With family cruising becoming an increasingly integral part of the industry how are the major cruise lines competing in a growing market? The answer: cartoon cruising.
Now I'm not talking about Wacky Racers-style ships, but with the growth of Disney Cruise Lines, and their character based environments, other major cruise lines are looking at ways not to miss out on this audience. Over the past few months we have seen NCL team up with Nickelodeon, and Royal Caribbean have just announced a partnership with DreamWorks Animation.
Does this mean cruise ships being taken over by 6ft cartoon characters or just a great way of entertaining the kids while the parents enjoy a relaxing afternoon by the pool?
Disney Cruises are in the process of building two new ships to add to their already popular Disney Magic and Disney Wonder. Whereas most cruise lines are aimed at a broad customer base these guys have gone for a niche market, familys and Disney fans. Now whereas the thought of a week of people dressed as cartoon characters and constantly excited staff terrifies me, Sarah from Iglu took her family on a Disney Cruise over Easter and loved it.
For Sarah the entertainment for the kids was outstanding. If you are a Disney fan you can meet your favourite characters, watch a whole selection of films on deck or in the theatre and for the younger children there is a range of character based entertainment within the childcare facilities. For the family market Disney have definitely hit the nail on the head, and the other cruise lines are trying to follow suit.
The recent big news is Royal Caribbean's tie up with DreamWorks Animation. The idea is pretty much to match Disney but better them at their own game. The new ships will be fitted with 3D theatres, and the Freedom Class ships will shortly also be upgraded, showing DreamWorks' latest and greatest films, there will again be character based entertainment programs, no doubt featuring a 6ft Shrek or Alex (Madagascar), and opportunities to meet the characters.
With Royal Caribbean offering three of the largest ships at sea, with the 5,200 capacity Oasis class ships and the 4,200 capacity Independence of the Seas, there is also incredible amounts of entertainment for the adults. You can drop your children off at kids club after dinner and enjoying Hair Spray on Oasis of the Seas or Chicago: The Musical on Allure of the Seas in the theatre, try your luck in the casino or spend an afternoon in the adult only solarium.
Now not to forget NCL who did manage to beat Royal Caribbean to the punch with the Nickelodeon partnership, my only question is can Sponge Bob Square Pants cut the mustard compared to Mickey Mouse and Buzz Lightyear? Again with the seemingly standard character based entertainment and their freestyle cruising you have another option that is essentially the same but different.
With three major cruise lines offering cartoon cruising are we looking at an animation war, or do they all offer something different enough to appeal to different audiences?
I don't know about you but I grew up watching '80s cartoons, He-Man, Thundercats and Transformers, these days kids have Shrek, Toy Story and Sponge Bob. Will the characters themselves dictate who people will cruise with? Will people choose their cruise by virtue of their favourite characters and films, the itineraries or the ship?
Disney, the original cartoon cruises, have mass appeal in terms of family based cruising but what will their appeal to couples and groups be? Royal Caribbean have some of the most iconic modern characters in Shrek, Woody and the Penguins (again Madagascar) since Optimus Prime and WilyKat, they have a huge amount of adult entertainment, and I'm fairly sure you could go an entire week without a encountering a single cartoon. Norwegian Cruise Lines and especially the Norwegian Epic can also offer the combination of children's entertainment, adult only escapism and are the more informal, and probably excitable choice of the three.
I may not have kids yet but I know which one of these three gets my vote, do you?
The Iglucruise website is currently home to 159 ships and 22 cruise lines, with so much choice available there surely must be a cruise for everyone. Modern cruising seems to be growing by the day, Royal Caribbean are putting the finishing touches on Allure of the Seas - sister ship to the world's largest cruise ship, Princess Cruises have ordered two new ships, P&O recently launched the Azura and Celebrity are expanding the Solstice class. These are just the tip of the iceberg in terms of new ships.
My question is with so much choice out there, such variety in cruising styles, and the cruise lines vying for our attention, how do you know what is the right holiday for you?
The most popular types of cruising at Iglu Towers appear to come in the form of American-style cruises, British-style cruises and Italian-style cruises. Cruising styles also range from your 3* affordable family cruises such as Ocean Village to your 6* luxury all-inclusive lines like Silversea. With so many first time cruisers out there I wanted to take a look at what all this means, and what would I chose.
As I'm sat in London I'll start with British-style cruises and cruise lines. Cunard are the first to come to mind, the 5* luxury cruise line with it's famous ships. Next you are looking at P&O Cruises, a 4* cruise line renowned for great service and modern ships. Fred Olsen Cruises offer affordable holidays on their smaller ships and Thomson Cruises are a great value line with an informal atmosphere and great itineraries.
American-style cruising tends to be a more vibrant affair with huge emphasis on entertainment. Cruise lines such as Regent Seven Seas are at the 6* luxury end of the market, Celebrity Cruises offer great value 5* cruises, the likes of Royal Caribbean and Norwegian Cruise Lines are the 4* affordable cruises. Onboard Royal Caribbean and NCL you w
Italian-style cruising is also a growing aspect of the industry. Silversea cruises offer a more glamorous and luxurious experience, with suite based all-inclusive cruises. MSC Cruises and Costa Cruises offer the main market share. These are more continental feeling, with European-style food, service and entertainment onboard, and a real mixture of cultures for a mostly European clientele.
With this in mind I decided to speak to the cruise team to find out their favourite ship, with mixed results. My personal favourite has to be the Sun Princess, at 2,000 passengers for me it's not too big or too small. Though an older ship in the fleet it has a great atmosphere and a core crew who seem to go back year after year (plus I spent 3 months onboard in Alaska!).
Most of the team at Iglucruise have either worked on board or are serial cruisers, here's what they had to say.
What's my favourite ship? Well, I've seen them big and I've seen them small, I've seen them long and I've seen them tall, I've had the best service you can have possibly imagined, And I've seen stage shows that belong in the West End, I've dined in restaurants that deserve a star from Michelin, And I've sipped a sunset cocktail in an exotic location, I've seen discos that rock through the night, And I've seen piano bars that get the romance just right, But in the end it comes to down this, It all depends on the person you're with.
If I have to choose just one ship, then let it be the MSC Orchestra. Large enough to keep you occupied and that Italian service is just right. Not overbearing and not too formal. I especially like the bar at the stern for a sunset cocktail. - A.J
Independence of the Seas! I loved the size of this ship, it hardly felt like you were at sea. I loved the shopping promenade running through the middle, with bars and restaurants on either side of it. I had a blast doing Karaoke in the booths they have. You can change the booth to make it private or so people can see in. Was a lot of fun. My favourite ship I have been on. Had something for everyone. - Keren
I'm fairly new to cruising but I had a great experience
My favourite ship is the Independence of the Seas, they have the best leisure and sporting facilities at sea, not to mention the opulent stage productions and ice shows! - Walter
My favourite ship is the Eclipse which is a Celebrity ship... because it has a martini bar! - Tracy
My favourite ship would have to be the Celebrity Eclipse. It's a classy, luxurious ship with an excellent crew. It has all of the necessities with a bar located in every corner of the ship and excellent dining options to fill the time between. The ship is big enough to get lost, but it still somehow feels quaint. All in all a great cruise ship. - August
My favourite ship is Royal Caribbean's Independence of the Seas. There is plenty on the ship to keep you entertained, good food and very friendly staff. - Cynthia
I love the Celebrity Eclipse which completely changed my outlook on cruising. It is a spectacular ship, offering the best food, service & the most deliciously potent cocktails I have ever come across! - James
Oasis of the Seas is huge, absolutely beautiful, and the innovative neighbourhood concept provides a marvellous atmosphere for cruisers. With so much onboard variety, travellers will need a week's cruise (or more) to thoroughly experience the Oasis of the Seas. - Jay
Best ship so far... I would have to say the Celebrity Eclipse. I love this ship for all its facilities such as the spa and wide range of bars! The onboard entertainment is fantastic and you cannot beat the service and friendliness of the staff. - Rebecca
Cunard's Queen Mary 2. Service was great and my balcony room was exceptional and very spacious. I enjoyed every day on this beautiful ship. I would recommend dinning in the Todd English specialty restaurant which serves the best steaks I have ever had, and you can even dine Al fresco. This cruise is an experience you must try, worth every penny. - Dennis (Iglu's original cruiser)
The Marco Polo from Cruise and Maritime: A ship with character, unpretentious clientele, often sailing stunning itineraries. - Maarten
The ship I most like to sell is P&O's Oceana. It may not have as many facilities compared to the newer, more modern ships but it's certainly made up for by the atmosphere onboard. It's the most popular ship for first timers cruising with P&O, and with good reason. - Matt
I would have to say Celebrity Eclipse is my favourite ship. The facilities are 5* standard. The decor, the rooms and the food are exceptionally impressive, not to mention the bars and clubs where you can dance the night away in style. Highly recommended. - Sharlene
MSC Orchestra, because the staff really care about their passengers in a way I have not experienced in over 20 years of working in the travel industry. Maybe the reason is that the staff are on nine month contracts rather than six which means they genuinely do care about their passengers otherwise they wouldn't last the contracts - but whatever the reason it does lead to a great atmosphere on board. - David
The most beautiful ship I saw must be the Equinox. I loved the attention to details, handmade chairs, Swarovski glass everywhere, Ice bar which melts every day, the food was second to none, however my favourite ship would be the Braemar, only because everything was just easier, more relaxed. Cabins are twice as big, staff was the friendliest and always happy to see you. It felt like being at Grandma's on holidays and you could see yourself coming back again and again. - Linda
Celebrity Eclipse. How something that weighs 122,000 tonnes can stay afloat baffles me. There is also plenty of variation in the casino. - Calaway
I would have said the Ventura, fantastic food and very grand ship, but... there is something about the MSC Magifica that wins for me. A beautiful, plush ship with a real quality finish. - Kwesi
Celebrity Eclipse. Elegant, stylish, contemporary luxury with no expense spared. Standing out from the rest of the cruise lines with special touches such as the first real grass lawn on the top deck with 360 degree views of the ocean, an outdoor glass-blowing studio and the martini ice bar with the frosted bar and the best martinis around. And for me, possibly most importantly, outstanding dining, culinary treats and top class service to impress even the most demanding guest. - Katherine
Independence of the Seas. The flowrider really is a giggle. - Dave Mills
As you can see there is a fairly varied response, the Independence of the Seas and Celebrity Eclipse may be the most popular ships, but there are fans of P&O, Cunard, MSC and even the smaller cruise lines like Fred Olsen.
Cruising is about finding the right ship for you. I prefer the elegance of Princess Cruises and the mid sized ships, some people love the size and incredible entertainment on Royal Caribbean's ships, and other, well... are just after a top notch cocktail!
If you're looking for your first cruise or something different the best bet is speak to the experts and let them help you find the right ship for you.
Written by Stephen Adam
We appear to be right slap bang in the middle of repo cruise season - that is - a time when repositioning cruises represent magnificent value. The most recent addition to the website is the Norwegian Gem reposition from Barcelona to New York on the 29th November 2009. This one starts at £299 for the 13 night cruise - we've added return flights and 2 nights in New York all for £799 pp - ideal for a pre Christmas shopping trip?
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