Cruise Lines International Association (CLIA), the industry’s marketing arm, trumpets 2000 as a successful year in which nearly 7 million travelers took a cruise (many of us at great bargains since the addition of more than a dozen new ships increased capacity...and slashed prices). In a survey of cruising trends, CLIA also gives us plenty of reasons to, well, go again this year. Such as?
* An increase in alternative restaurants, not only with lines adding them but with cruise lines adding multiple varieties on one ship; Norwegian’s Sun, due to debut in the fall, will have 10.
* Higher percentages of cabins have outside views (more have balconies, too). Eighty percent of the staterooms in Celebrity Cruises' newest Millennium-class vessels, Infinity and Summit, 91,000 tons each, offer ocean views.
* Amazingly, rock-climbing walls may spread beyond Royal Caribbean’s gargantuan Voyager and Explorer (First European is adding one to its new 1,500 passenger European Voyager).
* Serious shoppers can go beyond the same-old same-old boring cruise shops on ships like Celebrity's Millennium and Costa's Atlantica, which offer designer boutiques ranging from trendy fashions to cookware.
* Internet cafes are so de rigeur that Johnny-come-lately lines like Carnival and Celebrity have announced they will add them to the entire fleet.
* Swim-against-the-current pools on ships ranging from Golden Princess to Celebrity Millennium which allow aqua-fitness buffs to actually get some exercise in an onboard pool.
* The industry’s first all-balcony ship: Radisson Seven Seas Cruises' 700-passenger Seven Seas Mariner.
And the best news of all? Prices are still soft which means bargains abound, not just for those flexible enough to snatch last minute deals but even for plan-ahead cruisers. In a survey of online cruise agencies, Cruise.com is promoting an 11-day Caribbean voyage on Royal Caribbean’s Vision of the Seas in early April from $869, and icruise.com is offering a 12-day spring repositioning cruise on Holland America’s Noordam for $650!
You do the math.
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