Cruise lines from mass-market to luxury increasingly are designing shorter voyages, both to introduce their ships to vacationers who have not been to sea and to provide getaways for busy world travelers who may have only a few leisure days to spare.
Cruise lines have traditionally offered sailings of two to five nights out of Florida and the U.S. East, West and Gulf coasts, and Norwegian Cruise Line has trips to nowhere of one and two nights out of New York. But this year you’ll find well-known brands with short cruises from ports around the world.
Ships are sailing with short itineraries from Shanghai, Singapore, Hong Kong, Sydney, Rio de Janeiro, Cape Town, Durban, Barcelona, Lisbon, Stockholm, Copenhagen, London, Rome, Hamburg, and Monte Carlo.
Major mass-marketed lines, such as Carnival, Royal Caribbean and Norwegian, have sailed on short week or long weekend getaways from the United States for years, sometimes at bargain prices. The underlying theme is party-friendly cruises for folks who may be strapped for time or cash, or both, though casinos aboard are also a big draw.
Leaders in the expansion of cruises internationally are Royal Caribbean, Costa, Princess, Celebrity, and MSC, which are showing off their ships to folks in Europe, Australia, Singapore, China, Japan, Brazil, and South Africa.
While many of the shorter cruises far from the United States are aimed at drawing new customers from foreign lands, cruise lines are finding that North Americans on business or on land trips also are interested in getting away for at least a few days at sea.
Travel Weekly recently reported from a cruise conference in Hong Kong that Princess Cruises had expected its ships, in Japan later this year, would draw primarily Japanese passengers. But enough Americans and Europeans have booked the cruises that Princess has added English-speaking tour guides for its shore excursions, said Bruce Krumrine, a Princess vice president.
Costa Cruises is doing shorter voyages in Asia to allow “cruise rookies to get a flavor and taste for cruising” from such markets as South Korea and Taiwan, said Jim Berra, chief marketing officer for Carnival Cruise Lines (Costa’s parent company) and marketing committee chair for Cruise Lines International (CLIA).
New to the mix of short voyages are luxury lines, such as Silversea and Crystal, more often associated with long cruises and stretches of open water to far-flung lands.
Crystal this year has new itineraries of five-to-eight nights in the Mediterranean, Baltic, and Western Europe. Five-night cruises this spring and summer will originate from Barcelona, Lisbon, Stockholm, St. Petersburg, Copenhagen, Mallorca, and London.
The concept, said Jack Anderson, senior vice president of marketing and sales for Crystal, was to add opportunities for time-strapped travelers.
Silversea, which has been a leader in designing personalized itineraries for its passengers — allowing them to board and disembark when they choose — recently announced eight special cruises for 2013 that are four- to-seven nights in Northern Europe and the Mediterranean.
These short cruises — from Hamburg, Rome, Barcelona, Lisbon, and Monte Carlo — are designed for working professionals and travelers who might like to combine a short cruise with a land program, said Brad Ball, director of corporate communications for Silversea Cruises.
“In addition, we will personalize any voyage. With a minimum stay of five nights, we will charge a daily rate, and clients can get off and on the ship whenever they chose,” said Ball.
Though a recent national news report indicated that one reason for shorter cruise offerings on luxury ships may be that baby boomers have lost some of their wealth during harder times, Ball said that price was not the issue at Silversea, which he called the world’s most expensive cruise line. Silversea, he said, places more emphasis on vacation experiences.
“Our biggest challenge,” said Ball, “is to get people out of the Ritz Carlton and Four Seasons to try a Silversea cruise. It’s not about the price. It’s about our flexibility to give the clients the choices to do whatever they want.”
David Molyneaux writes monthly about cruising. He is editor of TheTravelMavens.com