There are some who hate them and some who can no longer do without them. Some consider them floating tourist villages: a parallel world where time passes differently (but the kitchen is always open). Others call them “holiday starters”: a quick taste of the locations where stops are planned (“to eventually visit again in the future, with more time”, a client notes on one company’s blog). Cruises are certainly no longer – and probably never really were – a boring holiday at sea for families and couples in love: when the first commercial cruises were offered at the end of the nineteenth century, there was already much fun to be had on board and passengers could dance, play cards, shop and take guided tours on land.
But then there were those who never got off the ships, proving even then that they had understood their intimate essence: cruises are not merely a means of transport, but – with their fabulous attractions – a holiday in and of themselves. Much has changed since then and the offers have multiplied: there are cruises for singles and for the LGBT world, those reserved for families with children and for the super-rich, for nudists and for gamblers, those dedicated to the eighties and those for Star Trek fans, complete with actors in tow.
We could disturb anthropologist Marc Augé (the cruise as a non-location for the purposes of socialization and relaxation), but perhaps the numbers themselves clarify the phenomenon: in 2018 the worldwide business volume – according to the Cruise Industry News Annual Report – will be 37 billion dollars, with an estimate of reaching 55 billion by 2027. A huge, rapidly growing industry which in 2017 took over 25 million passengers around the world’s waters. The most popular destinations? The Caribbean, followed by the Mediterranean, the rest of Europe and Asia, which is strongly growing (especially China).