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In days gone by, the cruise industry was made up of a few specialist travel companies and catered largely to the upper-class vacationer. However, as with many other travel sectors before it, cruising has truly become accessible to the masses and is now one of the most popular forms of vacation in the western world. So what changed in this seemingly elitist pastime? And how did the industry make the transition from a specialist to a mainstream vacation choice so quickly?
Cruising is a very enjoyable and relatively stress-free form of travel, and despite many preconceptions, it is also a very good value for the money. You only pay one price which on the outset might seem large but includes all meals, accommodation, activities, transportation, and entertainment. Also, as cruise ships are normally multi-destination vacations, you get to see lots more places than you would on a conventional break. As more and more people began to realize the value of cruises, companies found themselves filling their vacancies very quickly and even having to start waiting lists. As with any industry, demand dictates growth, and with growth comes reduced prices.
Not only were there massive demand increases in the industryís formative years, but this demand has continued to grow. Despite the recession, the UK cruise industry is predicted to show a growth of around 8% next year, and the US market is also predicted to grow. This demand is also evident in recent tickets sales, such as the maiden voyage of Cunard Cruisesí Queen Elizabeth, which sold out her 2,068 rooms in just 29 minutes.
As mentioned earlier, increased competition has had a massive influence on the price of cruises. No longer can those specialist companies place huge price tags on their cruises as customers will simply choose another company that offers the same service for less. Fueled by the continued increase in demand for cruises, new companies are being established all the time and ship construction is at an all-time high. A staggering 16 new cruise ships are set to be launched this year alone.
Growing competition is not just saving vactioners money by driving down ticket prices either. Cruise companies have begun offering customers all number of added incentives to secure their business, such as hundreds of dollars worth of on-board credit, free car hire at various destinations, free travel insurance, and even free flights to departure points and back home again. With such incredible offers, itís no wonder cruising has one of the highest re-booking figures of all forms of travel.
Increased demand has also had a big impact on the sizes of cruise ships these days. Traditionally cruise ships catered to a couple of hundred passengers at most, but these days boats are built to carry thousands instead. In fact, Royal Caribbean will be unveiling a mega boat this year that will be able to fit 5,400 passengers on board, making it the largest cruise ship in the world. Larger boats allow cruise companies to sell many more tickets per cruise and thus lower their prices without risking their bottom line.
Improvements in technology and massive increases in boat size have also meant that cruise ships can include many more facilities these days. We already have boats with swimming pools, golf courses and mega-gyms on board, but this year sees the launch of boats that include theme parks, mono-rails and even man-made beaches. The improvements in facilities only add to the demand for cruising and so the circle of supply, demand, and decreased prices continues.
Guest contributor Duncan is a keen traveler and cruise enthusiast. He runs his own surf clothing business, featuring all you need for your vacation such as flip flops, sunglasses and hats.