Even in the face of the pandemic that is still brewing around the world, people want to travel and their wanderlust is amplifying. When they decide to venture out again, they look for options that involve fewer people, smaller destinations, and trips that highlight the outdoors. One travel style that ticks all the boxes is expedition cruising.
Since most travel advisors currently have some downtime in their businesses, this is the perfect opportunity to learn more about expedition cruising, one of the most exciting emerging travel niches. While you’re considering which clients would be a good fit for this type of cruise experience in 2021/2022, keep in mind these five things that you may not know.
1. Expedition cruising is not new; it’s a renaissance.
Twenty years ago, back in 2000, if someone had told you that some river cruise companies would have 70-plus ships on the rivers today, wouldn’t you have said they were crazy? But it happened. And now, expedition cruising is on a similar path, with over 30 specialized vessels on the books to be built, all by well-respected cruise companies.
In another parallel to the growth of river cruising, we can look at how traditional cruising surged after the TV show, “The Love Boat,” made it popular in the 1980s. But as the decades wore on, cruisers wanted a new and different cruise experience. Enter river cruising – even though it was not new, and in fact had been around in Europe for a long time. None the less, river cruising was positioned as a novel cruise style, and travelers everywhere embraced it.
Similarly, some cruise companies have offered expedition cruising since the 1960s. But now that a significant segment of travelers wants more than traditional and classic deep-water cruising, and even river cruising, expedition cruising is enjoying a renaissance.
2. Fifty percent of expedition guests have never cruised before.
In a study of guests conducted by an expedition cruise leader, 50 percent said they were brand new to cruising. They had never been on any kind of cruise before.
So why did they choose the more elusive category of an expedition cruise? Many people hold the image of cruising promoted by the megaships, with 4,000-6,000 passengers, monster slides and rock-climbing walls, and non-stop action – and that’s the last thing they want on their vacation. But when they hear about expedition cruising, where the ships are necessarily smaller in order to get into remote areas, with a typical range of 100-200 guests, and an active but calm and focused onboard environment, well now their interested has been piqued. So travel advisors, look beyond your book of traditional cruisers.
3. Many expedition guests are slightly younger, including Millennials.
On the luxury end of expedition cruising, you may think the only target market is the Boomers. No longer so, as our population ages. The older Millennials are now in their 40s and they have money to spend. The industry says the sweet spot for this type of cruise is 45-65 years of age. And one leading expedition operator noted they have hosted guests from ages 5-85. So don’t rule out the younger crowd.
4. Children thrive in the expedition environment.
If you took a young child on a classic European cruise – with the multitude of visits to museums, cathedrals, and other art and culture establishments – you might have a young one in tantrum on your hands. But expedition cruising is all about nature and wildlife, getting outside and interacting with the natural world. As such, it’s a perfect fit for children. They relate to the guides as their teachers, and they typically want to be the first one on the trail with the guide.
Three types of family configurations work especially well for this type of cruising: traditional families with children; multigenerational families (grandparents, parents, and children); and the newer “gramping” (grandparents and grandchildren).
Consider that an expedition cruise is a wonderful gift for grandparents to give and share with their grandchildren, rather than, for instance, the latest Fitbit or other tech gadget. Instead, they can introduce the grandchildren to a different part of the world and teach them about conservation – an experience that can shape their lives for the better.
5. Little luxuries abound on expedition ships.
In the early years, expedition cruises took place on converted, retired research vessels; bathrooms were shared; the dining was cafeteria-style; and there was a general lack of comfort. That all changed about 13 years ago, when someone with true vision approached one of the major luxury cruise lines with the idea of taking guests to the Galapagos, Papua New Guinea, and other remote parts of the world, in luxury and with butler service. And so, luxury expedition cruising was born, or at least introduced to a larger audience.
These days, guests on an adventure to a warmer climate may get a little hot and sweaty as they explore from their Zodiacs, but when they return to the ship, someone hands them a cool towel to wipe their brow, and their personal butler has their favorite drink waiting for them in their cabin.
One group in the Arctic had been on their Zodiac for a couple of hours watching the polar bears with fascination. Suddenly, they saw another Zodiac approaching, but the passengers on it doned parkas of a different color than theirs; and as they came closer, they recognized the faces. Low and behold, the guests’ butlers met them on the water, and opened up thermal cases (like the ones used for pizza delivery), to serve fresh warm brownies, chocolate-covered strawberries, and champagne – all to celebrate their first time viewing polar bears in the Arctic.
I’d say that’s a good example for travel advisors to share with their clients, when you ask them, “Are you aware that you can visit the Northeast Passage or the Northwest Passage, Papua New Guinea, or Southern Africa in the same style of luxury travel that you’re accustomed to?” And then begin to tally up how many first-time expedition cruise clients you create in 2021/2022.
FROM THE SPONSOR: Every Silversea voyage brings unique discoveries and destination immersion along with our usual standard of luxury. Our upcoming expedition seasons include some of the most incredible sailings yet, featuring Solar Eclipse Voyages in Antarctica; exploring the King George Falls on a Kimberley, Australia voyage; or our 59-day “Mediterranean Grand Voyage” visiting 17 countries; or even a one-of-a-kind Silversea “World Cruise,” visiting all seven continents over 150 days. This is just a glimpse of Silversea’s upcoming voyages, making it evident that any type of sailing your clients desire, they should choose the cruise line that goes above and beyond. For more information, visit www.Silversea.com.