Thursday, August 1, 2013

10 Oddest Cruise Ship Innovations

In 2013, major cruise lines are expected to welcome 17.6 million passengers — or more than double the number from just around a decade ago, according to the Cruise Lines International Association. On top of that, the lines also introduced new ships — 13 in 2012 alone and 167 since 2000. All that spells serious competition, with ships trying to offer adventures and amenities that set them apart from the rest. The bottom line? “By creating these flashy experiences, they can draw passengers,” says Sherri Eisenberg, editor of Bon Voyage digital magazine, a publication for cruise fans. But what kind of experiences? Read on for 10 of the latest cruise innovations.

1.  Cruise lines are working to go beyond the typical tourist areas by providing their guests with a fun and exciting way to interact with locals.  At Aqua Expeditions, a small luxury cruise line that cruises the Amazon, the cruise company touts "Every dream of being a goalie in the middle of a dense jungle?  Here's your chance" as they offer a soccer game with the local kids.

2.  Celebrity Cruises has partnered recently with mixologist Josh Durr to create a menu of 30 craft cocktails, featuring "fresh ingredients, organic juices and the finest artisanal spirits".

3.  Cruise passengers have become accustomed to the Vegas-style shows onboard.  Norwegian Cruise Line's newest ship, the Breakaway, has turned to Broadway, with the Tony-nominated musical "Rock of Ages".  Other ships offer the Blue Man Group, Cirque du Soleil, Hairspray and Chicago.

4.  Going raw:  SeaDream Yacht Club guests can dine from a menu featuring organic and vegan ingredients, such as watercress tang and uncooked vegetable lasagna.  But don't worry, they will still be offering traditional (cooked) options.

5.  Disney Cruise Line has come up with a solution for those who don't want to spend the extra for an oceanview, but don't want a dark, windowless cabin.  On its Dream and Fantasy ship, interior staterooms have a "magical" porthole - a video screen with live images of the view at sea or in port.  Hmmm - I think I still want my balcony.

6.  Why not fly at sea?  Royal Caribbean's new Quantum of the Seas, setting sale next year, is offering RipCord by iFly - skydiving at sea.  The 23-foot high indoor wind tunnel will allow people to hover in the air and will cater to not only first-time flyers but also seasoned skydivers.

7.  Theme Cruises - These are becoming the new norm in the cruise industry.  From culinary to wine, computer technology to fitness, to craft cruises.  AmaWaterways is now offering a Knitting New Years Cruise.  Guests will travel along Europe's Danube while spending time with other knitters, learning new techniques and showing off their creativity.

8.  Walk the plank!  Princess Cruises' new ship, the Royal Princess, features a gangplank-like SeaWalk, which extends 28 feet beyond the side of the ship, with a glass bottom, so guests can look straight down at the ocean.  A SeaView Bar that "extends over the waves" is also a built-in option.

9.  The ship within the ship:  MSC Cruises has introduced its MSC Yacht Club on some of their ship.  This "oasis of tranquility" will feature a restaurant, bar, lounge, pool and concierge desk reserved for club members.  Holland America has a similar set up with the Neptune Lounge and Oceania Cruises has an Executive Lounge.

10.  Sail on the Titanic.  Amazingly, there is a Titanic II due to debut in 2016.  Australian billionaire, Clive Palmer, will recreate the voyage without the disaster, making the same trans-Attlantic voyage from Southampton to New York.  The developers have already received over 40,000 inquiries from potential passengers.

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