Industry group expects 23 million people to take in a cruise in 2015.
Almost a million more people will take cruises this year compared with 2014, a trade group forecasts.
Some 23 million consumers around the world will cruise in 2015 — with the majority sailing from North American ports, the Cruise Lines International Association reported Monday.
That compares with an estimated 22.1 million consumers who cruised in 2014, the trade group said in its annual State of the Cruise Industry Report.
Already the cruise industry is seeing stronger demand this year, with 61 percent of North American CLIA-certified travel agents reporting increases in travel bookings from a year ago.
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The improving U.S. economy, stronger American dollar, rising consumer confidence and the addition of more port of calls in new and exotic locations such as Asia, are all helping to boost cruise reservations, CLIA officials said.
Consumers also will have newer options to choose from in 2015 as member lines are set to debut 22 ocean, river and specialty ships, the Washington, D.C.-based association said. That represents an investment of more than $4 billion and an extra 20,000 industry beds.
Among the new ships on tap will be Norwegian Cruise Line’s 4,300-passenger Norwegian Escape, which is set to sail from PortMiami in November on Caribbean cruises. Another — Royal Caribbean International’s 4,180-guest Anthem of the Seas — will launch in April in the United Kingdom and later reposition to Cape Liberty, N.J.
Here are industry trends taking shape this year, according to CLIA:
—Specialty cruises: This segment will see strong demand in 2015, CLIA said. Specialty cruises have grown by 21 percent annually from 2009 to 2014 estimates.
—Top market: The Caribbean will remain the top cruising ground with 35.5 percent of available cruise beds deployed in that market. That compares with 11 percent in Europe, 20 percent in Mediterranean, 6 percent in Australia/New Zealand and 6 percent in Asia.
—Cruise selection: It’s not so much about sailing on the biggest ship. This year passengers will focus less on size, but more on unique design and on-board amenities.
—On-board innovations: Travelers’ reliance on social media and staying connected is prompting cruise lines to add technological innovations such as bow-to-stern Wi-Fi and phone connections. Cruise lines also are adding innovative entertainment and dining options to keep options fresh for repeat customers and to appeal to millennials.