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Explora Lobby Bar aboard EXPLORA Virtuoso®, the global leader in luxury and experiential travel, has released survey findings that offer a glimpse into the preferences of the world’s savviest cruisers. Drawing on the expertise of more than 300 professional travel advisors who specialise in cruising, Virtuoso found that 58 percent believe it will emerge as the strongest tourism sector in 2024-2025, surpassing land-only experiences. To further illustrate the point, Virtuoso’s 18-to-24-month forward-looking cruise bookings in excess of US$50,000 have increased more than 100 percent compared to the same timeframe last year. Among the cruise categories with the highest anticipated bookings, Premium Ocean takes the lead at 34 percent, followed by Luxury Ocean at 27 percent, River at 22 percent and Expedition at 15 percent.

The following are key insights sourced from a survey conducted among travel advisors in the Virtuoso Cruise Community:

A New Wave of First-Time Cruisers:

The recent boom in cruise innovation indicates there is a ship and experience for almost everyone. Sixty percent of surveyed advisors have observed an increase in first-time cruisers. According to a recent survey by Cruise Lines International Association (CLIA), 27 percent of cruisers over the past two years are new to cruising, an increase of 12 percent over previous years. Additionally, 62 percent of Virtuoso advisors have observed that first-time cruisers often turn to them for guidance in planning and booking their sailings, emphasising the value of travel advisors’ unparalleled knowledge to the uninitiated and their essential role in crafting unforgettable journeys.

Four Seasons Yachts Marc-Henry Cruise Holdings Ltd, Joint Owner Operator Four Seasons Yachts

Elevated Levels of Luxury

Welcoming the surge of first-time cruisers, the industry is abuzz with fresh offerings tailored for those who prefer exclusive onboard experiences with a touch of style and sophistication. Scheduled to embark in January 2026, Four Seasons Yachts promises a voyage of discovery through the world’s most captivating destinations, complemented by the renowned Four Seasons standard of excellence. Meanwhile, the eagerly awaited Ilma, the latest luxury superyacht from The Ritz-Carlton Yacht Collection, is undergoing final preparations for its inaugural voyage from Monte Carlo to Rome this September. With its first vessel already cruising and the second scheduled to set sail in August 2024, Explora Journeys’ floating resorts redefine luxury at sea with unrivalled space and privacy.

 Shifting Demographics:

Fifty-nine percent of advisors have noticed a demographic transformation underway in the cruise industry. Of this group, 36 percent attribute the shift to an increase in bookings from Millennials and Gen Z. Supporting this trend, CLIA’s research indicates a promising future for cruising among the younger demographic, with 81 percent of Millennials and 74 percent of Gen Z who have recently cruised expressing intentions to cruise again. Twenty-seven percent of Virtuoso advisors attribute the changing landscape to an increasing preference among families for cruising, while an equal percentage (27 percent) have observed a rise in female solo cruisers.

 Dynamic and Diverse:

Advisors report their clients’ cruise itineraries reflect a variety of motivations, ranging from adventure and exploration to cultural immersion and personal fulfillment. The traditional waters of Alaska and the Caribbean remain popular, while there’s growing interest in more remote expedition cruises to places like Antarctica, Iceland, the Galapagos Islands and even the North Pole. Japan and West Africa are attracting cruisers seeking immersive cultural experiences. Personal passions also play a role in shaping travel choices, such as Australia’s Kimberley region for photography enthusiasts and Ireland for travellers looking to reconnect with their ancestral heritage. Additionally, the introduction of new seasonality for cruise itineraries, such as winter Mediterranean sailings, is a savvy way to explore popular destinations without the crowds, often at a better value.

Cruising Into 2025:

Surveyed advisors identified the top five cruising trends they believe will continue into 2025:

  1. Destination immersion with more nights in port or overnights on land
  2. Cruising to cold-weather climates (Alaska, Antarctica, the Arctic)
  3. Solo cruising
  4. New seasonality for itineraries
  5. Increased demand and luxury offerings for multigenerational cruising

“This is an exciting and transformative time in the cruise industry,” said Melissa Araya, vice president, cruise at Virtuoso. “Cruise has some of the most loyal, repeat passengers, and then we also have these newcomers who are embracing cruising with such enthusiasm. With new lines and new vessels coming into the market, there are so many more options and such a wide variety of itineraries to choose from. Virtuoso advisors understand their clients on a deeper level, and they are masters at matching the client to the right type of cruise. Even those who never considered cruising before can do so with confidence, venturing into new territory with the comfort of a trusted ally by their side.”

Virtuoso’s cruise portfolio includes ocean, river, yacht and expedition partners offering thousands of itineraries to global ports of call. The Virtuoso Voyages program offers exclusives on more than 400 select cruises annually across 13 separate cruise lines, including a dedicated onboard host and choice of an additional benefit ranging in value from US$500 per couple to several thousand dollars, depending on the sailing. Explore cruises from Virtuoso’s partner lines at www.virtuoso.com/luxury-cruises. For assistance in booking an upcoming voyage, connect with a Virtuoso advisor at www.virtuoso.com/advisors.