P&O Cruises is promising holidaymakers a new experience onboard its newest ship Iona in 2020, demonstrating how cruise companies are hoping to encourage passengers to sample more of each destination’s local nightlife.

Experiential travel 2020

Ocean cruise liners typically travel through the night and dock in the morning, allowing visitors to visit daytime attractions on land and enjoy the often extravagant nightlife options provided onboard the cruise. As a result cruise companies offer as many destinations as possible within a cruise itinerary.

However, some passengers may feel they are missing out on the nightlife of the cities they are visiting, a fact that may put prospective guests off cruises in general.

P&O Cruises, based in Southampton, England, will inaugurate Iona with overnight stays in Barcelona, Lisbon, Cadiz, and Rotterdam as part of the ship’s debut season.

While cruises can provide top-class musicals, comedy shows and dances, it may feel a little unauthentic for travellers more interested in immersing themselves in the local culture. Overnight stays are shaking up traditional cruise holidays and will help to attract a larger range of travellers including culture-seekers and those from younger generations.

Carnival Corporation, which owns P&O, has already ventured into late and overnight stays at ports, with Princess Cruises’ More Ashore programme. Evening stays are available in multiple places across the Caribbean, California and Hawaii with overnight stays in Cabo San Lucas in Mexico proving popular. One of Carnival’s largest competitors, Royal Caribbean, is also already offering overnight stays. Its brand Azmara has already introduced AzAmazing nights, and its Celebrity brand has Evenings Around the World offering an array of options for night owls.

Experiential travel is a booming trend

According to a GlobalData survey, 53% of 18-24-year-olds would rather spend on new experiences than new products, so this age group could be potentially very lucrative should cruise companies choose to target them. Younger generations are also most likely to want to experience the bars and clubs of the cities they visit giving them a reason to consider a cruise.

Cruise companies are increasingly incorporating overnight stays into their itineraries and particularly clever cruise timings mean that passengers can enjoy events such as the Chinese New Year in Hong Kong, Carnival in Rio de Janeiro, and the Fringe Festival in Edinburgh knowing they can go back to the ship afterwards to enjoy the rest of their holiday.

Cruise companies are hoping passengers will now be able to see a different side to the destinations they offer and that this will attract different types of travellers. These companies will also benefit from additional partnerships with the evening event organisers and the extra revenue from excursions.

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