This month, cruise industry professionals from the UK and Ireland came together in Southampton for the CLIA #NextGeneration Conference to take a look into the future of cruising.
It was the first year that the three-day conference had welcomed cruise bloggers, vloggers and influencers so a small number of us were able to attend the event; perhaps indicating the industry’s acknowledgement of the role that we play in promoting cruising to new audiences?
Here’s my top ten highlights of the CLIA #NextGeneration Conference and the key things I learnt over the three days.
1. Sustainability is a top priority for cruise lines
President and CEO of Celebrity Cruises, Lisa Lutoff-Purlo, addressed delegates onboard Celebrity Edge on Day One of the conference and spoke of the steps that the cruise line is taking to reduce the impact that its ships have on our oceans.
“Leaving your mark means less of a footprint.”Lisa Lutoff-Purlo
This was echoed by Tony Roberts, CLIA Chair and vice president of Princess Cruises UK and Europe, in his speech to 750 delegates on Day Two. He made it clear that sustainability and the environment are very important to the future of the cruise industry and positive steps are being taken.
Kelly Craighead, CEO of CLIA spoke about the ‘State of the Cruise Industry’ with key actions being taken to strengthen and protect:
CLIA cruise lines have pledged to reduce their carbon emissions by 40% by 2030. Interestingly, Kelly stated that cruisers now recycle 60% more whilst on a cruise than on land. Uniworld CEO, Ellen Bettridge, spoke on the final day of the conference about how the kitchens onboard their river cruises now use bags made from potatoes so that they can be composted.
Work is already being done between CLIA and destinations like Dubrovnik and Santorini to manage their cruise port schedules more effectively and reduce overcrowding.
2. More people are cruising than ever before
A recent report by CLIA stated that in 2018, 2 million people took a cruise in the UK and Ireland. This milestone was reached two years ahead of time, indicating that cruising is becoming increasingly popular with holidaymakers. Globally, 30 million cruises are expected to be taken by people this year (compared to 17.8 million in 2009), which has led to continued investment in new ships that are expected within the next few years.
$61 billion worth of cruise ships are currently on order. This includes three ships to be based in the UK for their first season: Celebrity Apex, P&O’s Iona and Enchanted Princess
In the past year, £3.2 billion was spent on cruise holidays but this still only accounts for 10% of all spending on holidays. Ben Boudin from Royal Caribbean UK estimated that there are a further 13 million people in the UK who would consider a cruise from UK ports. These people currently take staycations but would potential travel to one of the ports to embark on a cruise.
3. Celebrity Edge visits Southampton
The CLIA #NextGeneration Conference coincided with the arrival of Celebrity Edge to Southampton. Celebrity Edge is the newest ship of the fleet and launched the $500-million ‘Celebrity Revolution’ to redesign all Celebrity ships by 2023. Excitingly, its sister ship, Celebrity Apex will make Southampton her home for the first five sailings in 2020.
The tour of Celebrity Edge gave me a great snapshot of the ship and although there was nowhere near enough time to see all of the venues, the visit enabled me to get a feel of the ship and its design.
I personally favoured the outdoor spaces of the ship as there was a sense of space and lightness. Celebrity Edge has been designed to have an outward connection to the sea and this was particularly obvious at the Sunset Bar and the Magic Carpet.
The Rooftop Garden was a pleasant surprise, with carefully positioned seating to provide a sense of privacy in a venue that is likely to attract lots of people wanting to enjoy the al fresco atmosphere. There is a big screen and stage for entertainment, as well as a bar and dining area set among real plants and foliage.
The pool area is likely to be another popular venue during the day and the pool is a good size for swimming. Two Jacuzzis are positioned above the deck to replicate martini glasses and a strategically-positioned set of wings are just screaming out for those on Instagram to pose for a photo – cleverly tapping into social media-savvy cruisers to spread the word about Celebrity Edge.
Subscribe to my YouTube channel Cruise Lifestyle to be the first to see my Celebrity Edge ship tour video, coming soon.
4. Richard Branson surprised us with a visit to talk about Virgin Voyages
On Day Two of the CLIA #NextGeneration Cruise Conference we heard from Tom McCalpin, CEO of Virgin Voyages. Tom’s had previous success with Disney Cruise Line and shared his excitement about the launch of Scarlet Lady in 2020. Virgin Voyages is challenging everything currently out there. It’s created it’s own cruise category: Rebellious Luxe and aspires to be ‘the most successful inclusive, irresistible cruise line.’
It’s asking questions such as ‘Why do you have to get off early on debarkation day?’ Something that can put a dampener on the last day of a cruise. It will be interesting to see how this is tackled in reality on the inevitably busy changeover days.
The mid-size ships will carry around 2,700 adult passengers (called sailors) and take design inspiration from super yachts. When asked about the decision to be adult-only, Tom McCalpin said: “…we will adapt to demand.”
Current UK bookings are strong with many people opting to book back-to-back four and five day sailings. It was confirmed that Scarlet Lady will visit Liverpool and Dover cruise ports in March 2020 when it repositions from Genoa to the US but no further details were revealed.
And then this happened…
Richard Branson’s appearance was certainly a surprise and it was interesting to hear him talk about Virgin Voyages.
“I was 27 years old when I first wanted to start a cruise line.”Richard Branson
We learnt that Richard hates buffets and loves silent discos and had even toyed with the idea of water skiing off the back of the cruise ship! He also admitted that he hopes that “we haven’t overhyped it.” Time will tell.
What is clear is that Virgin Voyages is trying very hard to be different from other cruise lines and hopes to surprise people who cruise with them. Richard Branson mentioned future cruise itineraries may include the Mediterranean, Scandinavia, Australia and the Far East.
5. Portsmouth Port will rival Southampton in the future
The second day of the CLIA #NextGeneration Cruise Conference was held at Portsmouth Guildhall, mostly in order to accommodate the amount of delegates in attendance but also as a nod to this UK cruise port. Viking Jupiter recently called at Portsmouth and the port is regularly visited by Saga, Fred.Olsen and Cruise and Maritime cruise ships during the spring/summer season.
I had the pleasure of chatting to Rachel McMinn, Marketing and Communications Manager for Portsmouth International Port, who told me that Portsmouth has successfully secured £18.7 million in investment for the port to improve the local infrastructure and increase the size of berths to attract larger cruise ships. Portsmouth is well-positioned to become a leading competitor in the cruise market and because of its location and transport links could become a popular cruise port to rival Southampton. It’s already known as the Britain’s Best Connected Port because it has the most routes to Europe.
Portsmouth International Port is owned and operated by Portsmouth City Council and therefore the development of the cruise port will benefit the local economy through reinvestment.
6. Carnival and Royal Caribbean talk family cruising
During Day Two of the CLIA #NextGeneration Conference we heard from Carnival and Royal Caribbean about how they are catering for the family cruise market.
Iain Baille, Vice President International Sales at Carnival Cruise Line, put its popularity with families down to Carnival’s ‘secret sauce’. He spoke about Carnival’s Family Harbor featured on Carnival Vista and Horizon that aim to offer personalisation for families through access to a family concierge.
“800,000 children cruise with Carnival each year.”Iain Baillie
Ben Bouldin, Associate Vice President and Managing Director UK & Ireland for Royal Caribbean International, is seeing a continued growth in multi-generational cruising on Royal Caribbean cruises. Having recently cruised with Royal Caribbean for the first time, I can see why their cruises appeal to families. There is so much to do for a variety of ages, making it perfect for children, parents and grandparents. Ben also cleverly pointed out that “Millennials now have kids!”
When asked about the recent decision to cancel all 2020 cruises on Independence of the Seas from Southampton in order for the ship to cruise to Coco Cay, Ben explained: “The reaction to Coco Cay has been phenomenal. Indy was the only amplified ship that wasn’t already in the Caribbean and so the decision was made to move it. We hope to have two ships back in the UK soon.”
As part of the presentation, we were invited to see cruising from a child’s perspective, which made for some interesting ideas for cruises for the next generation.
7. Star Trek, Storm Troopers and Elton John
As the theme of this year’s CLIA Conference was #NextGeneration, CLIA did not disappoint with some showstopping themed performances. Day One saw a Storm Trooper flash mob at the afternoon Trade Fair. Whoever they were underneath the costumes, certainly had the stamina for this ten minute non-stop performance.
Sir Richard Branson appeared in a space suit, which he undid to reveal a slogan t-shirt that read ‘My other ship is a space ship!’
Finally, during Day Two an Elton John lookalike appeared on stage to perform ‘Rocketman’. I wonder what next year’s CLIA Conference theme will be?
8. Inspirational speaker tells of Antarctica Expedition
On Day Three of the CLIA #NextGeneration Conference, we were treated to a talk from Felicity Aston MBE. Felicity is an English explorer who shared her story of how she crossed Antarctica on her own in a battle of physical and mental strength.
I was intrigued to find out that Antarctica is twice the size of Australia and is not flat but domed-shaped. Temperatures can drop to -40 degrees (Centigrade and Fahrenheit), making it so cold that her breath froze. She couldn’t leave any skin exposed for fear of frostbite. Despite the freezing temperatures, Felicity managed to cross Antarctica wearing just three layers of clothing.
When the sky becomes half of your world and at times you cannot see a thing for the blizzard conditions, it can get tough. Felicity explained how her mental toughness was really tested to it’s limits. As she was dropped off at her starting point for the expedition, she described the fear and anxiety that consumed her. “This is what it feels like to be truly terrified!” said Felicity as she realised she was completely alone. She didn’t see another person until Day 26 of her expedition. Just finding the motivation to venture out of her tent every morning became a challenge: “Every morning I woke up and said to myself – I can’t do this.”
Felicity is a true hero and showed us that anything is possible if you put your mind to it. Felicity will be a guest speaker on Silversea’s Silver Cloud during its Expedition World Cruise in 2021.
9. Queen Mary 2 ship visit
On the final day of the CLIA #NextGeneration Conference we boarded Queen Mary 2 for a look around the ship. We were greeted at the Ocean Terminal with a red carpet and crew in their smart red and black uniforms. This was my first experience of a self-guided tour, which was quite liberating instead of having to be chaperoned, but one hour simply was not long enough. One of my favourite (and surprisingly quietest spots on the ship) was the impressive Grand Lobby.
I felt an atmosphere filled with class and tradition as I stepped onboard, there was also a strong smell of furniture polish! Queen Mary 2’s interior was very grand without it being in-your-face glitz and sparkle. The word that probably best describes this ship is ‘sophisticated’.
I whizzed around the ship as fast as I could to take in as much as possible. The Britannia Restaurant is stunning and elegant; the three-course meal I enjoyed here was delicious.
I could imagine myself lounging in the Chart Room or enjoying a Godiva Afternoon Tea in Sir Samuels but I was also pleased to learn that activities such as dancing and Zumba are available in the Queens Room – to shake off some of those calories.
The staterooms and suites onboard Queen Mary 2 are by far the most lavish I have ever seen. The Queens Suite was so roomy with a walk-in wardrobe, sitting area and huge balcony.
I would be in absolute heaven if I ever got the chance to stay in the Balmoral Suite.
I know that this could only become a reality if I won the lottery (approximately £15,000 per guest for a Transatlantic cruise) but is was truly eye-opening. Just the view from the bath alone was a sight to see.
10. Meeting new people
This was the first time attending the CLIA Conference and so I wasn’t really sure what to expect and didn’t realise there would be so many people (750)!
During three days I spoke to travel agents, cruise lines and fellow bloggers. Some of these people I knew before only by name or through social media so it was a great opportunity to meet them and chat about cruising in real life.
I met Sarah Christie and Donna Vallance from Cruising with Kids UK who were wonderful company for the duration. Both are passionate about cruising and encouraging families to try a cruise. They are busy ladies and put me at complete ease when I met them. I look forward to following them in their next adventure.
Gary Bembridge from Tips For Travellers is true gentleman with a wealth of knowledge. I enjoyed his company very much and despite being an incredibly successful vlogger, he had zero ego. This was refreshing to discover.
I met Andrew McAlpine from Cruise Ship Profiles for the first time at the conference. We managed to get lost several times on our ship tour of Celebrity Edge after being left behind to take photos. He has a great eye for photography and knows a lot about the cruise industry.
Becky Hardy from Cruise Addicts Magazine was a sweet, quietly-spoken lady and it was lovely to finally meet her and learn about the success of the first edition. It was also great to meet her Dad, who is also a cruise addict!
Marcus Adams from Sparkx.org surprised me with how tall he was! Marcus was only able to attend Day Two of the Conference but we had a nice chat about how we fit our blogs around our day jobs and life.
It was also great to finally meet Charlotte Humphrey from CLIA who did an excellent job in getting us organised and to where we needed to be on time. Charlotte amazingly still looked perfect after Thursday’s Gala Dinner so must be blessed with the ability to function on limited sleep. I unfortunately do not share this super power!
Other people to note:
- The cheerful Laura Croft who I spoke to about NCL‘s new Free at Sea at the Trade Fair
- Antonio Paradiso, Managing Director of MSC, UK and Ireland who educated me about Italian food
- Giles Hawke, CEO of Avalon Waterways UK who talked about his travels
- Stuart Perl, Managing Director of AmaWaterways UK, who was handing out champagne and talked about more people experiencing river cruises
The CLIA #NextGeneration Conference was a busy three days learning about, discussing and exploring cruising but I tried my best to make the most of every moment. I must admit, it was tiring but well worth it. The cruise industry is constantly growing and evolving. Yes, cruise ships are getting bigger and better but there is also diversification, personalisation and a move to becoming more environmentally-friendly. There is a continuous need to move with technological advances and raise people’s expectations.
I will leave you with one of the most powerful statements that has stayed with me from this conference.
“The reason we cruise is the land.”Larry Pimental, President and CEO of Azamara Club Cruises
Disclaimer: As a #ChooseCruise CLIA member I was invited to attend the CLIA #NextGeneration Conference. All of the views and opinions in this blog post are my own.