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In Focus: F&B@Sea

Cruise sales high, food/wine a motivator, expeditions are hot: Virtuoso

Cruise sales for 2024 and 2025 are far outpacing sales for future cruises in 2019, luxury travel's high-water mark
Future cruise demand remains high, far outpacing 2019 sales, according to Virtuoso, the luxury travel consortium.

In addition, food and wine is a travel motivator, while expedition cruising is hot.

'Cruise is stronger than ever'

During the first half of 2023, sales for cruises one to two years in the future were up 106% over 2019 — the high-water mark for luxury travel sales — and up 44% over the first half of 2022.

'Cruise is stronger than ever,' said Misty Belles, VP global public relations, during Monday's media briefing at Virtuoso Travel Week in Las Vegas.  

'When you consider the amount of product that's coming in, that's not market saturation, that's demand driving [the growth],' she added.

Food and wine a motivator

Food and wine is a strong motivator for luxury travel, with 70% of Virtuoso advisors reporting an increase in culinary travel sales.



Where are the top dining destinations? No. 1: Europe (Italy and France), No. 2: ocean/river cruising and No. 3: Mexico.

This shows how cruise lines have 'really stepped up their culinary game, with consulting chefs and new restaurants and making that a focal point,' Belles said.

And clients are willing to spend top dollar for culinary travel, with baby boomers leading the demand for food and wine trips. Virtuoso research showed 47% of clients spend between $10,000 and $25,000, 35% $5,000 up to $10,000 and 15% $25,000 to $50,000 per trip.

Brewery of distillery visits and hyper-local dining

Visiting a brewery or distillery tops the list of desired culinary experiences (88%), and authenticity/cultural immersion is a motivator (87%), with hyper-local dining — not just farm to table but neighborhood to table dining — in demand.

Only 38% of Virtuoso advisors selected Michelin-star restaurants as a motivator.

Expedition cruising is hot

At the Virtuoso Travel Week media briefing, a panel of four travel advisors was asked about the next hot thing in luxury travel, and one singled out expedition cruising.

'Expedition cruising is starting to become very popular — Antarctica and Arctic and expedition in general,' according to Sharyn Kitchener. managing director, Mosman Travel in New South Wales, Australia.