The Cruise Lines International Association (CLIA) released the first Cruise Industry Consumer Outlook of 2017, highlighting a surge of interest in cruise travel and a willingness by passengers to drive to their embarkation port.
Of those surveyed, 64 percent said their overall awareness of cruise vacations has improved within the last two years. Within the last four months alone, 30 percent of respondents said their awareness of cruising and ship-based excursions “increased greatly” compared to year or two ago. Only six percent of responders expressed an unfavorable attitude toward cruise vacations, down from 11 percent four months ago.
Travelers said they are willing to drive to ports. Six out of 10 people interested in cruising are aware of close-to-home port options, and more than half willing to drive up to 500 miles by car to a port.
The port of Galveston demonstrates the importance of hinterland cruisers. The port has recently doubled the capacity of one of its cruise terminals, and is now the fourth busiest home port in the U.S. This year the port is expecting more than 1.5 million passenger visits.
“We happen to be in the backyard of one of the largest metropolitan regions in the country,” spokesman John Peterlin III says. “We’ve got Houston up the road with three or four million people, and then Dallas and San Antonio and Austin, so there’s no shortage of potential customers.” A third terminal could also be in the cards, he adds.
The Port of Baltimore’s cruise terminal is located in the heart of the city, and passenger numbers are growing there too. Part of the reason is that it is within a four-hour drive of some of the wealthiest counties in the U.S. In 2015, there were 90 cruises from the port, and last year Carnival Cruise Line agreed to a contract extension through December 2018 with three one-year options. Royal Caribbean has also committed to year-round departures from the port.
According to the outlook, travelers have a solid interest in both ocean cruising (50 percent) and river cruising (30 percent). Those travelers aren’t just dreaming of a cruise vacation, they are planning to embark. More than half of people said they will or probably will take an ocean cruise, and soon. Eight out of 10 people said they will board a cruise ship in the next 12 months.
The outlook also found that travelers believe cruising is well worth the money with 67 percent saying they believe that cruising offers a high value experience for the money, whereas 47 percent said the same for land-based vacations.
The U.S. is still the source of most cruise passengers, and the CLIA says that technological advances, new deployments and new destinations around the world show that the industry continues to respond to the desires of today’s travelers. It predicts that more than 25 million passengers will set sail in 2017, a new record, and that 26 new ocean, river and specialty ships will make their debut.