7 Amazing Ship Trends Cruise into 2012
by Maureen McKeon
With 15 new ships and tons of exciting industry innovations, 2011 was a banner year for cruising, and 2012 promises to be just as impressive. If you are a meeting or group event planner, youll want to know about these seven trends that will make your meeting at sea even more amazing:
1. Super-Sized Ship Upgrades
Cruise lines are forging ahead with ambitious renovation projects, adding the most popular and innovative new-ship features across the fleet, and enhancing the onboard experience with exciting new venues. The most massive initiatives include:
Royal Caribbean Oasis of the SeasRoyal Caribbean International Royal Advantage. Launched in 2011, this $300 million revitalization project will bring more Oasis-class dining & entertainment options across the entire fleet. The upgrades include more restaurants and dining experience, 3D movies, oversized LED video screens on the pool deck, new cabin design, and advanced onboard technology (including WiFi throughout the ships and digital wayfinding systems).
Carnival Cruise Lines Fun Ship 2.0. Carnivals $500 million project features celebrity partnerships, new casual dining venues, and more entertainment options rolling out on 16 ships. Food Network star Guy Fieri introduced Guys Burger Joint; comedian George Lopez now oversees the cruise lines comedy club lineup; and Carnival has also joined forces with Hasbro, DJ IRIE, and AE Sports to create high-caliber, interactive entertainment.
Celebrity Cruises Solsticize Project Celebrity continues to add the best of Solstice-class features to the fleet in 2012 with a $120 million upgrade to four Millennium-class ships. Guests can expect to find the quirky, interactive specialty restaurant, Qsine; an iLounge computer center; new suites; refreshed accommodations and more.
2. Ships Plug In to Save the Environment
Princess Ship Plugs In to Shoreside PowerCruise ships typically berth for up to 11 hours, and an increasing number of cruise ports are now allowing ships to plug in to shoreside power while at the dock. Several cruise lines have already made the green switch by retrofitting their ships to take advantage of this option. When these vessels connect to the citys electrical grid instead of running onboard engines powered by high-sulfur diesel fuel, the result is zero air emissions and a healthier environment.
Juneau was the first port to offer this first-of-its-kind technology in 2001, followed by Seattle, Vancouver, San Francisco and San Diego. Los Angeles got onboard in 2011. This year, New York Citys Brooklyn Cruise Terminal will invest $15 million to provide shore power, making it the first east coast port to use shoreside power. Expect more East Coast and Gulf ports to adapt the technology, followed by ports in Europe.
3. Private-Access Suites Create a Ship Within a Ship
As ships are expanding in size, the concept of a private ship, yacht, or boutique hotel within a ship is also growing. This is the perfect buy out option for small, upscale groups that require exclusivity and privacy, but still want access to all the amenities of a big ship. Here are some great examples:
MSC Cruises MSC Yacht Club MSC Cruises was the first to introduce the private-access, yacht within a ship concept, and will extend the MSC Yacht Club to a third ship sailing in Europe, MSC Divina, in 2012. A self-contained private club area includes deluxe suites with 24-hour European Butler service; an exclusive lounge, bar, restaurant, and pool deck; complimentary wine, beer, spirits and soft drinks; 24-hour concierge service; and private elevator to Aurea Spa.
The Haven by Norwegian Cruise Line This private keycard-access suite complex is located on the top of select ships, including Norwegian Epic and Norwegian Breakaway (launching in 2013). The Haven features deluxe suites and a private courtyard complex with dining, concierge lounge, and 24-hour butler service; and VIP amenities including priority reservations in the ships specialty restaurants and entertainment venues.
Celebrity Cruises New Signature Suites When Celebrity Reflection sets sail in Fall 2012, five new Signature Suites will offer spacious accommodations for four, a large veranda, and floor-to-ceiling windows designed to maximize the stunning ocean views. In addition, the 2-bedroom, 1,636 sq foot Reflections Suite will be Celebritys largest suite at sea, accommodating six. The elite suite enclave will be located in a private area on the top deck of the ship, accessible only by private keycard for groups of up to 26. Butler service will be available 24/7.
4. River Cruising Comes of Age
Viking Prestige Danube River cruiseRiver cruising is an increasingly popular option for meeting and event planners as a new generation of river vessels continue generate buzz. Of the 15 new ships that set sail in 2011, seven nearly half were river vessels! These small vessels plying the rivers of Europe, Asia and theU.S. are the perfect size for charter. They also offer more relaxed and immersive cultural experiences, dock in the heart of towns, and many itineraries include overnight stays.
In 2012, Viking River Cruises will launch four new river vessels as part of a $250 million expansion program. Closer to home, Mississippi River cruises are making a comeback, with The Great American Steamboat Company re-launching the classic paddlewheeler American Queen in April 2012, and American Cruise Lines new paddlewheeler -Mississippi Queen launching in August.
New riverboats in Europe and Asia feature more deluxe and contemporary amenities, including: butler service in spacious suites, suites with balconies that convert to glass-enclosed conservatories with the touch of a switch, wall-to-wall panoramic windows that open, al fresco dining areas, elevators, expanded fitness centers, glass-enclosed heated pools, ship-wide wireless access, hybrid engines for a quieter, green ride.
5. Entertainment Experiences Wow!
Theres no other word but wow to describe new developments in cruise ship entertainment. With more diverse choices, interactive experiences, celebrity partnerships and world-class acts, theres no question that cruise ships have become destinations in themselves.
Over-the-top Entertainment Included Jaw-dropping entertainment attractions include the latest 3-D movies, lavish Ice Capades style shows with Olympic-class skaters, and breath-taking water acrobats and high-diving aerial performances in AquaTheatres.
With Broadway shows like Hairspray, Chicago, and Saturday Night Fever appearing on ship marquees, along with acts like Blue Man Group and Legends in Concert, planners are discovering that cruise ships rival entertainment capitals like New York andLas Vegas minus the pricey theater tickets.
6. Cruise Ship Dining: More Choices, More Surprises
Cruise lines continue to raise the culinary bar with more dining choices & cuisines (there are a whopping 25 options on Oasis and Allure of the Seas). But its not only fine dining Norwegians popular 24/7 pizza delivery service is expanding fleetwide, and Guy Fieri has just launched Guys Burger Joint on Carnival ships (with no additional fee).
Along with more casual venues and specialty restaurants, cruise lines are offering more unique, interactive culinary experiences like Celebritys playful Qsine, with menus and wine lists on iPads and interactive cocktail menus. Both Royal Caribbean and Carnival Cruise Lines now offer Chefs Table culinary events for groups of up to 12, and Disneys Animator Palate Restaurant on new ships feature Disney animation and guests drawings that magically come to life during a visually stunning dinner experience.
In 2011, Oceania Cruises introduced Marina, the first Epicurean Ship designed for lovers of fine dining (Riviera follows in 2012). Six of the ten dining venues are open-seating gourmet restaurants with no surcharge, and the ships boast a new Bon Appetit Culinary Center- the only hands-on cooking school at sea.
Several cruise lines including Oceania, Silversea Cruises, SeaDream Yacht Club, and Lindblad Expeditions also offer special culinary adventures ashore with local market tours, and shopping excursions with the chef.
7. Cool Technology Features
With WiFi access in public areas or bow to stern the standard on todays ships, staying connected no longer a worry for meeting planners. But cruise lines are also using technology to enhance the shipboard experience. A few high-tech features you will see more of in 2012:
Celebrity iLounge computer centers (first Apple store at sea)
Celebrity iPad art tours, iPad menus in Qsine specialty restaurant
Royal Caribbeans Splendour of the Seas will feature multi-lingual iPads in every cabin can be used throughout the ship to monitor personal accounts, access ships daily newsletter, view restaurant menus, access the internet (will be expanded to 5 other ships)
Digital Wayfinder systems on more Royal Caribbean ships
Disney Cruises magical porthole in inside cabins monitors with real-time video views outside the ship
Disney Enchanted Art that magically comes alive when guests stop to view it
Giant LCD screens on deck.
And perhaps the most luxurious high-touch, high-tech amenity of 2012:
Guests booked in Celebritys Reflection Suite, Signature Suites and Penthouse Suite will experience a breakthrough bedding experience, thanks to Celebrity Cruise Lines partnership with Reverie.
Reveries exclusive technology enables the iPod Touch, iPhone iPad and Reverie Remote app to act as a remote control for the Reverie Sleep System, allowing guests to easily operate massage features and adjust the elevation of the mattress. (Pressing zero gravity will create the ultimate sensation of weightlessness, similar to the sensation felt in a zero-gravity chamber.)
Guests can enjoy this innovative technology through an iPad provided in each of the new suites.