The cruise industry is continuing to push into new territory in 2014, offering a wider-than-ever range of options and experiences for groups.
Despite some recent high-profile mishaps, cruising remains an extremely popular vacation mode for American travelers, and many affinity organizations use group cruising as a regular part of their travel menus. And while there is a lot of tradition involved in cruising, new developments in the industry are proving to make cruise travel attractive to a more diverse group of customers.
If your group enjoys cruises or if you’re thinking of trying a cruise trip in the coming year, here are some of the most important cruise trends to keep on your radar.
The days of everyone eating together in the formal dining room each night of a cruise are behind us. Specialty restaurant and a la carte menus have begun popping up on large cruise ships over the past 10 years, and flexible dining has all but replaced the cattle-call meal plan. Cruise lines are doubling down on this strategy, now installing restaurants overseen by celebrity chefs to capitalize on the surging popularity of high cuisine in American culture. Some lines are also incorporating hands-on culinary experiences into their programming for guests.
The explosive growth of handheld mobile devices in popular culture has made its way onto cruise ships, where lines have invested millions of dollars to upgrade their technology offerings. Being at sea no longer means being out of touch, as most cruise lines are installing wireless Internet service on their ocean liners. In addition, smartphone applications allow guests to make dining reservations, check event schedules and find their way around the massive ships. Upcoming development in those apps will also allow guests to text each other over the ship’s network.
Cruise lines have begun bringing nationally known entertainment brands on board their vessels to replace the tired musical revue shows of the past. Royal Caribbean has licensed Broadway hits “Mamma Mia,” “Hairspray,” “Chicago” and “Saturday Night Fever” for performance aboard its ships, and Norwegian Cruise Line has “Blue Man Group,” “Rock of Ages,” “Legally Blonde” and an outpost of the Second City improv comedy troupe. New for 2014, Holland America Line is bringing a B.B. King Blues Club to many of its ships.