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CLIA forecasts 23m cruisers in 2015

2015 trends include 'foodcations,' greater connectivity, 'travel in packs'
About 23m people are expected to take ocean cruises in 2015, a 4% increase over the estimated 22.1m in 2014, according to Cruise Lines International Association. CLIA research predicts 62% will be returning cruisers, and studies show 69% of cruisers view a seagoing holiday as a better value than a land vacation.

CLIA chairman Adam Goldstein cited new ports around the globe and cruise line investment into innovative ships as driving the industry forward. CLIA members 'continue to strive to make cruising the best overall vacation experience,' added Goldstein, the president and coo of Royal Caribbean Cruises Ltd.

Heading into 2015, 61% of North American CLIA-certified travel agents reported an increase in travel bookings over the same time the prior year. Cruise lines are enticing travelers with nearly 1,000 ports of call, a number in new, exotic locations, especially in fast-growing Asia.

Fifty-two ships will provide 1,065 Asian cruises with capacity for 2.17m passengers.

Yet the Caribbean remains the world's leading cruise destination, with a 35.5% share of available bed days. The Mediterranean follows, with a 19.5% share, and the rest of Europe accounts for 10.6% of bed days. Asia and Australia/New Zealand/Pacific have 6% each, while Alaska's share is 4.5% and South America's, 2.9%.

Consumer cruise trends identified by CLIA include the desire for memorable experiences, the need to stay connected, 'travel in packs' like multigenerational families and affinity groups, celebration travel and theme cruises. 'Foodcations' are trending, too, as people plan trips around dining. And connectivity is making large leaps thanks to advances in technology in response to higher consumer expectations and the prevalence of mobile devices.

While the Internet and mobile devices have overtaken how consumers make purchases, travel agents continue to be the most popular way to book a cruise, according to CLIA. Seven out of 10 cruisers use a travel agent to plan and book their seagoing vacations.