Families want more from their vacation, and cruise lines are responding with cultural immersion, education and once-in-a-lifetime experiences.
The cruise line industry is booming; in 2018 a record-breaking number of new ships were built, and the number of travelers has risen steadily. This robust growth is driven by an industry that is aggressive about understanding what its customers want — and working hard to give it to them.
Colleen McDaniel, senior executive editor of Cruise Critic, notes one particular development. “We’re seeing cruise lines react in a really positive way to the desire from passengers to feel connected to the places they visit,” she says. “Cruise lines are creating smaller-group shore excursions, spending more time in ports, and curating special experiences ashore.”
The importance of immersion
“Cruises are an excellent opportunity to experience firsts,” points out Roberto Fusaro, president of MSC Cruises USA. “For instance, cruises are known for offering a variety of cuisines. This is a great way to try a food you’ve always been curious about but perhaps a bit hesitant to order. The same is true for activities, from cooking classes to dance lessons to arts and crafts. On the entertainment side, this is a perfect opportunity for adults and children to experience a range of types of shows that they may not have known they had interest in, risk-free.”
This focus on new cultures is driven directly by customer demand. “MSC Cruises’ guests tend to seek multi-cultural experiences and opportunities for learning during their vacations,” Fusaro notes.
Rainer Jenss, president and founder of the Family Travel Association, confirms this trend. “Parents find it very important for their children to understand different cultures,” he says. “Cruises provide families with a great way to explore and meet people from around the world, and most cruises go to several ports of call on a single itinerary, so the kids and their parents get exposed to multiple cultures, languages, cuisines and countries — all on one trip.”
Jenss also notes that families don’t even have to leave a ship to experience different cultures and points of view. “First, there’s the ship’s crew, which usually represents dozens of different cultures and nationalities. Then, of course, there are fellow passengers. And for kids, meeting children from other parts of the country or the world is particularly fascinating and often leads to life-long friendships. MSC Cruises in particular has a wide variety of passengers on its ships for passengers to engage with.”
Fusaro passionately agrees. “With travelers from 70 markets worldwide, MSC guests have the unique opportunity to meet, interact and become friends with people from around the world.”
Fusaro is also eager to do some cruising myth-busting. “Cruising isn’t the same as it was 15 or 20 years ago. The ships today have a full range of entertainment options for all ages, so there is no dull moment. Another myth is the quality of the dining options. Cruises today are actually ideal for foodies and on MSC ships we feature cuisines from world-class chefs such as Roy Yamaguchi.”
McDaniel encourages families seeking these types of experiences to consider cruises. “There really is a cruise for everyone,” she says, “but it’s not as easy as just snagging a rock-bottom price. Do your research, narrow down your options, then compare prices and find the best fit for you.”
If you and your family want your vacation to be culturally educational and rewarding, a cruise vacation offers a global classroom (as well as fine dining, endless entertainment and plenty of adventure).