The European Cruise Market

Smaller ships get into new, undiscovered locations… while massive new vessels offer unmatched services

While the Caribbean, according to the Cruise Lines Industry Association (CLIA), remains the world’s premier cruise destination, with 37.3% of global share in 2014, the Mediterranean (18.9%) and Northern Europe (11.1%) together account for 30%.

For mainstream cruise lines, big ships have become the name of the game over the past years, luxury and niche lines are expanding their small-ship offerings. In 2015, Viking Cruises launches its new “Viking Oceans” division, debuting the 930-passenger Viking Star. Francebased Ponant launches Le Lyrial, a 264-passenger ship. These ships will take travellers off the beaten track to smaller, less trafficked ports, such as those offered in the “Best of Croatia” tour with Le Lyrial, visiting ports such as Sibenik, Pula, and Hvar.

Other new cruise ships being launched in the Mediterranean include the 2500-passenger Mein Schiff (eds: My Ship) 4, which becomes the fourth ship in German-based TUI Cruises fleet. The line caters to Germans, with German the primary language spoken onboard all Tui ships.

P&O Cruises’ new 3600-passenger Britannia will be the biggest ship ever built for the British market. The ship features “very British” interior design and features. Royal Caribbean Lines’ massive Anthem of the Seas – a sister ship of Quantum of the Seas – will feature more activities than anyone could hope to do during a cruise, and another new factor that will please travellers is “no set dining times” – a departure from common cruise practice. Labelled a «smart ship», she will be equipped with true highspeed Internet, RFID wristbands to open cabin doors and to make purchases, and an entertainment space, called Two70, that seamlessly integrates technology with live performances from singers, dancers and acrobats.



Arctic Wilderness Adventure: For a more ‘sub-zero’ nature experience, Hurtigruten, Compagnie du Ponant and Hapag-Lloyd Cruises all offer trips to the Arctic, passing through Spitsbergen, Iceland and Greenland to view the bright scenery, polar bears and walruses, to name but a few. Cruises include the Disko Bay area with giant icebergs, fjords, wildlife and spectacular landscapes and various excursions ashore with kayaking and hiking.

Camping in the Arctic: Travellers can grab a taste of real Arctic exploration and join members of the Hurtigruten expedition team for a night camping ashore in Spitsbergen, the largest and only permanently populated island of the Svalbard archipelago in northern Norway. This cruise excursion offers passengers the chance to be part of a Polar Bear watch, help set up camp and listen to tales of daring experiences by the expedition team members.

Glacier hike: For those with an explorer spirit, experience an intense hike, venturing onto the glacier as part of a rope team, using crampons and a lot of teamwork for 1-2 hours. Participants will also be lectured on Glaciology in order to better understand the surrounding nature.


European river cruising is riding on the crest of a wave – and is now the fastest growing sector of the travel industry. Over the past few years, over 50 new river ships have taken to the water, and around 20 are being launched in 2015. The season runs from March to November – plus special festive-market and New Year’s departures, and destinations include the Danube, Rhine, Main, Moselle, Seine, Rhône and Saône rivers. Increasingly, passengers are able to arrive at their departure city by high-speed train, rather than flying, as trans-European rail links are constantly improved. For many European River Cruise lines, operators include a number of shore excursions in the price. These are typically guided walking tours or cycling tours.

Europe’s largest River Cruise line, Viking River Cruises, set a new “Guinness Book” record in 2014, launching 16 new ships in one day, beating the company’s previous record of 10. By the end of 2015, Viking will have a fleet of 50 vessels in Europe.


For the first time in six years, a new river cruise company took to Europe’s rivers in 2014. Emerald Waterways made its debut on the Danube and Rhine rivers. Ships boast an onboard heated swimming pool with retractable roof, which in the evening, transforms into a cinema.


Work is underway within the EU to create more effective and uniform corridors for transport of freight and passengers. This is being implemented through the Trans-European Transport Network (TEN-T) initiative, which will be completed by 2030.

As an element in TEN-T, 83 of the Union’s 1,200 or so ports have been designated as Core Ports. These are ports, which, via their geographic location and modern infrastructure, have the greatest significance in the development of the new transport corridors.

Core ports will find it easier to obtain public support for investments and development projects, e.g. for interlinking rail and road communications or other infrastructure initiatives that will need to be implemented with more freight being handled in the company’s facilities in the future.