The 2011 'wave season' brings new ships, new trends

January 30, 2011 

Fourteen new cruise ships enter the business this year. Cruise lines are thinking twice about port calls in Mazatlan, Mexico. And a new port is due to open in Jamaica soon.

Those are some of the headlines from the cruise industry for 2011 as “wave season” – the most popular time of year to book a cruise – gets under way.

Here are some details on what’s new in bookings, launchings and other cruise trends for the coming year.

Booking trends: Travelocity’s year-over-year data on cruise prices shows that overall, consumers should be prepared to pay a little more to cruise this year than last. In 2009, the average price per person for a seven-night Caribbean cruise on Travelocity was $922. The average price for a similar trip dropped to $844 last year, but is back up to $874 for the coming year.

Luxury cruising, meanwhile, has become a little more affordable, with more deals being offered by high-end lines. For example, for 2011 bookings, Regent Seven Seas Cruises includes free overnight accommodations at deluxe hotels before every European cruise.

Booking windows for cruises are not expected to change this year compared to last, with consumers on average reserving cruises about 5.8 months in advance, up from 4.5 months in 2009, according to a survey of more than 500 travel agents conducted by the Cruise Lines International Association.

New ships: Cruise lines are launching 14 new ships this year, including the just-launched Disney Dream, already attracting praise for technology and design features such as a water coaster and virtual portholes, which stream video of sea and sky to windowless staterooms. Also getting attention is its specialty restaurant, the Remy, which charges $75 for meals. While many ships now feature fees for special meals, typically the cost is $25 or $30. CruiseCritic.com editor in chief Carolyn Spencer Brown said $75 is “the highest” such fee on any ship.

Also just launched is the 1,250-passenger Oceania Marina, which arrives in Miami on Feb. 4. Paul Motter, editor of CruiseMates.com, said Marina sounds “impressive,” with “the largest staterooms at sea on average, 10 dining venues largely coordinated by culinary icon Jacques Pepin, a spa by Canyon Ranch,” and furnishings in owners’ suites by Ralph Lauren Home.

May will see the launch of Carnival Magic, a 3,690-passenger ship sailing the Mediterranean through October and sailing after that out of Galveston, Texas, to the Caribbean. Highlights include an extensive aqua park called WaterWorks and a pub with a private label beer brewed just for Carnival, ThirstyFrog Red.

Celebrity Silhouette, with room for 2,866 passengers and a July inaugural cruise, will offer an outdoor interactive grill restaurant; a space called The Hideaway, described as “a high-tech avant-garde treehouse-like spot” for relaxing with an iPad or a book; and a studio area that offers both art and culinary-themed instruction.

Mazatlan: Disney Cruise Line has become the latest cruise line to shift its Mexican itinerary due to concerns about violence, saying that its seven-night Mexican Riviera trips will no longer stop in Mazatlan. Holland America also canceled a port call in late January in Mazatlan “in response to recent incidents of violence,” the cruise line said in a statement, though it made no commitment either way for the future.

Bob Sharak, executive vice president of marketing for CLIA, said that while some ships have pulled out of Mexico’s west coast altogether, other Mexican destinations – like Cozumel in the Yucatan – remain popular for port calls.

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