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Cruises Market Trend and Analysis by Traveller Types, Key Destinations, Challenges and Opportunities, 2022 Update

The global spending across 60 major cruise markets has increased by more than 60% YoY, resulting in total revenues of $19.4 billion in 2021. The number of global cruise passengers has increased significantly from the previous year. While the cruise industry has experienced a more than 95% YoY increase in passengers, it still does not compare to the pre-pandemic levels of 2019. North America is the leading region in the global cruise market with 6.8 million passengers that comprises more than 40% of the market. The cruise market in 2021 was turbulent. At the beginning of the year, many companies, governments, and travel authorities had predicted a stronger recovery for 2021, but unfortunately, that was not the case. The pandemic has proven somewhat unpredictable, with many destinations going into second and third lockdowns during 2021 after a global surge in COVID-19 cases, hospital admissions, and deaths.

The cruise industry remains uncertain, and many ships were retired between 2019 and 2021 in order to reduce costs and make the companies more profitable. Cruise ships are the most expensive assets both as a fixed assets and to operate, making this practice necessary. However, more optimistic times lie ahead for the sector. During the pandemic, the cruise industry has witnessed new innovative cruise ships and a brand-new competitor in Virgin Voyages. Many cruise liners have come good with orders for new cruise ships built before the pandemic, resulting in an exciting time for loyal cruise holidaymakers to try new ships, services, and onboard experiences.

Overview of the global cruise market

Overview of the global cruise market

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What are the market dynamics of the global cruise market?

Many cruise companies have shifted advertising content to VR (Virtual Reality), particularly during the pandemic. With millions stuck at home and unable to travel, many are yearning for a holiday experience. VR can provide a small slice of that experience during isolation. For many travel and tourism companies, it is one of the only options to offer potential customers any sort of experience during a lockdown. It is currently unclear how the digital advancements in this type of marketing will affect the cruise market, as many travellers are over the age of 50 and are less likely to be persuaded by high-tech advertising. However, with many cruise companies trying to attract younger markets, advertising is starting to evolve.

Cruise companies such as Norwegian Cruise Lines have reacted to this with innovative advertising that encompasses VR and customer engagement. This form of marketing and PR is essential, with many cruise companies grounded or dealing with significantly reduced demand. As a result, cruises have been forced into revaluating the marketplace and creating new content which is able to push the cruise line into the forefront of the customer’s mind so that when the pandemic eases, the company will be top of the traveller’s list.

Throughout 2021 the travel industry endured turbulent times, with lockdowns apparent throughout the year worldwide. This resulted in many cruise routes being pulled from the sale or cancelled. This disruption pushed cruise lines to create domestic itineraries. Generally, domestic tourism had fewer restrictions as the strict bans were enforced on international arrivals rather than domestic travel. With a continuing emphasis on health and wellbeing due to the pandemic, these trends will continue in the industry and will become a key selling point for a cruise line.

What are the different types of cruises in the global cruise market?

Different types of cruises in the global cruise market are family cruises, luxury cruises, and classic cruises.

Family cruises: Despite a high average age within the cruise industry, family cruises are popular also. Itineraries will include several destinations hand-picked to provide multiple attractions and activities suitable for families with children of all ages. Facilities and amenities onboard usually include swimming pools, water play areas, live entertainment venues, kids’ clubs, and cabins built explicitly with families in mind. Day and night-time entertainment is usually packed with shows aimed at varying ages and can range from magic shows, live music performances, comedy, and dance acts. Some cruises like Walt Disney provide specialist-themed family entertainment. Other key brands within the family cruise sector are Carnival Cruises, Royal Caribbean Family Cruises, and P&O Family Cruises.

Luxury cruises: North America was the most prominent luxury cruise market in 2021, with 11.9 million passengers in 2021. The market was being segmented into three areas; Ocean cruises, river cruises, and small ship/yacht cruises. Luxury cruises are often mistaken with mid-range ships aimed at entirely different markets due to the conflicting messaging caused by the overuse of the word ‘luxurious’ within advertising campaigns. However, luxury cruises are a different product. These cruises typically specialize in more niche activities and destinations which are in demand with high spending travelers. Each of the luxury cruise lines focuses on specialist cruises including expedition-style cruises, sailing ships, and a growing number of river cruises too. The Speciality lines all offer a unique experience that guests find educational and adventurous. Certain premium cruises may take them to some of the world’s most remote and unspoiled places such as the Arctic.

Classic cruises: Classic cruises typically offer all the elements of the core cruise product which keep in play with all the traditional elements of cruising. This includes formal evening parties, set dinner times, bridge evenings, and the Captain’s Table is part and parcel of the cruise experience. For this reason, classical cruises are more likely to attract older tourists who are familiar with the tried and tested service. These cruise lines offer a traditional, elegant cruise holiday experience, with experiences onboard designed for well-seasoned travelers looking for quality and sophistication. As a result, many classic cruises are adults-only. While some more contemporary cruise ships are going in a new direction, by eliminating things like the buffet, there are still cruise lines that offer the quintessential cruise experience. However, this is becoming a rarity, with many old cruise ships retiring or needing refurbishment. These cruises are popular with older travelers, such as the silent generation. This is because they include many of the traditional elements previously mentioned. However, many of these cruise ships are no longer advertised by many companies, preferring to attract slightly younger adults. Other cruise companies have opted for a more contemporary product, such as Norwegian Cruise Lines. At the same time, newcomer Virgin Voyages has also shown a preference to do the same with the hope of attracting more millennials to their product.

Which are the key players in the global cruise market?

Walt Disney Co, Expedia Group, Carnival Corporation, Royal Caribbean Group, NYK Line, MSC Cruises, Norwegian Cruise Line Holdings, TUI AG, Lindblad Expeditions Holdings, and Saga PLC are the key companies in the global cruise market.

Global cruise market, by key players

Global cruise market, by key players

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Market report scope

Market Revenue (year – 2021) $19.4 billion
YoY >60%
Key categories Family cruise, Luxury cruise, and Classic cruise
Key companies Walt Disney Co, Expedia Group, Carnival Corporation, Royal Caribbean Group, NYK Line, MSC Cruises, Norwegian Cruise Line Holdings, TUI AG, Lindblad Expeditions Holdings, and Saga PLC


  • This report provides an analysis of key market trends, M&A deals, and company strategies in the cruising industry.
  • Major cruise companies are assessed, along with an analysis of alternative cruise types to provide valuable insight.
  • Challenges along with opportunities in the industry are explained in relation to industry examples.

Reasons to Buy

  • Gain an insight into the cruise industries leading players.
  • Understand how they have adapted to the threat of COVID-19.
  • Understand the key traveler types of cruise companies can look to attract.
  • Look at the key product developments and why they appeal.
  • Gain a detailed understanding of the key trends, issues, and challenges facing cruise companies.

Key Players





Holland American Cruises

Norwegian Cruise Lines

Royal Caribbean



Virgin Voyages

Table of Contents

Table of Contents


Cruise Projects, Mergers and Acquisitions

Cruise Types and Trends

Key Market Trends Influenced By COVID-19

Current Market Trends

Company Case Study – Virgin Voyages

Challenges and Opportunities


Frequently Asked Questions

The total revenue of the global cruise market in 2021 was valued at $19.4 billion.


The key types of the global cruise market include family cruises, luxury cruises, and classic cruises.

Walt Disney Co, Expedia Group, Carnival Corporation, Royal Caribbean Group, NYK Line, MSC Cruises, Norwegian Cruise Line Holdings, TUI AG, Lindblad Expeditions Holdings, and Saga PLC are the key players in the global cruise market.


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