The travel industry is booming again, bolstered by Europe’s affluent travellers seeking to explore more in 2023. Research from MoneyTransfers reveals that in particular, 62% of Europe’s high-net-worth (HNW) individuals plan to spend more on premium accommodation options and unique travel experiences. This bodes well for high-end tourism and leisure providers, such as luxury cruises, which have seen rapid expansion in recent years.

Indeed, reports project the global cruise market to peak at $15.1 billion (€13.78 billion) by 2028 based on a CAGR of 11% in the next few years. This forecast is in comparison to last year’s valuation of $7.67 billion (€7 billion).

State of the luxury cruise market

Europe is the fastest-growing tourism submarket in the world. In addition to this, the region is also an emerging cruise market, with Europeans making up 21% of annual cruise passengers. Of this number, travellers from Germany and the UK accounted for over half the volume, while those from France, Italy, Spain, and Switzerland rounded up the rest.

The popularity of luxury cruises stems from the ease with which one can voyage to multiple destinations in the utmost comfort. Fleshing out immersive itineraries and figuring out logistics are all worries one need not be concerned with while onboard. Moreover, as a lavish way of seeing the world, luxury cruises are considered the epitome of prestige. Among HNW individuals and the elite, this form of slow travel is a means to explore enticing destinations without sacrificing quality or pleasure.

This is why luxury cruise liners like Explora are expanding their fleet in Europe. The Maritime Executive states that the Explora 1 will be launched this year, followed by the Explora 2 in 2024. Both ships will focus on “promising a unique destination-oriented experience and European luxury,” with the Explora 1 sailing to Northern Europe and the Arctic Circle and the Explora 2 sailing around the Mediterranean. The exclusive services aboard Explora Luxury Cruises provide another level of indulgence and exploration. From unique photography, songwriting, and mixology master classes to courses on destination-themed crafts taught by locals, passengers are treated to an enriching onboard experience from start to finish. Moreover, customisable shore excursions guarantee a memorable itinerary curated to specific travel desires. It is these unique experiences that are contributing to the expansion of the luxury cruise industry. Altogether, these ensure an unparalleled and unforgettable sojourn, making the industry’s upsurge unsurprising.

Future of the luxury cruise industry

Heading into the next few years, experts look to continued innovations in ship models to further drive the market. According to Cruise Industry News, one prevailing trend is a downsize in ship capacity. While some liners will continue to onboard up to 700 guests, a majority are looking to pare down passengers to as few as a mere hundred.

Steve Odell, the Senior Vice President of Regent Seven Seas Cruises and Oceania Cruises, remarks that an increasing number of travellers are turning to smaller luxury cruises for more value. Indeed, a smaller manifest enables operators to provide guests with a level of intimacy they won’t find on regular cruises. This is on top of highly personalised services, including a designated butler for every two guests. In the smallest of ships, the ratio can narrow to as much as one-to-one, a provision which entices HNWs.

Furthermore, smaller ships translate to more eco-friendly vessels and, thus, more sustainable tourism. From using cleaner fuel alternatives to operating on battery or hydrogen fuel cell electricity, innovations in how ships are built and operated are contributing to the preservation of the seas and ports. With 69% of travellers now demanding more sustainable travel options–including for ocean voyages–this is but one way the industry is adapting.

The industry’s move toward docking at shoreside electricity (SSE) ports reinforces these efforts, as such harbours allow ships to power off their engines while docked. This reduces carbon emissions and, more importantly, allows ships to enter destinations with zero-emission rules, such as Norway’s acclaimed fjords. Adopting greener solutions not only reduces the carbon footprint of luxury cruise ships but allows them to provide a wider range of experiences to passengers too.

European luxury cruise ships are thriving in the prestige travel industry. More than the destination, travellers pay for the experience–and it is one that delivers on value and beyond. For more information about luxury cruises and travel, visit European Business Magazine.