With passenger volume expected to surpass 2019 levels by the end of 2023, according to the Cruise Lines International Association (CLIA), the global cruise industry is gearing up for its biggest year yet.
“It’s official – cruise holidays are back and better than ever,” says Kevin Bubolz, Vice President and Managing Director Continental Europe, Israel, Middle East and Africa (CEMEA).
“With major ship innovations, immersive itineraries, and exciting port-rich sailings. Cruising is set to be one of the most popular, versatile, and cost-effective options for South African travellers in 2023.”
If you’re curious about what to expect on the cruising horizon this year, here’s a rundown of the latest destination trends and updated information to keep you in the know.
With once-in-a-lifetime sailings through Europe, the Caribbean, Alaska, and Asia, cruisers have plenty to look forward to, but you’ll need to be quick when it comes to booking.
“It’s crucial to book as early as possible to avoid disappointment,” Bubolz explains. “Cruising lead time is months to even years in advance, particularly because South Africans need to take visa application into consideration.”
He further notes a high booking volume for their upcoming Europe summer season, indicating that guests who want to explore Europe secure bookings six to nine months in advance.
With its fine combination of history, culture, and shimmering beaches, the Mediterranean remains popular with South African passengers in 2023.
“Globally, the Mediterranean is second only to the Caribbean in terms of preferred international cruising destinations, but among South African travellers, it takes first place,” Bubolz adds.
“With its diverse range of sights and attractions from ancient Greek ruins, Hagia Sophia in Istanbul, lavender fields in Southern France and the cradle of Europe in Rome, it’s easy to see why this destination is so appealing to South Africans.”
“Even while South Africa was in lockdown, we received inquiries and even forward bookings for cruises to South Africans’ favourite cruising destinations – the Western Med and Northern Europe. The newest additions to our fleet, Norwegian Prima and Norwegian Viva, will sail to the most-sought after destinations of South African guests for the European summer season.”
In addition to a strong demand for Europe, Bubolz notes increased interest in sailings from ports in the United States, including routes to Alaska and the Caribbean in 2023.
“In the summer months, guests can embark on a wildlife-filled and close-to-nature cruise to Alaska from Seattle. During autumn, they can witness the beauty of Indian Summer in New England and savour a beach getaway cruise to the Caribbean or Bermuda in the dark season.”
“Cruises from U.S. ports offer guests a truly diverse cruise experience as they sail a multitude of itineraries in different destinations. We suspect that cruise holidays will also gain popularity with new direct flights departing to and from South Africa.”
By connecting through major air hubs in Atlanta, Washington, and New York, South African travellers can reach almost every other destination within the country. “If you’re interested in combining a city trip with a cruise, you can easily embark on cruises to the Caribbean, New England, and Bermuda in New York,” he adds.
Combining easy access and visa-free destinations for South African passengers, Asia is guaranteed to increase in popularity.
“For local cruise enthusiasts priming their sea legs for the 2023 cruise season, there’s a wide selection of Asia cruise itineraries from international brands to choose from,” Bubolz explains.
“Asia’s energetic cities, lush green landscapes, and idyllic tropical islands are best explored by sea. From the culinary delights of Japan to island explorations across Indonesia, Thailand, and Malaysia, local travellers have plenty to look forward to. For the 2023/2024 cruise season, NCL will finally sail to Asian destinations with Norwegian Jewel, which will mark our return to all five continents.”
Key advantages of cruising in 2023
- Your day, your choice. South Africans in particular love NCL’s freestyle concept which allows a completely flexible holiday, for example, no set dining times!
- Value for money with all the ‘big’ costs covered upfront – accommodation, selected dining, activities and entertainment are included.
- See multiple destinations in one go. No hassles with costly transfers, ferries and more.
- Floating resorts with everything you could wish for! For example, the new Norwegian Prima boasts the world’s first three-level go-kart racetrack at sea, infinity pools, the exclusive The Haven enclave, two glass Oceanwalk bridges, the fastest slides at sea and Indulge Food Hall so you can dine around the world – plus much more.
- Unpack once – and relax!
Looking ahead to 2023 and beyond, Bubolz notes that South Africans will increasingly book cruise holidays due to their excellent value for money and convenience. “Not only do you have to unpack once during your journey but, for those wanting to tick off multiple destinations in one go, it is the obvious choice,” he concludes.