The Rise of Ultra-Luxury Cruises

The Rise of Ultra-Luxury Cruises

Cruise travel is booming with luxury travellers increasingly choosing to spend their holiday on-board ultra-luxury cruise liners. The cruise industry has been growing y-o-y since 2007, and according to Royal Caribbean Cruises CEO Richard Fain, the ultra-luxury and expedition segments are growing at twice the rate of any other segment in the industry.1

Growth in the cruise industry is expected to continue, with CLIA (Cruise Lines International Association, Inc.) predicting 27.2 million cruise passengers in 2018, a 5% increase from 2017.2 The major drivers in the market are both seasoned cruise passengers and affluent travellers who are yet to experience an ultra-luxury cruise, however, still expect to receive the very best service. This recent increase in bookings has led to a surge in the number of ultra-luxury cruise ships being created.

Virtuoso’s 2018 Luxe Report found that seeking authentic experiences is the third highest travel motivation for luxury travellers.3 Supporting this trend, Chris Austin, SVP of Global Marketing & Sales for ultra-luxury cruise line, Seabourn, told ILTM that “today’s affluent consumer is placing an even greater emphasis on seeking truly authentic, memorable experiences whereas in years past they would spend more on luxury goods. They are seeking new, bolder places to discover that are perceived for only a few to access. They are travellers – not tourists.” Seabourn have responded to this growing demand by announcing that they will be introducing two new ultra-luxury expedition ships to their offering in 2021 and 2022; giving passengers the chance to experience a “unique combination of thrilling, immersive adventures with generous, ultra-luxury amenities.”

Seabourn’s latest additions will sail amongst some of the most remote locations, including Antarctica and Patagonia, giving travellers the chance to experience ultra-luxury in some of the farthest places on earth. Passengers will be able to experience these unique destinations by submarine, kayak and Zodiac; “just imagine cruising in a Zodiac past flocks of porpoising penguins, watching a breaching humpback whale, or paddling alongside immense blue-white icebergs,” says Chris Austin. Passengers will also have the chance to immerse themselves in unparalleled on and off-shore experiences, without compromising on any of the luxury amenities that they would expect to receive at a five star plus hotel. Including everything from Michelin-starred cuisine by Chef Thomas Keller to a hot-stone massage in Seabourn’s world-class spa; there really is something for everyone.

But what differentiates an expedition ship from a regular cruise ship? Chris tells us the first difference is its size, “since expedition ships will usually be smaller to gain greater access so guests can get up close to highly desirable scenery and wildlife in locations that just can’t be accessed by larger ships.” However, this is not to say that these ships aren’t spacious, in fact the opposite is true. As Chris notes the second most important difference is “luxury”, with Seabourn fostering “a private, club-like atmosphere that discerning luxury travellers seek, along with highly intuitive personalized service.” Personalized service is an increasingly important factor for affluent travellers, particularly within the ultra-luxury cruise market, whether this be personalized itineraries and tailor-made experiences or bespoke dining packages and personalized excursions. Seabourn offers the complete package for discerning travellers who seek ultra-luxury, unique and customised experiences.

We’ll be catching up with Seabourn and other luxury cruise lines at ILTM Cannes this year. To meet them too, join us in Cannes, 3-6 December, 2018.


  1. Skift – Seabourn is building expedition ships as demand for luxury adventure grows
  2. Cruise Lines International Association, Inc. – 2018 Cruise Industry Outlook
  3. Virtuoso’s 2018 Luxe Report


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