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As more and more people take to the seas, it makes sense that families who like to cruise will begin to look outside the box for exciting places to go, new things to do and more exotic locales.
For the first time ever, in 2012, 1 billion people traveled. According to Cruise Lines International Association (CLIA), cruising is the fastest-growing sector in travel and tourism and, despite hiccups within the economy and the cruise industry itself, more people cruised in 2012 than ever before. CLIA estimates that nearly 21 million passengers sailed on its current 58 member cruise lines — a 3.3 percent growth. With people taking to the seas in record numbers, it seems logical to consider that more and more cruisers, including families, will be looking for new cruise destinations.
AsiaOne of the hottest topics to be discussed at the recent travel industry conference, Cruise Shipping Miami, which took place in March in Miami Beach, was cruising in Asia. The region is being hailed as the “new Europe” by some, and cruise lines are lining up in Asia’s ports. Royal Caribbean, for one, announced that the Mariner of the Seas will join Voyager of the Seas in Asia this year.
“We’ve made it clear that we see Asia in general, and China in particular, as a strategic objective,” said Richard Fain, chairman and CEO of Royal Caribbean Cruise Lines. “We have been so pleased by the market’s response to bringing Voyager of the Seas to Asia that it made strategic sense to send a second ship of equal size.”
In June, Mariner of the Seas will begin sailing Shanghai to Singapore cruises and the reverse itinerary, with stops in Ho Chi Minh City (Saigon), Vietnam; Hong Kong; Okinawa, Japan; and Jeju Island, South Korea, on 10-day sailings. These port calls present unique opportunities for families interested in experiencing a range of new adventures.
In Ho Chi Minh City, families can explore the city by rickshaw, sample traditional Vietnamese food, take a pedi-cab and shop at the Ben Thanh market.
In Hong Kong, passengers have two days to explore the vibrant city on a variety of shore excursions, or families can choose to spend the day somewhere like Hong Kong Disneyland. Because the ship is docked overnight, guests should be sure to see the nightly light show that is visible from Kowloon Bay.
The islands of Okinawa offer a variety of excursions including city tours, temple visits and more. The Shuri Castle and Gyokusendo Cave tour takes passengers to the World Heritage site. Afterward, guests head to Okinawa World, an arts and crafts theme park where more of Okinawa’s traditional wares can be seen.
On Jeju Island, families can combine a sophisticated temple tour with a stop at the Joanne Teddy Bear Museum. The Teddy Bear Museum is dedicated to the famous stuffed toy and teddy bear artist Joanne Oh has created eco-friendly and luxury teddy bears. Joanne’s unique crafts come from hand-weaving and a natural dyeing process. Visitors can view and photograph her with her finest teddy bear artwork.
The voyage ends in Singapore, where families will find more activities than they may have time for. Some top picks are visits to the new Marine Life Park, a night safari or a hop-on, hop-off bus tour.
South PacificTahiti is certainly a trip of a lifetime destination for many people. And as romantic as it is to go there for a honeymoon, parents don’t have to leave the kids at home to enjoy this destination. One of the best ways to explore the islands of Tahiti is at sea, and Princess Cruises features several itineraries that welcome families onboard. Families with children looking to have an active adventure in the South Seas can choose from a variety of adventures without the inconvenience of having to pack and unpack daily.
Princess Cruises sails all around the South Seas, but of particular interest to families and multigenerational groups is the line’s popular 10-day Tahiti & Polynesia and 11-day Hawaii & Tahiti cruises. The length of the voyage is appealing for groups with limited time and, especially from the West Coast of the U.S., the islands are a relatively short flight away with a minimal (three-hour) time change.
The crystal clear waters of the South Pacific will beckon families and excursions are tailored to match the scenery. Scuba diving, snorkeling and swimming are some of the most popular activities. Clients can also don an “Aqua Helmet” for a snuba adventure — a combination of snorkeling and scuba diving — in Bora Bora. Other activities include four-wheel-drive tours, circle island tours and lagoon excursions. If families want, they can rent dune buggies to do their own island explorations.
Norwegian FjordsFar from the tropical delights of the South Pacific, a different cruise escape awaits families off the coast of Norway. Ideal for clients who may have already sailed the Baltic or cruised in Alaska, the Norwegian Fjords offer an unforgettable journey, and they can get there with Hurtigruten. The cruise line offers 34 ports from Bergen to Kirkenes all summer long. The cruise is ideal for families with older children.
“This is for experienced travelers. You have families who are experienced, and they love the shore experience,” said Hans Rood, president of Hurtigruten, Inc. “It’s not Disney, there’s no kids club, but the shore experience and the lecturing is as appealing to kids as it is to adults.”
Rood recommends the line’s Classic Summer voyages for families interested in getting an in-depth experience in the Arctic region. He suggests that families take the Northern route and start with a pre-trip stay in Oslo before taking the Flam railroad to Bergen, Norway. Clients can choose from 12-, 11-, seven- and six-day options.
During the cruise, families have the opportunity to experience the main highlights of the region, including Bergen, Stronheim, Alesund and Trondheim, as well as participate in some adventurous shore excursions such as a sea eagle safari and a zodiac ride to Saltsromen. Here, the “Midnight Sun” provides extra hours of exploration and guests have the opportunity to experience one of the world’s most powerful tidal currents, which creates a whirlpool teeming with fish and wildlife.
So, while cruising in the Caribbean or the Mediterranean are good ways for families to bond, why not create a more unique journey that families will remember for a lifetime?