Cruise industry has new focus Experts say more emphasis on food, family groups.
Specialty food By Beth J. Harpaz, AP Travel Editor
NEW YORK -- Cruise trends as the 2013 season gets under way are shaping up to include a bigger focus on multi-generational groups, more specialty food offerings, and continued efforts to wow passengers with new onboard firsts like an aquapark, a glass walkway and a vertical garden.
Seems like every cruise line is upscaling and expanding food options. Disney Dream and Disney Fantasy in October began offering a $50 per person Champagne brunch at Remy, Disney Cruise Line's adult-only restaurant named for the character from the animated film "Ratatouille," with dishes created by the French Michelin-starred chef Arnaud Lallement.
The Norwegian Breakaway will have everything from a churrascaria (Brazilian-style steakhouse) to separate bars for Asian noodles, gelato and raw shellfish. On MSC's forthcoming Preziosa ship, there will be an Eataly Restaurant modeled on the Manhattan Italian gourmet food mall.
Celebrity chef Jacques Pepin has served as Oceania Cruises' executive culinary director for nine years, and this September, he'll be a guest on Oceania's Riviera ship, doing a cooking demonstration, Q&A, and meet-and-greets with guests at his namesake onboard restaurant, Jacques, and the ship's culinary center.
But there may be a downside to some of the new food offerings. Arnold Boris, editor-in-chief of Cruise Gourmet, said he has found that as specialty food options with extra fees increase, basics that used to be offered for free decrease. "It's all unbundled now," he said.
Spencer Brown agreed: "The quality of the main dining room has gone downhill while they've raised the prices to get into these alternative restaurants."
For example, she said Royal Caribbean now charges for food in the dining room that used to come with your cruise. Surf and turf is $38 but surf and turf used to be part of the dinner. Multigenerational
Fewer cruise lines are building brand-new ships, but many are doing intensive renovations on existing ships. Some of these renovations involve adding new spaces to accommodate a fast-growing segment: multigenerational groups. Cruises are being marketed as the perfect vacation for grandparents, parents and kids to take together because they can pursue different activities onboard, then have a meal or shore excursion together.
On Norwegian, for example, between 15 and 20 percent of guests on any cruise are part of a multigenerational group, according to spokeswoman Vanessa Lane. "Families are the second-largest cruising segment, only behind the 55-plus age group," she said.
More than half of Carnival bookings involve more than one stateroom, no doubt many booked by family groups.
Even luxury lines, which tend to attract an older crowd than mass-market ships, are seeing more children. n