The cruise industry isn’t slowing down — whether it’s a host of small-ship lines ramping up stops to Cuba or the entry of new players like Virgin Voyages. But what’s next for the Caribbean, a market where, by recent estimates, the cruise industry generated almost $3.2 billion in direct expenditures annually?
To learn more, Caribbean Journal Editor in Chief Alexander Britell caught up with cruise industry thought leader Dylan Wills of Wilson Associates, who addressed the state of the industry, the potential impact of Virgin Voyages and the state of Caribbean cruising.
What’s the state of the Caribbean cruise industry?
The Caribbean has always been a very successful and amazingly popular location, but recently has seen an increase in competition as more exotic destinations become increasingly accessible. As cruise ships themselves develop and transform, their land-based counterparts need to follow suit. It is important for a cruise destination such as the Caribbean to look at new ways to attract visitors and prominently display its culture and heritage. As a designer, I take inspiration from the local culture and beautiful landscape of the cruise’s destinations, and do my best to incorporate that into my ship designs, allowing the traveler to experience the destination on a deeper level.
How are cruise companies looking at the Caribbean differently?
The Caribbean has always been seen as an accessible luxury cruise location. One does not have to take large amounts holiday time to have an amazing Caribbean cruise. Due to its proximity to South America, travelers can easily visit the region’s beautiful destinations and amazing environments from the Caribbean. As people travel farther for their holidays, they expect more from their experience. Cruise operators are investing in local infrastructure to encourage travel, and the environment globally to ensure that these stunning destination are maintained for generations to come.
With the entry of cruise lines like Fathom, are cruise lines looking for different kinds of travelers or will that remain a niche market?
The cruise industry is creating new and innovative ways in which to encourage new guests. Of course, the best thing about introducing new guests, is that it gives you an opportunity to retain them as loyal customers, who will visit many destinations and have many different experiences with different brands within the same group of companies. Fathom presents an amazing approach to cruising, in that it immerses its guests into a real world cultural experience. Guests can visit local schools and help teach, visit villages and contribute to daily activities all while learning directly from local residents about their culture. This is a truly immersive experience, which allows you to see any destination in a very different way.
Are there any Caribbean terminals that need work?
Every global cruise terminal should grow and develop during its life. Terminals should not be viewed as a location for transiting, but should instead be considered part of the overall guest experience. They should be designed to function efficiently while conveying a sense of excitement and adventure to travelers, evoking a feeling of adventure and curiosity. Cruise terminals should also display a high level of local cultural influence.
Terminals should not be viewed as a location for transiting, but should instead be considered part of the overall guest experience.”
What do guests expect from a Caribbean cruise today that they didn’t five years ago?
The ships themselves have changed enormously over the past five years and will continue to evolve in the years to come. The shape of the ship, the way it operates, the guest experience, and the activities aboard have all seen significant improvement.
Wilson Associates has always believed that design should be an experience and an adventure within a larger story. Our designs are created from stories to provide a more fluid and enjoyable experience. We concentrate on the local environment, drawing inspiration from geography as well as cultures. As the functionality of cruise ships progresses , so do the designs and the incorporation of local cultural elements allowing guests to engage with and learn about the Caribbean.
The Caribbean has always been seen a luxury destination and an area of outstanding natural beauty. As the cruise industry expands, so does the luxury experience. Shore trips and local entertainment pay a large role with the Caribbean cruise, whilst providing an equal balance of new and innovative ship based activities.
How do you think Virgin will impact the cruise market?
Virgin Voyages introduced itself into the industry as an innovative solution to bridge a gap in the market – Millennials. This strategy will benefit the entire industry, drawing younger guests to cruise and allowing them to grow with age into more varied experiences. Each sector of the cruise industry has its unique approach: family cruises, expedition cruises, world explorer cruises, etc. Virgin Voyages will bring in a new age of travel consumers who may not have taken a cruise otherwise.