Are you considering a cruise for the first time? Maybe you’ve sailed before and want to experience a new ship or different ports of call? Either way, this is just the place to start. Your old pal Erik the Travel Guy has got you covered. Here we go...after you hit the "Read More" button!
8. The Cruise Industry
The cruise industry is a multi-billion dollar business worldwide. According to Cruise Lines International Association (CLIA), Americans, by volume, are the largest group of cruisers in the world (almost 50% of the world’s cruisers in 2018 were American). The value proposition is simple - go on vacation and see multiple destinations, while only unpacking once. These days, the ships themselves have become their own type of destination to explore.
7. River vs. Ocean
If we eliminate short sightseeing cruises offered by cruise lines such as Hornblower, then there are essentially two types of cruises to take - ocean or river. These are pretty self-explanatory. The majority of the vacation cruises in the world sail the ocean, while a growing number of companies operate smaller river cruises. CLIA reports that of Gen Xers alone, 58 percent prefer ocean cruises to 13 percent who favor river.
6. River Cruises
River cruising is a way to see ports of call that the ocean liners aren’t able to physically access. River cruise ships are designed differently than ocean liners and tend to cater to a more upscale clientele. While not as mainstream in the US, river cruising is extremely popular in Europe and other parts of the world (you can even cruise The Nile River). Some popular river cruise companies include: Viking, Avalon Crystal, Ama, Tauk and Uniworld.
5. Ocean Cruises
The majority of people in North America are familiar with ocean cruises. While sailing the open seas is no new concept, the modern cruise industry really began to boom in the late '60's and into the 1970's. Large cruise companies like Norwegian (1966), Royal Caribbean (1968) and Carnival Cruise Lines (1972) took the travel scene by storm and today remain the three largest cruise lines in the world. MSC and Disney Cruise Lines are also quite popular. Both companies own and operate one fleet of ships. Disney with 4 ships in their fleet and MSC with 18 in theirs.
The larger cruise companies operate multiple lines worldwide. Norwegian operates three lines: Norwegian, Oceana and Regent, as does Royal Caribbean with Royal Caribbean, Celebrity and Azamara.
Carnival Cruise Corporation is by far the largest. They own and operate the following lines: Carnival Cruise Line, Princess Cruises, Holland America Line, Seabourn, Cunard, AIDA Cruises, Costa Cruises, P&O Cruises (UK), P&O Cruises (Australia) and Fathom.
There are other cruise companies in the world, but these are the relevant players to us. New players are also emerging in 2020 such as Virgin Voyages. Ritz Carlton Yachts has also been getting quite a bit of press lately. More than 28.2 million people took a cruise in 2018, up 6.7% from the year before, and an estimated 30+ million in 2019. As more people take to the seas, more cruise ships are being built, which only means more options. That’s good for all of us!
4. Cruise Planning & A Travel Advisor
I’m all for cruise selection, but this also means more choice. Each different cruise line caters to different audiences. It is critical you do your research or allow a trusted, qualified, travel professional make recommendations before you book ANY cruise. There’s a lot more to booking a cruise than simply choosing a port of call and selecting the right drink package. If you don’t have a travel agent, contact mine. Melissa is a cruise expert, a friend and a trusted resource to handle your booking. Here's here email address: Email Melissa
Now, all of this cruise information is quite useful, but when it comes to planning any kind of cruise there is something important to note. Now, as a father of two, I’ve traveled with my family, with friends and by myself. When it comes to cruise travel you must be warned… Do your homework! YOU CAN’T AFFORD TO GET THIS WRONG! Cruises are not a “forgiving” form of travel. You’re locked on this ship and whatever amenities it offers for days at hand. You need to know what ships are best for you and your party, what destinations are best, what travel package is right for your budget and more. Not all ships are made for everyone. Keep that in mind.
HELPFUL CRUISE TRAVEL TIP: If you miss a connecting flight, do you have a backup? You should note other flights out of that airport around the same time just in case. Remember: The ship waits for no one.
3. Top Cruise Destinations
From the US, the most popular destination for ocean cruises is hands down The Caribbean. The second most popular being the Mediterranean, after which comes Alaska, Hawaii and Bermuda. There are plenty of other cruise destinations from Canada to South America, but these tend to be the main destinations cruises have in mind. I should note that the majority of the options mentioned are “closed loop” itineraries. This means you depart and return from the same port.
2. Top Ports In the US
In general, the majority of US-based cruises depart from the state of Florida. Miami, Fort Lauderdale, the Space Coast and Tampa are the primary ports ships depart from. Other popular cruise ports in the US are the New York area, Boston, Baltimore, Los Angeles, San Diego, San Francisco, Galveston, New Orleans and Charleston. Again, there are others, but these are the main players, if you will.
1. Itinerary Selection
Let’s talk about itinerary duration especially for a first-timer. In my opinion, shorter ocean itineraries, such as a two night trip, are not the greatest way to enjoy a true cruise experience. These shorter itineraries, by and large, are more like exaggerated booze cruises. Not that there’s anything wrong with that. However, I suggest a minimum of four nights and at least one port of call (especially if you're a first-timer).
I’ll offer some itineraries and specific cruise trips I personally enjoy in a later post. In the meantime, here are some ships set to debut in 2020:
Scarlet Lady - Virgin Voyages
Maiden Voyage: April 2020
Celebrity Apex - Celebrity
Maiden Voyage: April 2020
Iona - P&O Cruises
Maiden Voyage: Spring 2020
Spirit of Adventure
Maiden Voyage: August 2020
Enchanted Princess - Princess
Maiden Voyage: June 2020
Mardi Gras - Carnival
Maiden Voyage: November 2020
MSC Virtuosa - MSC
Maiden Voyage: November 2020
Odyssey of the Seas - Royal Caribbean
Maiden Voyage: November 2020
For more information about the cruise lines, ownership groups, itineraries, ports and the ships themselves, visit the Travel University section of the ETG website. Have a look around. If you have a comment or question, please feel free to leave them in the section below. Have fun and happy cruising!
About The Author
Erik Hastings, a.k.a. Erik the Travel Guy is an EMMY award-winning television personality who speaks directly to consumers who can't afford to "get their vacations wrong". He is the host and managing editor of the internationally syndicated television series "Beyond Your Backyard" for public broadcasting stations (PBS) and other networks/VOD platforms. Erik leads an incredibly talented team of industry pros and is the editorial driving force of his platform. While the travel industry directly supports millions of families worldwide, Erik believes travel makes the world a better place. Through exploration and discovery, he has learned that travel brings cultures together and he eagerly shares that spirit with his viewers.
Read Erik's Full Bio
TV Series: Beyond Your Backyard
I am on a mission to get you traveling more often. As the host of the Emmy award- winning, nationally syndicated television television for PBS and the Create channel, "Beyond Your Backyard," I travel (on average) 25 weeks per year. I am very grateful for the opportunity to meet cool people, experience new places, eat delicious food and work with the best production crew in the world. Hopefully, through this blog, you will join me on my travels and be reminded just how exciting it is to be alive!