The Top Cruise Trends for the Year Ahead

Hapag-Lloyd Hanseatic expedition ships
Hapag-Lloyd Hanseatic expedition ships

Top cruise trends for 2020 include immersive experiences in distant destinations and conscious travel

Cruisers are seeking far-flung, pristine destinations in 2020, driven by a desire for immersion in each location. Adventurous expedition cruises, more sustainable and environmentally conscious ships and routes as well as bite-sized, ‘micro-trips’ are also all trending upwards in the cruise world. 

Global luxury travel network, Virtuoso, which has a cruise portfolio of 33 ocean, river, yacht and expedition partners, has revealed its top cruise trends for the year in time for “wave season” – January through March –when travellers book voyages to benefit from special prices and incentives. 

“In 2020, cruisers are choosing itineraries based on destinations and the more unusual and faraway, the better,” said Beth Butzlaff, vice president, cruise sales at Virtuoso. “Cruising used to be considered more passive, but lines have overcome that misperception with more time in port and experiences that are unique to the destination. Passengers want to enjoy the essence of these places through interactions with local people and culture, and the industry has responded with innovative offerings to satisfy evolving preferences.”

Virtuoso’s top cruise trends for 2020 are:

Distant Destinations

According to a Virtuoso-YouGov survey, the number-one reason travellers are interested in cruises is the ability to visit multiple destinations. No longer just focused on the Caribbean or Mediterranean, cruise ships visit ports as diverse as Muscat, Oman; Manta, Ecuador; and Rarotonga in the Cook Islands. In fact, bookings for Silversea’s first Expedition World Cruise in 2021 are outpacing those for its classic World Cruise. The expedition cruise is visiting ports including Rabaul, Papua New Guinea; Ksamil, Albania; and Bawemataluwo, Indonesia.

In-Port Immersion

Cruise lines are creating new itineraries and shore excursions to provide more destination immersion. Azamara offers three ways to further guests’ connection with a locale: late-night and overnight stays, complimentary evening performances in port and shore excursions that encourage deeper connections with local people and cultures. Seabourn also offers cultural, culinary, adventure and mindful-living experiences during shore excursions, bringing the destination to life for passengers. 

Cold is Hot

Lines as varied as Crystal, Seabourn, Viking and Ponant are offering more expedition cruises as the boom in adventurous cruising continues building. Passengers seeking scenic destinations are attracted to locales such as Antarctica, the Arctic, Greenland and Norway’s fjords. Cruise lines are also providing more unique experiences on these voyages. Silversea offers a private-jet trip so passengers can stand next to the South Pole marker and Quark Expeditions will feature heli-skiing in Antarctica in 2021.

Conscious Travel

Cruise lines are responding to consumers’ growing awareness of sustainability by implementing more environmentally friendly technology and programs to boost the destinations they visit, both economically and culturally. Hurtigruten, Lindblad Expeditions, Aqua Expeditions and Royal Caribbean International are among those leading the way. According to the Cruise Lines International Association, by 2030, the cruise industry has committed to reducing its fleet-wide rate of CO² emissions by 40 percent. Additionally, the economic impact on the communities that cruise ships visit include 1.1 million jobs equaling U.S. $45.6 billion in wages.


Micro-trips – short jaunts for people with the desire travel but limited time – are trending in the cruise world. Lines such as Norwegian Cruise Line, Celebrity and Virgin Voyages offer two- to five-night Caribbean cruises. Passengers have multiple options for their port of departure, with Miami, Fort Lauderdale, Tampa, New Orleans and Galveston, TX all offering micro-cruises.


Cruise lines featuring U.S. sailings are flourishing, with American Queen’s Mississippi River cruises in high demand. Another trending U.S. river is the Pacific Northwest’s Columbia, with cruises offered by American Queen and UnCruise. 

The Suite Life

Demand for owner’s and penthouse suites has inspired lines to open itineraries well in advance, especially for world cruises. With 2020 bookings strong, cruisers are bumping sailing dates out as far as 2022. 

Travellers who want to take advantage of wave season and book through a Virtuoso advisor will receive complimentary amenities on select sailings. The Virtuoso Voyages program, celebrating 30 years in 2020, offers exclusives ranging in value from $800 per couple to several thousand dollars on more than 650 hosted sailings each year.

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