It’s a wide world out there, but wherever you may want to wander in 2019, there’s a cruise ship standing by ready to take you.
In the course of the year, 30 million travelers will take to the seas on almost 300 cruise ships, including a whopping 24 brand new ones setting sail for the first time.
More than a third of the deployments (34.4 percent) will be in the warm waters of the Caribbean, 17.3 percent will sail the Mediterranean, and 11 percent will sail other European destinations, says CLIA’s 2019 Cruise Industry Trends and Outlook Report. China, Australia and New Zealand, and Alaska will have almost 5 percent each.
Travel Market Report asked the cruise lines and the travel advisors who sell them what they are seeing and what they are selling this Wave Season, and here’s what they say are the hottest destinations for 2019.
Advisors weigh in
Travel advisors agree that Europe continues to be the eternally hot destination, and Alaska is also strong in 2019. Diane DeWitt Frisch at Diane Frisch Destinations said Mediterranean cruises are tops for “new to Europe” customers who want to see many countries.
Gary E. Smith, owner of Travel Perks Dream Vacations, agreed that “the Med, especially Greece, is very strong for 2019, in every segment — contemporary, premium (strongest), and luxury — and we’ve also seen Northern Europe, the UK east to the Baltic, strong as well. Pricing and itineraries seem to be the major factors.”
And, of course, the Caribbean is a favorite “for our younger travelers and multigenerational groups. The ships and the pricing can't be beat and the West Coast departure sales have increased as well, with Carnival's new West Coast attention,” Smith said.
“So many new vessels are making exotic and remote destinations accessible without sacrificing creature comforts,” said Stephanie Serino at Tzell Travel Group. “Classic expedition destinations, like the polar regions and Galapagos, are getting awesome new ships, but new destinations are being offered as well; I just booked a Silversea cruise to Papua New Guinea!”
Gail Woloz, owner of Gail’s Travel, said her top three destinations are Europe, Alaska and Antarctica, and named Colombia as her rising star. Dream Vacations franchisee Patty Godfrey Moss noted Japan and Iceland, with Tahiti as a big up-and-comer. Also on the horizon are South America, particularly Argentina and Brazil, said Mary Pat Ortiz of Travelers Dream Tours, plus Japan for the Olympics.
What suppliers say
At Norwegian Cruise Line, the top three itineraries are Alaska, the Caribbean and Europe — where new ships are helping to build excitement. In April, Norwegian Joy will make her U.S. debut in Seattle following a $50 million enhancement, offering seven-day cruises to the 50th state through the summer, complementing those sailed by her sister ship, Norwegian Bliss, and the recently refurbished Jewel.
Traffic to the Caribbean is strong, too, out of a variety of ports, including New York, Boston, Miami, New Orleans, Tampa, Port Canaveral; and San Juan, Puerto Rico. A newly enhanced Norwegian Sky will sail the Bahamas and Cuba; in November, Norwegian Encore, the fourth and final ship of the Breakaway-Plus class, will begin sailing seven-day cruises; and in December, Norwegian Epic will be the youngest and largest contemporary ship to sail the Caribbean from a homeport in San Juan, Puerto Rico.
In Europe, Norwegian will deploy its sixth ship, Norwegian Pearl, in Amsterdam, and bring its Runaway To Paradise cruise with Jon Bon Jovi to Europe for the first time, sailing the Pearl from Barcelona to Palma and Majorca.
Viking Ocean Cruises, meanwhile, noted significant traffic beyond those three destinations as it grows its fleet from river to ocean ships. It already is seeing strong traffic in Scandinavia and Northern Europe, its home base; as well as to the Arctic Circle and Norway, two destinations it launched in January. Viking’s Chairman Torstein Hagen said of his native land, “Norway’s landscapes in the winter are truly magnificent, something few North Americans get to witness.”
The consistently most popular itineraries booked on Viking are the European “Romantic Danube,” “Danube Waltz,” “Rhine Getaway" and “Grand European Tour" on rivers; and “Viking Homelands,” among other Scandinavian itineraries, on ocean cruises.
Alaska continues to be very popular with intergenerational groups, even in the luxury cruise segment, said Regent Seven Seas Cruises’ spokesperson Joe Chabus, in part due to partnerships with Rocky Mountaineer and reduced pricing on Alaska voyages.
But in an Instagram world, clients are thinking of new hot spots for 2019. “Itineraries that include China, Japan and Hong Kong are hot as well, as are itineraries that include ports of call in Turkey,” a new destination for Regent, Chabus said.