If your ship hasn’t already come in, give it time. Cruise lines such as Celebrity and MSC are responding to the industry’s moment in the sun by expanding their fleets and adding more things to do.
The numbers tell the story. Approximately 26 million passengers are expected to set sail globally in 2018, nearly double the yearly total from a decade ago, according to industry experts. Joe Jiffo, senior vice president of sales for MSC Cruises, expects that figure to grow by 6 percent by 2020.
“The industry is seeing a big increase due to millennials,” Jiffo says. “They are all about the experience and being in the moment. There are also the baby boomers that are getting close to retirement and traveling more.”
Multigenerational travel—where grandparents, their children and their grandchildren travel together—also plays a role. Cruise lines, including MSC, are taking notice and designing ships around travelers of all ages, offering a variety of entertainment, technology and dining options.
Within the next nine years, MSC will debut 10 new ships with expansion in Europe, North America and the Caribbean, Jiffo says. This month, MSC launches the Seaside, which will sail year-round from Miami to the Caribbean. The seven-night cruise will have ports of call that include Nassau, Bahamas; Cozumel, Mexico; and Ocho Rios, Jamaica. By this time next year, expect the route to include Ocean Kay MSC Marine Reserve, a private island south of Bimini where guests will have access to 11,400 feet of pristine coastline, aquatic activities and more.
Back on MSC Seaside, an onboard water park will have four water slides, along with slide-boarding technology that combines a water slide and interactive video game. It also will offer two of the longest zip lines at sea. For the less adventurous, the ship will have full-sized bowling lanes and play areas designed by Lego and Chicco.
Foodies will be able to enjoy the Asian Market Kitchen by celebrity chef Roy Yamaguchi. The restaurant promises three dining areas, including a pan-Asian restaurant; a sushi, sashimi and raw bar; and teppanyaki grills with Japanese, Malaysian, Thai and Korean cuisine.
Seaside is the second MSC ship to offer MSC for Me technology, which will be standard on all future ships. The onboard digital technology provides never-before-seen levels of connectivity from your tablet, via interactive screens and video walls all over the ship, as well as a smart bracelet that, among other things, allows parents to locate their children on a smartphone app. The first MSC ship to offer the technology was the Meraviglia, which launched in June and currently sails in Europe with ports including Barcelona, Spain; Marseille, France; and Naples, Italy. In 2019, it is expected to be based in Miami and begin cruising in the Caribbean.
“This year, until Hurricane Irma, [has been] probably the best year the cruising industry has seen in many years,” Jiffo says. “The ships are becoming the destination.”
Peter Giorgi, chief marketing officer for Celebrity Cruises, also views destination as playing an important role—but in a different way.
“Destination is what drives people to travel most,” he says. “Cruising is probably the best way to see a great number of destinations in a short period of time.”
In December 2018, the Celebrity Edge is scheduled to launch from Fort Lauderdale for a seven-night Eastern Caribbean holiday cruise, including ports in Philipsburg, St. Maarten; Charlotte Amalie, St. Thomas; and Nassau, Bahamas. Three more Celebrity ships are expected to launch by 2022.
“At Celebrity, we think of the ships as being communities of travelers who want to experience the world together,” Giorgi says.
Celebrity visits 300 cities on all seven continents. Some of the most popular destinations are Venice and Rome in Italy, and Barcelona. Cruises also visit emerging destinations such as Ireland and Croatia.
Besides attractive locations, culinary offerings help Celebrity stand out in a competitive industry, Giorgi says. Cornelius Gallagher, who was executive chef for Michelin-starred restaurant Oceana in Manhattan, oversees the food and beverage menu selections for Celebrity. Guests aboard the Celebrity Edge will be able to get into the act with hands-on cooking classes offered by onboard chefs.
“There is a myth about cruising that there are buffets and that the food is not great,” Giorgi says. “We actively work to dispel that myth.”
Guests also can dine on the Magic Carpet, a moveable platform the size of a tennis court, cantilevered from the side of the 16-deck Edge. It will be used for several activities, such as an expanded pool area, an embarkation area and restaurant.
Malala Yousafzai, the 20-year-old Pakistani activist, Nobel laureate and UN Messenger of Peace, was named the godmother of the Edge. Celebrity has partnered with her Malala Fund, whose mission is to secure 12 years of safe, free education for every girl.
“We take people to see different cultures, people, places and cuisines,” Giorgi says. “Travel is important as much as it is relaxing. It is a great escape that has real value.”