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Cruiser survey results point to strong short- to mid-term demand

Passengers arriving at Cozumel
Results from the inaugural ocean cruisers survey from Tourism Economics, an Oxford Economics company, reveal that cruisers in general, and younger generations in particular, are enthusiastic about cruise vacations, boding well for future cruise demand.

The findings, drawn from the survey conducted in Q4 2023 among a sample of over 2,400 cruisers from the US, UK, Canada, Germany, and Australia – markets which collectively represent around 70% of global passenger volume – also show high levels of satisfaction in the industry which is helping to generate significant repeat business.

“Our inaugural cruise industry survey provided rich intelligence on the state of the cruise industry. The findings reveal high customer satisfaction and growing interest in cruise vacations which is highly encouraging. However, there are variations in the behavior of cruisers and their perceptions of cruise regions and destinations. Understanding and reacting to market trends using industry tools such as the Cruise-Intelligence Platform enables strategic advantages at this particularly exciting time for the industry,” said Sean Morgan, head of travel industry research at Tourism Economics.

There was little evidence to suggest lingering "long-COVID" impacts are hampering the industry as cruisers expressed a higher interest in cruising now compared with pre-pandemic.


The level of interest in cruising increased for each younger generation with the youngest audience, those aged 18-34, showing the highest enthusiasm for cruise vacations. This is an encouraging finding which highlights opportunities for the industry. Currently, much of the new capacity being launched is aligned with large and mega-vessels which are well suited to host multigenerational families. These vessels and the extensive cruise experiences they offer can provide an effective way to attract and convert ‘new-to-cruise’ customers.

However, there is a sense among post-pandemic cruisers that smaller or mid-size vessels are preferable compared with larger vessels.

This preference for smaller and, more so, mid-size cruise vessels does not currently impact demand as many cruise operators with large vessels have recently reported record-level bookings. But in the long term, it will be fascinating to monitor how the industry performs if smaller and mid-size vessels are not replaced which might result in a potential disconnect between supply and demand.



High satisfaction leads to loyalty

Another strong signal pointing to the industry's strength is high satisfaction with the cruise experience which is generating high likelihood for cruisers to cruise again within a year.

The overall net result, which is the difference between those who rated the cruise experience good and those who rated the experience poor, was an impressive +86%. Fewer than 5% of all respondents rated their last cruise as poor or very poor while nearly 90% considered the experience to be good or very good. 

Meanwhile, the results among the youngest customers aged 18 to 34 were even more encouraging with a net result of 94%


Likely influenced by high underlying satisfaction, there were strong signals of intent to undertake another cruise within the next 12 months. The overall net result, the difference between those who stated that it was likely they would undertake a cruise in the next 12 months and those who stated unlikely, was +65%. Put differently, around three-quarters of respondents said it was likely they would undertake a cruise within the next 12 months while only around 10% thought that it was as unlikely.

Once again, younger customers were more enthusiastic than those in the oldest age group. The net results among cruisers mostly aligned with Gen X, Y and Z segments were above 70% compared with 59% among those aged 55+.


Destinations contribute to high satisfaction with the cruise experience

Destinations are a key driver influencing the choice of cruise for many consumers. Visiting destinations as a result is an important element of the overall cruise experience.

It is encouraging, therefore, that the research identified satisfaction regarding the destination visits undertaken by cruisers. Overall destination net satisfaction, the difference between those who rated their destination visit as good compared to those who rated the visit as poor, was +79%. The results implied that over 80% of destination visits were good or very good while fewer than 5% were considered poor.


However, these results were below the overall cruise experience results which highlights potential improvements may be required regarding destination experiences.

The research also revealed insightful trends regarding destination experiences across global cruise regions. When looking at the main cruise destinations, destinations in Northern Europe were rated the highest (overall net result of +83%). There was little to separate destinations in the four other key global regions as the destination net results scores were just below +80% in Alaska, Australasia, the Med, and the Caribbean. 

Environmental concerns are higher for younger generations

A key focus for the industry is the drive towards net-zero cruising by 2050. The survey tracked the view of consumers regarding the environmental impact of cruising and other forms of travel to assess the industry's progress towards this goal.


Varying attitudes on environmental aspects were observed among cruisers in different age groups. Overall, the results implied that cruisers are somewhat concerned about the environmental impact of cruises and travel in general, but they do not distinguish between the two.


However, younger audiences had stronger views on the topic as they highlighted more concerns regarding the environmental impact of both cruises and travel overall. These findings highlight the importance of sustainability initiatives to leverage the enthusiasm of younger audiences toward cruising in the future.

Opportunities in both the short- and long-term

The short-term prospects for the cruise industry are positive as high satisfaction with cruise experiences is likely to lead to high loyalty and significant repeat business. Destinations are a key driver in the cruise selection process. Ensuring that destination experiences match expectations is particularly important. This includes offering appealing and diverse itineraries which access sought after destinations.

Over the long-term, it will be interesting to monitor if post-COVID preferences for mid-size and smaller vessels lead to a potential disconnect as most of the new capacity to be launched is aligned with large and mega vessels. The views and behavior of younger cruisers will shape the industry going forward. Sustainability initiatives will likely play an increasingly important role in building loyalty and attracting interest among younger generations.

About Tourism Economics

Tourism Economics, an Oxford Economics company, combines deep knowledge of tourism dynamics with rigorous economics to answer the most important questions facing global destinations and corporations. To get in touch with our team, reach out to [email protected].

Christian Savelli and Cruise Lines International Association's Chris Mastrippolito, director of research, will be presenting research at Seatrade Cruise Global on April 10 at 3:15 p.m. in the Cruising Innovations Theater #4807