by Alex Palmer | August 12, 2011
Meeting and incentive planners might want to take another look at cruise events, as more Americans are interested in either taking another cruise or trying their first cruise, according to Cruise Lines International Association (CLIA), which released the results of its latest consumer survey.

The "2011 Cruise Market Profile Study" asked more than 1,300 past cruisers and non-cruisers about their vacation preferences and attitudes, plans for future vacations, spending patterns, and other topics. Based on their responses, CLIA concluded that 73 million Americans have cruised before and that 36.1 million are "likely" to take a cruise again in the next three years.

Additionally, CLIA found, two in five cruisers (38 percent) have taken a cruise as part of a social group or event, with group travel leading at 18 percent, followed by honeymoons (11 percent) and themed events (10 percent).

"Based on analysis of responses to the 'Cruise Market Profile Study,' the cruise industry can be optimistic about its continued growth and success," says CLIA CEO and President Christine Duffy. "CLIA member lines have had an average annual passenger growth rate of more than seven percent since 1980. In 2010, capacity increased by 8.1 percent, yet CLIA member line ships continued to operate at 103.1 percent occupancy." 

Duffy continues, "The reasons for this success, I think, are reflected in what consumers are telling us about their attitudes toward vacationing and cruising in particular. In a nutshell, the cruise industry continues to innovate and deliver on the cruise product promise, with the result that millions of Americans are intending to take a cruise in the near future."

Other key findings, according to CLIA:

• Ninety-four percent of consumers rate cruising as a satisfying vacation experience, with 45 percent rating cruising as "extremely satisfying."
• Nearly twice as many people (17 percent) equate cruising with "very high value" as land-based vacations (nine percent).
• Thirty-two percent of people cite increased awareness of cruise vacations in the past year or two—four times as many who expressed decreased awareness (eight percent).
• Compared to other vacation categories, survey respondents ranked cruises as "much better/somewhat better" in the areas of chance to visit multiple destinations (56 percent), being pampered (44 percent), fine dining (51 percent), and just getting away from it all (44 percent).
• Overall, 24 percent of the total U.S. population has cruised at some point in their lives and 11 percent in the past three years, up from 20 percent and 10 percent, respectively, in 2008.
• Eighty percent of cruisers travel with a spouse, 33 percent with children, 19 percent with friends, and 18 percent with other adult family members.
• Those expressing an interest in taking a cruise in the next three years say the average desired length is 7.5 days.
• Eighty-two percent of cruise vacationers typically agree that a cruise vacation provides a good way to sample destinations that they may wish to visit again.
• Key influencers in selecting a cruise vacation include the destination (35 percent), overall experience (19 percent), the ship (12 percent), the cost (23 percent), and facilities available, such as spa, gym, child care facilities, etc (11 percent).

"While cruising receives generally high marks from all consumers, even those who have never cruised before, it is significant that past cruisers consistently have even higher opinions of their cruise vacation experience in terms of benefits, price perceptions, value, and other factors than those who have never cruised before," Duffy says. "This explains why cruising has such guest loyalty and high repeat business; once someone has cruised, the value, variety, and enjoyment is obvious and irresistible."

For more information about the "2011 Cruise Market Profile Study," including complete results, visit