As we continue to push the boundaries of innovation, it’s no wonder that cruise holidays are four times more popular than they were 20 years ago. As we enter Clia’s Plan a Cruise Month (October), it feels apt to reflect on how far we’ve come.
Over the past few years, we have seen features on cruise ships that have transformed our perspective on what is possible. The world’s first aerial attraction at sea was developed, giving passengers a 300-foot vertical ride up to a viewing pod that offers 360-degree panoramic views; while passengers are able to walk on water with the first sea walkway – a glass bridge that extends 28ft from the ship and 128ft above the waves. New ships are continuing to push the boundaries, from the largest racetrack at sea to the world’s first cantilevered, floating platform featuring a full bar and live performances.
This level of innovation isn’t limited to the public spaces. The launch of virtual balconies mean guests can enjoy unprecedented views – internal rooms feature an 80-inch high-definition screen displaying real-time footage of outside views so lifelike that virtual railings are included.
By evolving with the latest advances, cruising continues to be at the cutting-edge when it comes to entertainment. Transformative spaces allow a swimming pool to turn into an Aqua Theater at night, while another space can offer anything from a roller disco to a circus school or an area for bumper cars.
Innovation is also transforming the way guests experience food and drink, with moving dining areas, bars that rise and fall to replicate the tide, and the ability to order through a tablet or wristband, with a robotic bartender to serve your mojito.
But it is perhaps with onboard activities that the rulebook has been well and truly torn up. On-deck sky dive and surf simulators, zip lines and rope courses as well as self-levelling billiard tables all give guests access to a range of experiences that are hard to find in one place anywhere else.
These features demonstrate how the ever-increasing scale of cruise ships provides further opportunity for innovation. The designers and architects who are using the new capacity are at the forefront of every field – from astonishing spaces to wearable technology.
Such innovation has been making waves and cruising has never been so popular, with a record 1.9 million Brits taking an ocean cruise in 2016.
Interestingly, the age demographic has fallen to the lowest in six years. Cruising has been put on the map for younger audiences thanks to the advances we’re seeing, with even small tweaks such as faster Wi-Fi making cruising more relevant than ever.
Technology is developing, and fast. Considering what we’ve already created, I’m excited to see what will come next from the cruise industry.
Stuart Leven is vice-president, EMEA and managing director of RCL Cruises Ltd and chair, Clia UK & Ireland