and tourism sector, the responsible return of cruise tourism has been underpinned by collaboration with governments and public health experts, as well as the unshakable love of cruising,” read the report.

Nearly 80% of travelers who have cruised before said they will cruise again—the same percentage as before the pandemic.

The report continued, “Cruise line protocols represent some of the strongest actions taken by any industry to address and mitigate Covid-19 and cruise ships operating today offer one of the most highly vaccinated, tightly controlled environments for travelers to experience the world.”

Cruise line protocols represent some of the strongest actions taken by any industry to address and mitigate Covid-19.”

Another pivot was toward flexibility. Cancelling for any reason, even two days before sailaway will be allowed under Celebrity’s Cruise with Confidence program with 100% credit for a future trip.

Net Neutral Goals

New technologies and ships will help reach the goal of net carbon neutral cruising by 2050. Dubbed the “Fleet of the Future”, by 2027, the global fleet will include 26 liquified natural gas-powered cruise ships and 174 will use shoreside power connectivity to reduce air emissions by cutting primary engines when docked. The majority will be fitted with Advanced Wastewater Treatment Systems.

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In fact, major cruise lines are projected to debut 16 new cruise ships in 2022, including and nine expedition ships. Most will offer energy-efficient design, waste to energy initiatives, advance recycling, reverse osmosis water filtration systems and supply chain sustainability programs.

Collaboration with local communities in the destinations cruise ships visit remains a critical focus for the cruise industry, explained the report.

This article appears in the April 2022 issue.

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