By: Mary Ann Straisheim
There is SO much to know about cruises and cruise ships. If you have been on a cruise and did not like it, I guarantee you were on the wrong ship. If you have never been on a cruise and would say, ‘I would never go on a cruise’, I also guarantee you have a misconception of what the experience would be, either from a TV ad touting a cruise line that would not fit you, or hearing from a friend who was on the wrong ship. Or, maybe you took a cruise 20 years ago and think it is still the same. Cruising has come a long way, BUT, the differences in each cruise line can still make or break your experience.
Fortunately, the misconception that ‘cruising is for old people’ has been dispelled by all the new ships that are built for young people! In 1995 when I began working as an outside agent for a cruise only agency, only 8% of the US population had been on a cruise. At that time, most of the ships were large, most of the TV ads were showing the ‘Fun Ship’ and the party atmosphere (trying to draw in a younger crowd), and the median age of the passenger was 65 or higher. SO MUCH HAS CHANGED! Today the percent of the total US population who have taken a cruise is now 19.9% and the average age of a cruise passenger is 50. The average annual growth rate of the cruise industry since 1980 is 7.4%.
Here are some additional ‘fun facts’ about the cruise industry according to the American Association of Port Authorities in Florida-Caribbean Cruise Association report on March 3, 2015.
Their definition of a cruise ship or cruise liner is: "a passenger ship used for pleasure voyages, where the voyage itself and the ship’s amenities are a part of the experience, as well as the different destinations along the way. Transportation is not the prime purpose, as cruise ships operate mostly on routes that return passengers to the originating port, so the ports of call are usually in a specified region of a continent. There are even ‘cruises to nowhere’ or ‘nowhere voyages’ where the ship makes 2-3 day round trips without any ports of call. The cruise of the Augusta Victoria in the Mediterranean and the Near East from January 22 to March 22, 1891, with 241 passengers is often stated to have been the first ever cruise".
Number of North American embarkation ports: 30 (Actually this number was much lower before 9/11. After that fateful attach on our country the cruise industry reacted quickly and this number increased dramatically. Many people were unwilling to fly to Florida, New York and California to get on a ship. Many people wanted to travel with their families. So the industry responded by opening new embarkation ports in many of the coastal cities that could be reached by car and train. This opened up the number of people who were able to take a cruise.)
What made that happen?
DIVERSITY. There is now ‘something for everyone’. Ocean cruises with ships of all sizes, river cruises, niche cruises, expedition cruises, yacht cruises, freighter cruises and river barges.
It would be much too much to read about all at one time, so I will keep you in ‘suspense’ until my next blog when we’ll talk about the largest and most popular, and probably the one that everyone has heard the most about; Ocean Cruises.