2024 Cruise Travel Trends: Bookings, Value, & Destinations (2024)

You don't have to convince a cruise enthusiast to book another cruise. In fact, there's a good chance they have multiple countdowns in their calendar! Because of their love of cruising, they've likely tried to persuade hesitant friends and family to take the leap.

A recent study, titled From Shore to Ship: Attracting the Next Wave of Cruisers, examined the first-time cruiser. It was released by the Cruise Lines International Association (CLIA) in partnership with MMGY Global and Travelzoo. Over 2,000 United States residents over the age of 18 were questioned to learn how cruise lines could work towards converting would-be cruisers into booked passengers.

The study revealed insights into the mindsets of prospective cruisers, shedding light on what may convince them to finally take the plunge and book their first cruise. Key findings suggest that first-time cruisers prioritize factors like affordability, safety, environmental impacts, and destination offerings.

With the cruise industry at an all-time high, it's important that cruise lines understand how to increase their appeal to prospective sailors to craft compelling marketing strategies and enhance their onboard offerings.

The perceived value of a cruise has significantly improved among prospective sailors


2024 Cruise Travel Trends: Bookings, Value, & Destinations (1)

Though the fares of mainstream cruise lines included unlimited food, select beverages, entertainment, accommodations, and transportation between ports of call, the overall cost of a cruise can add up quickly, especially when cruisers want a significant number of add-ons.

In the past, 60% of respondents cited the value for money as a reason for not booking. Currently, however, only 36% express concern over the value, indicating that prospective cruisers have a better understanding of what the initial fare includes.

Although the cost of any given cruise can vary based on factors like the ship, stateroom category, sail, date, and itinerary, it's possible for a family of four to cruise for less than $4,000, making it more affordable than vacation destinations such as Maui, Hawaii and Key West, Florida.

Imagine stepping onboard a cruise and never receiving a bill for daily three-course meals and seemingly endless entertainment.

Oftentimes, land-based vacations just include the cost of the resort, with all activities and meals costing extra upon arrival. Though cruisers should also budget for shore excursions and pre-cruise transfers, the base fare covers more than most first-timers may expect.

Read more: What’s included in my cruise fare?

When it comes to researching travel options, friends and family are the most influential information sources


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If your friend jumped off a bridge, would you do it follow suit? Most likely not. However, if you have a trusted friend come back from an amazing cruise they can't stop raving about, you'll likely start your research based on their experiences.

58% of survey respondents said that friends and family are the most influential information sources, followed by destination websites (34%), travel review websites (29%), and online travel agencies (29%).

If, for instance, your sibling takes their family on a 7-night cruise onboard Royal Caribbean's Icon of the Seas and comes back talking about all the incredible onboard activities, world-class dining, and jaw-dropping entertainment, you may want your family to have similar experiences on the world's largest cruise ship. Even if you don't book a vacation on Icon, their advice may steer you to Royal Caribbean's website to browse sailings to their private island, Perfect Day at CocoCay.

Americans who have yet to take a cruise are most likely to sail to the Bahamas, Caribbean, or Bermuda


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Though cruises sail all over the world, prospective American cruisers aren't likely to fly across the globe to embark on a journey around Asia or Australia.

Instead, 63% of respondents said that the most appealing desintations are the Bahamas, Caribbean, and Bermuda, with 48% saying that they'd be interested in a Hawaii cruise. According to the research study, "...the allure of familiar cultural ties and shorter travel distances may be influential."

Sailings to The Bahamas range from short 2-night getaways to 10+-night journeys from the northeast. Those who, for instance, live in Washington D.C. can choose to sail out of Baltimore or Norfolk, neither of which is further than 3.5 hours away. Not having to worry about airfare, along with the promise of visiting beautiful Bahamian or Caribbean beaches, makes voyages like these more appealing to first-time sailors.

Read more: Wondering Where to Cruise? Here's How to Choose a Cruise Destination

There's a growing consumer trend toward sustainable travel choices


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Though around 80% of top cruising prospects are at least somewhat familiar with responsible travel, only about 40% are aware of cruise sustainability, indicating that cruise lines need to do a better job of communicating their commitment to sustainability and efforts to implement environmentally friendly practices.

For instance, Carnival Corporation's President, CEO, and Chief Climate Officer recently spoke about why their itineraries may visit fewer ports of call in the future. During a panel at Seatrade Cruise Global 2024, he said that ships that go slower and sail shorter distances tend to use less fuel and emit fewer greenhouse gases.

Moreover, most new builds are powered by Liquefied Natural Gas (LNG), as they help reduce a ship’s carbon emissions by roughly 30%.

Read more: What is an LNG-powered cruise ship?

According to 52% of respondents, promotions and discounts would make cruises more appealing


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Everyone loves saving money. Cruise lines offer booking perks to incentivize potential sailors to book a cruise instead of a land-based vacation, as well as with their line over another. It's not uncommon to visit websites and see deals advertising up to $600 in onboard credit and 60% off second guests. If you feel like you're getting an amazing deal on your cruise, what's stopping you from booking?

In addition to promotions and discounts, information on health and safety standards and a variety of destination offerings would make cruises more appealing to first-time sailors.

Those who are used to taking land-based vacations may feel as though six or eight hours isn't enough to fully immersive themselves in the culture of the port, either. In fact, this is perhaps one of the biggest drawbacks of taking a cruise. Rome wasn't built in a day, and you surely can't see it in one, either.

Read more: The best cruise booking perks – and are they actually free?


2024 Cruise Travel Trends: Bookings, Value, & Destinations (7)

Speaking of appeal, relaxation and wellness are universally the most appealing aspects across all interest levels, with LBGT-friendly itineraries as the least appealing. Those with greater interest levels tend to favor family-oriented itineraries, as well as those that are activity-based, too. Less interested participants show preferences for cultural and historical exploration and less-traveled routes.

2024 Cruise Travel Trends: Bookings, Value, & Destinations (2024)
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