Luxury Cruise Market Expands to Meet Demand for Intimate Travel Experiences

The luxury cruise tourism market continues to expand and is expected to double its capacity from 2018 to 2027.  Viking, Regent Seven Seas, SilverSea Cruises, Crystal Cruises, Ritz Carlton and others continue to surge in popularity. The smaller luxury ships usually carry less than 1,000 passengers and provide diverse, unforgettable experiences as well as unrivaled attention to providing exquisite culinary options. For example, Seaborn pampers its guests with complimentary access to cavier and champagne. In 2022, Ritz-Carlton became the first hospitality brand to enter the cruising category with the launch of The Ritz Carlton Super Yacht Collection. Its first ship, the 623-foot Evrima saw sold-out bookings in her inaugural sea voyage. Its second ship, Ilma, measuring 790 feet and accommodating 448 passengers, will make its debut sailing in September 2024.  The newest fleet, the Luminara, will launch in summer 2025 and is even larger spanning 794 feet. 

Photo Courtesy of Ritz Carlton Collection

What these luxury super yacht lines are doing is responding to travelers’ boundless desire for exploration.

Trends we are seeing in what travelers desire:

Bucket-list travel adventures. Travelers are buying experiences and want to spend more time exploring the destination rather than shopping in a sterile-feeling shopping center.  They are seeking the touch, feel and sounds of the authentic destination. 

Intimate experiences with fewer passengers aboard.  As time is the most valuable aspect of a vacation experience, guests are looking for seamless transition from ship to shore and no lines or groups, but intimate, no-strings attached interactions with locals.  They don’t desire a fully curated experience but an authentic one! 

Smaller ships that are able to visit a number of new destinations that larger ships can’t.  Travelers are looking for more off-the-beaten-path destinations on their itineraries.  These new destinations are more eco friendly and environmentally more sensitive to tourism impacts and thus are naturally more intimate and authentic. This is where our Oceanliner™ Ship to Shore complex is going to be valuable in the future growth of the industry.  In spring 2023, we debuted this environmentally-friendly concept at SeaTrade Global Conference. Initial interest came from exotic destinations that are not comfortable with mass tourism. Our approach is to create a seamless transition from ship to shore by utilizing a floating complex where guests are broken into small groups and approach the destination with a more intimate sense of arrival.  Our Oceanliner™ Ship to Shore complex consists of an arrival plaza with local retail and food and beverage offerings, a floating pool club and bar, an excursion marina and gondola connectivity to the destination.  

Educational enrichment experiences. Travelers and particularly cruise guests are looking to learn something as they travel, looking to enrich their own lives by experiencing the lives of others.  A cruise gives a guest limited time to have one on one interactions with local residents and merchants.  These personal interactions are key to creating memorable experiences.  Every aspect of the landside experience should involve an educational component that embodies the culture and heritage of the destination. 

Hugh Darley
Hugh Darley