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The top cruise trends for 2014

Cruise Critic lists shorter cruises, more deal options as top trends. Hot Destinations for 2014 are Panama Canal, Japan and Australia.

PENNINGTON – Cruise Critic has released its list of the top cruise trends for 2014, based on industry insight and consumer habits.

Build Your Own Cruise Deal: Cruise lines continue to add unique onboard experiences for guests, but many times they come at an added cost. Cruise lines are now introducing pick-your-own deal offerings that allow passengers to choose the deal of their choice – airline, onboard credit, etc.

What this means for cruisers: Over one-third of cruisers report to Cruise Critic that rather than strictly low cost, they consider a “cruise deal” to be a mid-range fare with extras included. These new deal options not only offer add-ons, but leave the choice in the cruisers’ hands.

More Quick Getaways: Short two- to four-day cruises have typically been reserved for older ships in cruise line fleets. Looking ahead, more new ships are offering short cruises – including Norwegian Breakaway, which launched in 2013 and will offer some two-day sailings.

What this means for cruisers: Short cruises are especially popular with local residents looking for a short break or last minute deal, and new-to-cruise travelers. When polled by Cruise Critic, 46% responded that they would consider going on a short cruise.

Balcony Smoking Stubbed Out: Six cruise lines announced amendments to onboard smoking policies in 2013, and it’s expected that a number more will follow in 2014. Royal Caribbean Cruise Line, Cunard, P&O, Disney Cruise Line, and Seabourn all announced that they would be ban some, if not all, smoking on balconies by 2014, and MSC announced new smoking bans on US-based MSC Divina.

What this means for cruisers: A solid 74% told Cruise Critic they feel smoking should be banned at the very least on balconies and in cabins, with 56% responding that smoking should be banned on all cruise lines. For smokers, it will be more important than ever to become familiar with cruise line smoking policies prior to boarding.

A Genuine Taste of the Port: A majority of cruisers (80%) book shore excursions prior to embarkation – 45% of those book through an independent operator, rather than the cruise line. To counter this excursion competition, lines are introducing new, immersive shore experiences that cruisers can only experience by booking directly through the line.

What this means for cruisers: This is a type of competition that can only benefit consumers – more excursion choices, and more unique offerings. Examples include Disney Cruise Line’s family archeological digs in Athens and Azamara’s romantic evenings the hillsides of Tuscany.

More Inclusivity Options in River Cruising: River cruises continue to rise in popularity, with 65% telling Cruise Critic that they would love to try one. A key trend will be the improved levels of inclusivity available – while some lines have more inclusive offerings at a higher base cost, others offer less inclusivity at a lower base cost.

What this means for cruisers: The good news is that as the industry becomes more competitive, so does pricing. There will be more options and better value, with cruisers able to select from a range of all-inclusive to a la carte.

Hot Destinations for 2014

Panama Canal: The Panama Canal celebrates its 100th anniversary in 2014 and the new visitors’ center will welcome a number of cruise ship passengers.

Japan: Watch out for more Japan-centric cruises in 2014. Japan can be expensive and tricky to navigate by land, so cruising is considered an ideal way to see the country.

Australia: Cruises are a great way to experience all that Australia has to offer, and with more choices offered in 2014, it’s definitely a cruise destination to watch.

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Theodore is the Co-Founder and Managing Editor of TravelDailyNews Media Network; his responsibilities include business development and planning for TravelDailyNews long-term opportunities.