Pandemic Travel Trends: Cruise to Nowhere

Photo by Alonso Reyes on Unsplash

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?

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

Source: Instagram

From lockdown life to the open sea

Source: Instagram

Entertainment galore

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.

Source: Instagram
Source: Instagram

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.’

Source: Instagram

Themed cruises

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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

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.

Source: Instagram

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?

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?

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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Write to anurag.banerjee@quilt.ai for more insights on the future of travel.

Quilt.AI creates culturally intelligent AI products to drive impact at scale. More here: https://quilt.ai