Bargains, solo travel and short cruises: trends for 2009

A PART from endeavouring to get the best possible bargains, cruise trends appearing in 2009 include more solo travellers, shorter cruises and learning vacations, according to experts in the industry.
Some say strike while the iron is hot and that 2009 is looking like the biggest buyers’ market ever, with the lowest fares people have seen in quite some time.
Many cruise lines include perks for people travelling on their own. While these travellers often had to pay as much as double the cruise fare to occupy a cabin alone, some are now getting special deals. Some cruise lines are waiving single supplements altogether and offering last minute special prices. P&O’s announcement that it will design and build solo cabins in its new Azura, due for launch in 2010, is even better news for single cruise goers.
Travellers who can be flexible with dates can take advantage of home port cruising and book last minute cruises, which has generally been the trend among customers of Costa Cruises in the UAE. Cruise tourists have grown dramatically since European operator Costa Crociere began using Dubai as hub for cruises, also covering Abu Dhabi, Muscat and Bahrain.
Dubai received just 2,700 cruise passengers from five ship calls in 2003. Last year 113,000 cruise passengers visited the city. The emirate is fast becoming a hub for cruise tourism and arrivals here are expected to grow to 200,000 this year.
More short cruises are also likely this year; Holland America Line and Norwegian Cruise Line have debut cruises of four nights or less from the UK this year, while Viking River Cruises has new cruise breaks on the Rhine.
There are 13 new ships launching. Most notable are Yachts of Seabourn’s Seabourn Odyssey, the first ultra luxury cruise ship to be launched for six years, and Royal Caribbean International’s Oasis of the Seas, which holds 5,400 passengers and boasts the first zipwire and carousel at sea. The ship will have inside balcony cabins with views over Central Park – a park with real shrubs that is open to the elements.
Learning vacations are a way to combine the cost of classes and equipment along with luxury accommodations for a unique experience, such as that offered at Bitter End Yacht Club in the British Virgin Islands. The weekly rate of $4,700 for two includes six nights’ on shore accommodations, all meals, an Intro to Sailing course and unlimited use of the Club’s fleet of yachts, sailboats and catamarans for the week, a Champagne welcome cruise, sunset sails, snorkeling trips, day-long chartered excursions and cocktail parties. See .
by Cheryl Mandy