As culture watchers, we have been observing the surge in demand for escapist experiences since the onset of the pandemic. We saw people turn to comfort TV viewing, digital theme parks, virtual clubbing, comfort food, and flycations to cope. Things aren’t very different in 2021.
With heavy travel restrictions and continuing lockdowns in different parts of the world, people missing travel and open expanses have moved from land to sea. According to reports, over 82,000 Singaporeans have taken ‘cruises to nowhere,’ while Americans have pre-booked future cruise offerings. In fact, Oceania Cruises’ ‘Around the World in 180 Days’ 2023 sailing sold out in one day!
What’s so appealing about a cruise to nowhere?
From being a mode of transport that takes you from one place to another via the sea, cruises in 2021 have become the destination itself, much like flights to nowhere.
Search interest for ‘cruise to nowhere’ picked up in mid-2020 and saw a steep rise earlier this year. We studied travelers’ Instagram and Twitter posts tagged #cruisetonowhere using our Culture AI to unravel the popularity of these cruises and learn more about their experience.
The Cruisecation Experience
Cruisecations may have seemed like a silly concept in a pre-pandemic world, but travel-starved people are embracing them in 2021, especially in city-states like Singapore that have limited domestic travel options.
From lockdown life to the open sea
After a year of being holed up within the four corners of one’s home, being in the vast expanse of the endless sea with all COVID safety measures in place is the primary attraction for travelers. These cruises are seen as a safe haven for a worry-free trip while they finally let go and enjoy themselves.
Embarking on a cruise without being able to step out and explore different places may sound odd at first, but cruise companies have ensured there’s never a dull moment for travelers onboard.
From theatrical performances, musical concerts, and laser shows to water activities, games, and yoga — travelers reveal that even a four-day cruise isn’t enough to experience all the entertainment options and services offered on the cruise.
Although all of these activities can be enjoyed on land and aren’t unique to a cruise, just being outdoors in the sea makes travelers feel like they’re on a holiday again.
Moreover, sunbathing on the deck, dressing up and clicking vacation selfies, and attending live concerts onboard make the experience similar to visiting a new place — a brief escape from the monotony of the ‘new normal.’
After thematic flights to nowhere and Airbnb rentals, we now have themed cruises. Royal Caribbean has ‘the world’s only biker rally on a cruise ship’, a ‘Star Trek cruise’, and even ‘the 80s cruise’ with music, style, culture, and excitement of the 80s!
Such hybrid ‘entertainment with rest’ options merge the concept of theme parks with relaxing staycations, letting travelers enjoy the best of both worlds.
What our Culture AI says
Our Culture AI detected happiness, solitude, affiliation, excitement, and sensuality as the top five emotions represented in the Instagram images under #cruisetonowhere.
Happiness ranks higher than solitude and affiliation and shows us that when it comes to documenting the delights of holidaying in these times, pure fun is at the forefront of consumers’ minds, followed by moments for reflection, introspection, and connection with other people.
In addition to a wide range of entertainment choices, cruise life also offers travelers much-needed solitude and tranquility — a chance to escape from the hustle-bustle of everyday life and tune into their inner selves.
The blissful routines of relaxation and downtime are documented with captions such as “eat, sleep, repeat”, and we see photos of travelers reading a book on their private balconies or enjoying a quiet breakfast with a sea view.
Cruisecations are also a popular choice for family getaways, with activities catering to children and adults alike. Live performances, thrilling activities like tide-taming on surf simulators, free-falling, high-speed bumper car cruising, and robot bartenders keep the excitement alive.
Sensuality is signified by travelers’ posts of gourmet meals, posing in their swimsuits or evening wear, and loved ones spending quality time amidst picturesque surroundings.
The top colors detected by our Culture AI are dreamy and sensual as well: silver, light steel blue, rosy brown, steel blue, and lavender.
Will the novelty of a cruisecation last?
Several travelers express that they had a great time aboard a cruise to nowhere, but once travel re-opens, they may not sign up for such an experience again.
Some others reveal that it was nice to immerse themselves in cruise life without being distracted by external destinations since they cannot leave the cruise ship.
The cruise industry, which has been among the hardest hit during the pandemic, has few options for serious revival at the moment. While the novelty of cruisecations are likely to diminish once international borders reopen and travel as we once knew it resumes, for now, cruisecations seem to keep travelers happy and appreciative of the chance to be out in the sea — enjoying the cool sea breezes, sunrise and sunset from the deck, and a plethora of live entertainment to choose from.
What does this say about consumer behavior?
That they are more than happy to try out new forms of recreation, especially ones that offer comfort, safety, and fun, even if entirely simulated.
Instagram functions as a photo journal for users, albeit a public-facing one, and hence prone to self-editing and over-romanticizing — only presenting the good parts of the journey. Based on our Culture AI read, we see that travelers are in a hedonistic, celebratory mode after what’s been a challenging year for all.
If travel was once a means to escape from everyday reality, now with nowhere to go, cruises to nowhere and flights to nowhere offer temporary release and hope as we wait for the world to reopen.
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