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Cruise DESTINATIONS O


ne of the biggest growth areas in the leisure travel sector in the past few years has been


the cruise market. Although a much smaller sector than


traditional land-based holidays, both ocean and river cruising are catching the world’s imagination and registering strong growth as a result. Cruise industry body Cruise Lines International Association (CLIA) said in 2009 that there were 17.8 million ocean cruise passengers alone compared with 25.8 million predicted for this year. Growth is not expected to slow down any time soon, as the cruise operators’ order books reveal. This year alone sees the launch of 13 new ocean-going ships, representing an investment of more than $6.8 billion. Meanwhile, 13 river ships are expected to be launched, increasing capacity by 30,006. By 2026, CLIA predicts that 97 new ships will be setting sail either at sea or on rivers, increasing capacity by 230,788. Furthermore, the growth is essentially


global as holidaymakers around the world increasingly opt for a waterborne break. And with various niches emerging, from adventure to high luxury, there is something for all tastes and wallets. David Winterton, UK brand manager and global brand curator for river cruise company Emerald Waterways, argues that if airlines and airports are not already thinking about how they can get a slice of the pie, they should be.


He says: “It is a fantastic option for them, river cruises are growing massively at the moment. We saw an explosion in ocean cruises 10 or 15 years ago and that is where river cruising is now.” Winterton says his own company is


certainly seeing some of the growth, with Emerald taking on three ships this year, bringing the total size of the fleet to seven while rival brands Riviera Travel is launching four and CroisiEurope is adding three to its global fleet.


Upward trend


Meanwhile Clive Jones, Oceania Cruises and Regent Seven Seas Cruises senior director, guest services, paints a similar picture beyond the coastline. He says in 2016 Oceania launched


the 684-guest Sirena while


David Winterton


Regent launched the 750-guest Seven Seas


Explorer with its sister ship due to take to the waves in 2020.


He adds: “Cruise is a global, multi- billion-dollar industry which grows in popularity as a holiday choice each year. Cruise lines are building more ships to satisfy demand, which of course results in the need for more itineraries and therefore more flights.” Like the aviation industry, while much of the growth is on well-established itineraries as capacity increases, customers’ thirst for new adventures is also helping to drive growth. Winterton says that while the 1,161km-long Rhine the Main and Danube, which are connected via canals, are the most popular rivers for cruising, others are beginning to come into play. “The Rhine remains the most popular river


– it is what people expect of Europe,” he says. “But the Douro in Portugal is becoming popular, as is the Rhone in France. In addition, because many of the


turnaround ports, where customers embark and disembark at the start and the end of their trips, on these rivers are not close to traditionally popular airports, there is an opportunity for many secondary airports to grow their numbers. “One of the main differences for the airlines is having the routes to where we want to go with the right availability,” Winterton says. “We’re not going into traditional holiday destination airports like Palma; we’re going into Nuremburg, Vienna or Frankfurt. “Many of them don’t have a great direct


flight from UK regional airports and our guests often have to fly via Amsterdam, so our biggest airline is KLM. Where we can get direct flights on Jet2.com or Flybe, we are doing so and our guests are using them. “However, our Douro itinerary is a


Saturday-to-Saturday cruise and Jet2.com and Flybe don’t do weekends, so our customers have to come back via Amsterdam. Our river cruises tend to go every day and with a lot of regional airlines doing mainly Friday services or the weekends. It means we can struggle.” Jones adds that the restrictions of the


ocean cruise sector means airports based close to the coastline are the ones most likely to benefit from increased cruise passenger numbers. However, he believes inland airports can still find they have a role to play too. He says: “In general, coastal airports


are the vast majority of those used but there are some exceptions. We use Calgary International Airport as a start and end point for some of our Alaskan cruises, where we have a land tour as part of the holiday package. “Bangkok is inaccessible to larger cruise ships and so often not perceived as a cruise destination by airlines. However, south-east Asia is becoming


w routesonline.com ROUTES NEWS 2017 ISSUE 5 93


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