Cruises might completely change in the future – but is it for the better?

Cruise holidays, along with the wider travel industry, have been hard hit by the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic. However, with countries globally beginning to relax lockdown restrictions, and holidays slowly returning, the cruise industry could face some major changes in order to encourage people to sail again.


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Cruises were thrust into the limelight when COVID-19 first came to the public’s attention, when a number of cases broke out onboard notable cruise ships, including the Diamond Princess.

The ship found itself in the media spotlight as it was forced into quarantine off the coast of Japan, and confirmed cases on the ship rose. The ship also saw one death as a result.

Though a no-sail ban slammed the industry, with the Centres for Disease Control and Prevention, companies have begun to suggest ways they can assure passengers and crew are safe, though they could change the holiday experience for good.

Rob Gower, owner and director of luxury travel agent Dragonfly Traveller, spoke exclusively to to reveal his insights for the future of the industry.

Cruises kick-started the year with experts predicting massive continued growth for the industry until the virus hit.

“The cruise industry is huge with a growth of 30 percent from 2018/2019 and was set to continue this growth into 2020,” said Mr Gower.

“Suspending cruise sailings for a period of 90 days alone has a direct economic loss for the UK of £888 million.

“Total economic loss when you include jobs & wages raises this to £2.37 billion.

“This shows the importance of the cruise industry to the economy but also recognises the demand that has been created over the years for this kind of holiday.”

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Although cruise holidays accounted for 25 percent of the total of the Dragonfly Traveller holiday business as of the end of 2019, the impact of the pandemic has already been felt.

“COVID-19 has had a dramatic effect on the industry as a recent survey done by SAGA shows – two-thirds of the over-50s have voiced reluctance to take a cruise due to the pandemic,” continued Mr Gower.

“The research also found that 62 percent of respondents were less likely to travel on a cruise. 44 percent more likely to delay booking future travel due to COVID-19.”

The wide diversity of cruises hitting the market in recent years is to thank for the industries strength, says Mr Gower.

He explains: “Cruise holidays now offer a wider audience a different holiday experience to the normal traditional holiday.

“Facilities and operations on cruise have broadened the appeal but the simple aspect of being able to visit different locations and take in this experience all in one holiday is a big attraction. “

However, will that be enough to help aid its recovery?

Mr Gower thinks there will have to be some big changes – some of which might overhaul the experience entirely.

“The cruise industry is far too popular and in-demand not to come out of this pandemic,” he said.” However, like a lot of travel at the moment, this is all about restoring customer confidence and building trust to convince people that cruise holidays are safe.

“It will come back, it is just a question of how long it will take and which cruise companies can survive the rebuild of the industry.

“Combined with this will be the cost of any new measures that will be introduced to regain confidence to cruise again.”


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Already big-name cruise companies such as P&O have suggested the use of one-way systems for passengers, and mandatory health checks prior to boarding.

Similarly, German cruise company nicko Cruises hosted its first river Cruise last week, with social distancing measures in place.

It included a reduced capacity, multiple mealtimes to ensure dining rooms weren’t full, and the closure of spa amenities.

“As well as new health measures to implement and the need to create some form of social distancing, temperature checking and testing, the other main challenge will be numbers of passengers that any one cruise liner is able to carry,” continued Mr Gower.

“Some current views on this is that cruise ships may have to operate with up to 40 percent less passengers than capacity to meet the new measures which will, of course, have a major impact on profitability for the cruise companies.”

Yet even with these changes in place, the expert remains optimistic about the future of the industry.

“One thing for sure is that cruise holidays will not disappear,” he said.

“The re-starting of the cruise holiday business will be slow and paced with a vast reduction of types of cruise available especially with Ocean Cruises as they gauge the market and demand.

“Small ship cruise and river cruise could recover quicker on the basis that people feel better about a cruise that simply doesn’t contain such vast numbers of passengers as they will believe the risk to be smaller with less passengers.

“You will have the die-hard cruisers who will not be put off.”

He puts this down to the vital importance cruises play in many people’s lives.

“Holidays and Travel play an important part in peoples lives with the need and craving for new experiences and to reward and relieve them from the normal churn of life. The younger generations will be less fearful of travel and taking holidays probably sooner than the older generations,” adds Mr Gower.

“The new rebuild of the cruise industry that had already started before the pandemic will, therefore, be an important strategy to accelerate going forward to get the industry going again.

“The challenge will be which cruise companies are best placed to do this and have the financial capability to get them through the next couple of years before real growth returns.”

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