I went on my first cruise over 25 years ago back in March 1993. It has a lot to answer for, as it’s responsible for my love of cruising and travel. I still remember it as if it were yesterday and the one thing that strikes me is just how it has all changed, or has it?
Just like now, cruising in the 1990s was an exciting time. The first of the ‘mega’ cruise ships had been delivered, such as Sovereign of the Seas and Carnival Fantasy, and the industry was facing rapid growth. Here’s a video from the 1990s showcasing the then new Splendour of the Seas.
I sailed on board the then new Majesty of the Seas in 1993 and marvelled at all the things to do, see, eat and drink. There was this stunning atrium in the middle of the ship, an amazing kids club with a teen night club, large pools and out of this world entertainment.
Sound familiar? If I were to describe many of the ships today it wouldn’t be too dissimilar to this, so while things have moved on, the principles of why people cruise are the same – to read more go here.
So what has changed? Let’s take a look at this advert from 2015 (which I conveniently feature in!)
Size does matter
So, ships continue to grow, and the current largest cruise ship is roughly three times the size of the first cruise ship I went on. This has allowed diversification of what’s on offer, with more entertainment, food, drink and cabin options.
But more than this. The industry has diversified – there is truly now a line and type of cruise to suit everyone, their lifestyle and their budget. Whether it be ocean voyages or river cruising. Or Large mega-ships to small expedition ships that can go into small ports of call. Or how about a cruise up the Amazon River? Cruising has something for everyone.
The entertainment offering on board ships has totally evolved since the 1990s. These days expect high-quality shows, including West End productions, Cirque Du Soleil, ice-skating hows, diving shows and many, many more.
In terms of things to do, ships and lines continuously up the bar with numerous features such as water parks and slides, sky diving, rock climbing, laser tag and even go karting (no really!). I’m really not kidding when I say there’s something to suit everyone, even if that is sitting and relaxing with a good book on a real grass lawn.
One thing I’m asked regularly is, will I have to dress up? Some lines do enforce a stricter dress code in the evening, but most opt for a smart casual look (if that). I for one enjoy the opportunity to dress up a little and get my glad rags on. For tips on what you may want to pack for a cruise have a look here.
Food & Drink
Cruising has always been known for the quality of its food and drink offering, and nothing has changed in that respect. What has changed is that the quality continues to grow, with celebrity and Michelin star chefs getting involved in producing some of the best food on the planet. The variety of food has also increased, with almost every cuisine represented in some form across the industry. This has given rise to the speciality restaurant, where for a fixed (or a la carte) fee; you get to have a unique foodie experience.
Similarly, the number and types of bars have grown exponentially. There is a bar to suit everyone, take a look at this article to find out about my favourite ones.
The concept of a cabin hasn’t changed all too much in 25 years. But the one noticeable thing that has changed is the size. The cabin I stayed in in 1993 was 120ft, while now typically it would be around 170ft. Gone are the 20 inch CRTs in favour or large flat-panel TVs and the number of balcony cabins has increased massively. Back in the 1990s the only cabins with balconies were suites (if that), whereas today a majority of cabins on newer ships have a balcony.
The other thing that has changed is the diversity of cabins. For instance, balconies are no longer just balconies. Where do you want them to face? A park, an authentic boardwalk, or various other parts of the ship outwards to the sea?
And then there are suites. More and more lines are developing the ship within a ship concept. That is a private enclave for suite guests to hang-out that’s not accessible by standard passengers. And speaking of suites, these continue to get more and more decadent with every Ship that’s brought out. Pictured below is the Iconic Suite on board Celebrity Edge, with 1,892ft of indoor space and 689ft of private open space – wow!
One area of massive change is technology. I remember going on cruises when everything was done at the pier or on board. These days everything is done online through web portals, and in fact is encouraged as much as possible with an aim to reclaim the first day of holiday. Using these portals it is possible to now check yourself in, book dining, excursions and start to get a feel of what life is like on board.
For me growing up, holidays were a sanctuary for getting away from life, switching off and not having to engage. Things have changed hugely with the invention of social media. Now, even when you are away, there is that interaction with anyone anywhere in the world (of course this is by choice). With Wi-Fi is now readily available on board most lines (though most of the time for a fee) it is even easier to interact.
Cruise lines continue to innovate the cruise experience, with things such as the Ocean Medallion on Princess, a personal concierge based around a coin shaped medallion you keep on you, or the invention of Zoe, a home-assistant style product to debut on board MSC in 2019. To take a look at how technology is improving the cruise experience have a look at this article.
The number of destinations on offer has hugely increased over the years, enabling lines to create a whole host of exciting and new itineraries. How long do you fancy going for? 3-, 7- or 16-nights? Or how about a world cruise for 245-days?
The whole world is your oyster whether you want to see the exotic isles of the Caribbean; enjoy wine tasting across Australia and New Zealand; seek the majesty of Alaska; or explore some of the most remote parts of the world.
Perhaps where things have changed the most are behind the scenes. Cruise lines are working to reduce their footprint on the environment. To coin a phrase, they are looking to ‘eliminate the smock-stack entirely’, that is to reduce and remove the use of fossil fuels to make it a truly sustainable industry. On top of this, the physical design of ships is changing, together with the use of technology, all to make them more efficient both inside and out. To read more on this have a look here.
So have things changed?
So the question is, have things really changed in 25 years? No is the simple answer. Cruises have always offered great value for money, choice and the opportunity to see so much of the world. It’s not surprising then that it’s the fastest growing travel market that is appealing to more and more people – and it’s easy to see why. The world is open so why not go ahead and book your first one and start your journey. I can’t wait to go on my next one.
Here’s to the next 25 plus years cruising!