by Ming Tappin

The world of travel is constantly evolving and coming up with new and innovative ideas to make your holiday experiences even better and more diverse.  We’ve outlined a few of the current innovations we’re seeing in cruises, tours and hotels.

Regent Explorer SuiteCourtesy of Regent Seven Seas - Regent Explorer Suite

Luxury Redefined

A luxury lifestyle is no longer about owning material things, it's now about acquiring life-changing experiences, creating unforgettable memories, and reaching personal fulfillment. The world's six-star cruise lines are taking note, and are delivering. Silversea Cruises offers exquisite dining with the world's only Relais & Châteaux restaurants at sea; Crystal Cruises' enables globe-trotting onboard its luxury Dreamliner and floating residences, coming in a few years.  The newly launched Regent Seven Seas Explorer provides ultimate pampering with a 3,875 square feet two-bedroom Explorer Suite; and Seabourn Cruises bestows personal enrichment with extended explorations to all 7 continents on intimate yachts. This is experiential travel at its best.

RCI_Virtual balconyCourtesy of Royal Caribbean International - Quantum of the Seas virtual balcony

A Room with a View

Thanks to the innovation in technology, guests who do not have the budget for a balcony stateroom can now enjoy an oceanview in an inside stateroom.  Royal Caribbean introduced the "virtual balcony" onboard Quantum of the Seas in 2014. Consisting of a full-length, high resolution screen against the stateroom wall, what's happening outside is streamed live from the ship's cameras, creating a moving image while the ship is at sea. But Disney Cruise Line was actually the first to pioneer this concept in 2011. Called Magical Portholes, they also include surprise visits by Disney characters appearing in the window.

NCL_PlankCourtesy of Norwegian Cruise Line - Norwegian Breakaway plank walk

More Thrills and Spills

Cruise lines continue to strive for one-upmanship on their onboard activities. For those looking for an adrenaline rush, there certainly is no shortage of fun. Guests sailing on Norwegian Cruise Line can test their endurance on a challenging ropes course, complete with an 8-foot plank walk. Onboard the new Carnival Vista, guests can peddle the SkyRide along a track suspended 150 feet above sea level. The newest attraction on the high seas though, is The Ultimate Abyss slide, onboard Royal Caribbean's Harmony of the Seas. The 100-foot drop over 10 decks is definitely not for the faint of heart.

Scenic EclipseCourtesy of Scenic Luxury Cruises & Tours

Turning the Tide on Expedition Cruising

As travelers seek new experiences and cross off bucket lists, a number of cruise lines are steering them towards luxury yachting. Their message: expedition cruising can be a six-star experience. Witness the aggressive growth in this area: Crystal Cruises and Scenic Cruises have both ordered polar class mega-yachts, outfitted with luxury suites, helicopters and submersibles. French expedition line Ponant is adding four new vessels, almost doubling its existing fleet. And Celebrity Cruises has expanded its Galapagos program by 65% with two additional yachts. The world is your oyster, and on a luxury expedition yacht, it also comes with champagne.

Avalon MyanmarCourtesy of Avalon Waterways

The Changing Faces of River Ships

With the rise of popularity in river cruising, ship design has come a long way in the last 5 years. The biggest focus has been on the accommodations. Beds that face the window provide ever-changing views – brought to you by Avalon Waterways.  Open-air balconies, as well as full-size balconies are now the norm. There are even innovative loft sitting areas that make windowed staterooms feel suite-like.  Innovations continue up on deck. Specialty restaurants and swimming pools are now common on new vessels, the latter of which can be covered and converted to usable deck space for entertainment or even movies at night.

FathomCourtesy of Fathom Impact Travel

Lending a Helping Hand on Vacation

Voluntourism, or impact travel, has existed for several decades, but lately has been rising to the forefront, as the new generation of travelers are now wanting to give back to the communities they visit while on holiday. A number of non-profit organizations offer short and long-term programs abroad, with projects including manual labor, teaching, social work, environmental conservation and more, while immersing in local culture. Sailing from Miami, a new cruise line; Fathom is now also offering voluntourism cruises to Cuba and the Dominican Republic.  Participants return home with life-changing experiences and meaningful personal growth.

 Starwood_ElementCourtesy of Starwood Hotels

It’s Very Easy Being Green

Now more than ever, hotels around the world are looking to reduce carbon footprint without compromising the guest's experience. Along with recycling, water conservation and energy-saving practices, some hotels are now awarding spending credits or loyalty points for guests who volunteer to bypass daily housekeeping. Innovations include over-sized windows for natural lighting, living walls and green roofs, natural building materials, electronic water faucets, vegetable & herb gardens and even in-house beehives that are producing sustainable ingredients for the hotel kitchens, along with efforts to use locally grown food.   Environmentally green bath amenities and cleaning products are also ways hotels are becoming more sustainable.

Originally published in Vacation Magazine  Fall/Winter 2016 issue.

 

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