Domestic Cruise Industry Sails to Growth

Domestic Cruise Industry Sails to Growth

Ocean and domestic water cruises continue to attract consumer interest, as they offer a unique experience and numerous destinations per trip. In particular, consumer interest is piqued by the increased availability of cruises that explore local gems such as the Alaska Coast, Puget Sound, Columbia River, the Mississippi River, the Great Lakes, and the Atlantic and Gulf coasts. Providers of domestic cruises, which travel on the US coasts and inland waterways, are benefiting from this trend.

A Turbulent History

Compared to relatively cheaper contemporary ocean cruises, coastal, lake, and river cruises are niche services, marked by smaller ships and high prices. Due to the smaller market for such cruises, short- and long-term shifts in vacation habits exact a heavy toll on service demand and availability. For instance, a long-term shift in vacation preferences resulted in the passage of several decades between the demise of the Great Lakes passenger cruising industry and its restoration with the establishment of the Great Lakes Cruise Company in 1998. Furthermore, consumer spending on inland water cruises (eg, Mississippi River cruises) declined strongly due to the 2007-2009 recession, leading many providers to cease operations. However, rebounds in spending led to increases in the availability of river cruises.

New Ships Enter Service in Domestic Waters

Continued increases in consumer interest in US coastal, lake, and river cruises has led to rising investment by providers of such services, resulting in higher industry capacity and higher-quality services. For instance, American Cruise Lines, a leading domestic water cruise provider:

  • added a second riverboat to its Columbia and Snake River line in April 2016
  • introduced a new riverboat into service in May 2016 for the Mississippi River line
  • ordered two new cruise ships in November 2016 for coastal routes
  • announced plans in March 2017 to purchase five new riverboats, which will feature the modern styling of European riverboats; the first new riverboat is expected to enter service in 2018 and is designed to carry 200 guests
  • announced a doubling of capacity in the Pacific Northwest for 2018.

In addition, Lindblad Expeditions Holdings – a provider of tours in the Pacific Northwest as well as other destinations around the world – in January 2017 announced two new additions to its fleet:

  • National Geographic Quest – expected to launch in July 2017 – for cruises in the Pacific Northwest (spanning Alaska, British Columbia, the Columbia and Snake Rivers, and the San Juan Islands) as well as other destinations in the Americas
  • National Geographic Venture – expected to launch in June 2018 – for cruises in the Pacific Northwest spanning the areas around Alaska, British Columbia, and the San Juan Islands.

Lindblad Expeditions Holdings provides travelers with the experience of an exploration. For example, both of the ships mentioned above will include inflatable landing craft to explore places hard to access.

Learn More

For more insights into the US water transport industry, see Water Transport Services: United States, a report published by the Freedonia Focus Reports division of the Freedonia Group. The report forecasts revenues for US water transport services in nominal and real (inflation-adjusted) dollars to 2021. Total revenues in nominal terms are segmented by establishment type in terms of:

  • deep sea freight
  • inland water freight
  • coastal and Great Lakes freight
  • deep sea passenger
  • coastal and Great lakes passenger
  • inland water passenger.

Total revenues in real terms are segmented by establishment type in terms of:

  • deep sea freight
  • inland water freight
  • coastal and Great Lakes freight passenger.

The scope of this report includes the revenues of for-hire water transport firms, as well as for-hire fleets dedicated to a particular client. Captive water transport services (ie, businesses that maintain their own boats, ships, or barges to transport company goods or employees) are excluded. Also excluded are scenic and sightseeing water transport services.

To illustrate historical trends, total revenues in nominal and real terms, the various segments, and trade are provided in annual series from 2006 to 2016.

Related Focus Reports include Air Transport Services: United States, Freight by Truck: United States, Freight by Rail: United States, Freight Services: United States, and Transport Equipment: United States.

About the Author

Leon Mengri is a Senior Market Research Analyst with Freedonia Focus Reports. He conducts research and writes a variety of Focus Reports, which offer concise overviews of market size, product segmentation, business trends, and more.