The beauty of the cruise industry is its continual reinvention and one-upmanship (pun intended) serving to the cruiser’s benefit. If you’re spending your hard-earned bucks on a cruise vacation this year, why not be on the cutting edge of what’s being offered.
Here are 8 ways to be a cutting-edge cruiser in 2012:
1) Head to Australia, Honduras and New Orleans
The Caribbean remains the most popular cruise destination in 2012, but Australia is the one to watch. Gone are the days of beige boredom sailing around Oz, as the wow liners are finally letting their ships stray further from home.
This year also sees the opening of a new man-made port in Honduras. Fronting the Caribbean, the port has been ordered to spec and promises great things. New Orleans is also making a welcome return to the cruise map in 2012, heralding a full range of ships leaving from her port for the first time since Hurricane Katrina.
Australia is the one to watch. Photo by Bruce Tuten.
2) Take Advantage of Luxury Liner Discounts
It is thought that 2012 will see the big spenders returning to the cruise scene, but there are still savings to be had. Discounts should continue, but some of the better deals may be with the luxury liners for extras such as two-for-ones or free airfares.
Beware, cruise line try to make their costs back elsewhere, so look out for more paid activities, hiked cover charges, increased drink prices and attempts to lure you into boutique dining.
Look for free airfares in cruise deals. Photo by ToddonFlickr.
3) Step Aboard the Riviera and Carnival Breeze
Recent years have seen a shift toward refurbishment over new builds. Although a remodel doesn’t pave the way for as much innovation, the scent of fresh furnishings is still hard to beat.
New-build debuts in 2012 will include Oceania’s second O-Class ship, Riviera, which will be a replica of its pride, Marina and Celebrity Reflection, which is one of the most-anticipated new ships for 2012 with its new deck and suite designs. Carnival’s Fun Ship 2.0 is a $500 million program of retrofits to bring old ships into the modern era, and the company will be presenting the Carnival Breeze this year.
Seek out the new ships sailing into port. Photo by Aah-Yeah.
4) Sign up for a Mississippi River Cruise
Paddle-wheelers and river cruises are back in favor with Uniworld’s Super Ship (S.S.) Antoinette and others seizing hold of the underexploited luxury river-cruise market. Viking will launch six new river ships in 2012 with a focus on suites and alfresco dining.
This year will also see two new ships hit the Mississippi through the launch of the refurbished American Queen (Great American Steamboat Company) and the river’s first new build in 15 years, Queen of the Mississippi (American Cruise Lines). If river cruises don’t strike you as exotic enough, think of Vietnam’s Mekong Delta or China’s Yangtze River.
We had plenty of time for photographs before we left on this river cruise. Photo by P Wood.
5) Feast on Fashionable Boutique Dining
The food trend is definitely leaning toward more boutique dining in 2012, as liners try to gain more income and offer even finer facilities. In addition, celebrity chef Guy Fieri of Food Network fame has been working with Carnival’s Fun Ship 2.0 program for the launch of Guy’s Burger Joint.
In addition, Norwegian Lines will roll out its 24/7 pizza delivery service across all ships. Elsewhere, dining is going interactive as Qsine (Celebrity Cruises) installs iPads as interactive menus and wine and cocktail lists. The chef’s table dining experience continues to spread, with Royal Caribbean and Carnival Cruises offering the option, and Oceania Cruises will extend its epicurean-ship concept to the Riviera.
Anticipate a switch to boutique dining. Photo by FotoDawg.
6) Book a Penthouse Private Deck
One of the trendiest ways to cruise in 2012 will be to close the private door on exclusive decks that house a ship within a ship. Imagine a penthouse space that can offer the intimacy of a boutique-style hotel with a yachting feel.
The MSC Yacht Club continues to spread the craze with a new launch, MSC Divina, in 2012 that has a private club and lounge area. Norwegian Cruise Line will continue to run the ever popular The Haven, and Celebrity Cruises follows the trendy crowd by offering new signature suites in 2012 aboard the Celebrity Reflection. The suites will be housed within an area accessed by keycard suitable for only an elite 26 guests.
Leave the rest of the cruise behind in the latest trend. Photo by NCL/Norwegian Cruise Line.
7) Go, Go Gadget Crazy with 3D Screens and iPads
New ships spell new activities, and technology enhancements seem to be firmly on the entertainment agenda. On Royal Caribbean International’s Royal Advantage, 3D movies, gargantuan LED screens on the pool deck and wi-fi throughout the ship will be featured.
The iPad is also being put to plentiful use in 2012, including iPad art tours, interactive menus and, on Royal Caribbean’s Splendor of the Sea, iPads will be available in every cabin for monitoring bills and viewing menus. There is even the chance to simulate weightlessness through iPads and the Reverie Sleep System integration in select Celebrity Reflection suites.
Entertainment gets even more high tech. Photo by JorgeBRAZIL.
8) Volunteer to Make a Difference Onshore
Cruise lines continue to reduce their carbon footprint, while world-conscious consumers continue to put their money where eco-friendly and sustainable tourism is.
Crystal Cruises marked 2011 with its inaugural voluntourism program, which connects caring cruisers with volunteer projects onshore as part of its You Care, We Care program. Due to its success, this offering is being extended in 2012. Complimentary shore excursions include a short stint of teaching children in Cambodia and helping at a food bank in British Columbia. Where Crystal Cruises leads, surely others will follow.
Voluntourism onshore. Photo by tajai.
What cruise trends have you seen so far or would you like to see in 2012? Let me know in the comments below.
If you liked this article, you might also like: 8 Cruise Ship Mistakes That Make You Look Dumb.
Main photo: Cruise trends 2012—sailing into Darling Harbour by dicktay2000.