AAA’s cruise booking data shows growing demand for upscale travel

BOISE – (October 16, 2018) – Cruise ships continue to evolve into waterborne resorts, and more of today’s travelers are seeking an upscale experience complete with unique destinations and more joy in the journey, according to new research by AAA.

The Cruise Lines International Association estimates that the number of cruise passengers will jump from 26.7 million in 2017 to 28 million in 2018. In response, the North America cruise market will increase capacity by nearly seven percent next year.  Alaska and the Caribbean remain popular destinations, but across the pond, European river cruising is also growing substantially.

According to AAA’s cruise booking data, more voyagers favor smaller-ship adventures on luxury cruises and river cruise lines, with high double-digit percentage increases in some cases.

“Cruise travel offers something for everyone. Passengers who are looking for a relaxed ‘party’ atmosphere can choose from several options, while others may prefer a more refined experience,” says Matthew Conde, public affairs director for AAA Idaho.

Mass-market cruise lines are also adapting to the new trend. Many are introducing expansive suites on new oceangoing ships, complete with exclusive access to specialty restaurants, private pools and lounges, and in some cases, the dedicated service of a private butler while on board.

Additional improvements are drawing larger cruise crowds, including the addition of high-speed Wi-Fi, free smartphone apps to plan and organize each day’s activities, and interactive signs and message displays throughout the ship.

Many cruise lines have also started serving niche markets. Some have an adults-only policy, while others offer connecting staterooms that have greater appeal with families.

“Work with an experienced travel consultant to find a cruise option that’s been tailored to fit your needs – travel experts can often find deals and added benefits that you might not discover on your own. They can also help you book shore excursions before the popular activities sell out,” Conde said.  “Consider the full cost of the cruise, as most are not all-inclusive.  Add specialty dining, spa services and beverage expenses to your budget.”

It pays to be proactive – AAA advises cruise goers to book early and be flexible to take full advantage of special promotions and other perks, such as first choice of ship, itinerary, cabin location and sailing date. Travelers should arrive at the embarkation port the day before the cruise (ships have firm departure times and will not wait for a delayed flight), and check in online to save time later.