Forbes Travel Guide’s cruise vertical can “only go up”

President of Standard & Ratings, Amanda Frasier, chats with LATTE

Rooftop Garden, Celebrity Ascent

Forbes Travel Guide expects the number of cruise lines in its annual Rankings to continue to rise, with ultra-luxury yacht operators the next segment of the market likely to be introduced.

Last week Forbes Travel Guide released its 2024 ‘Star Awards’ of Five-Star, Four-Star and Recommended hotels, restaurants, resorts, spas and cruises. Introduced in mid-2023 with Celebrity Cruises as FTG’s inaugural cruise brand, the number of cruise ships on the list now includes Oceania Cruises’ Insignia, Seabourn Ovation, Regent Seven Seas Cruises’ Seven Seas Splendor, Silversea’s Silver Shadow and Viking’s ocean ships, Viking Neptune and Viking Sky.

Of the 12 ships on the list, seven are rated as ‘Four-Star’ and the others ‘Recommended’.

Oceania Cruises' Insignia

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Speaking exclusively with LATTE this week from the US, Amanda Frasier, President of Standards & Ratings for Forbes Travel Guide said she was hopeful a cruise brand would meet the criteria of FTG’s ‘Five-Star’ rating, undertaken through its independent inspection process.

“Unfortunately, at this particular point, they’re not achieving at that level. There are musings I have as to why this is, but I do expect to see a cruise brand achieve ‘Five-Star’ ratings soon,” Frasier said.

More broadly, Frasier said growth from the cruise segment within Forbes Travel Guide’s ratings can “only go up”.

We haven’t launched a new vertical since we introduced Spas in 2003/04,” she explained.

“We’ve been rating Hotels and Restaurants since 1958, then Spas within hotels since 2003 and ocean and small river cruise ships in 2023.”

Frasier suggested that the reason more cruise lines were not already ‘rated’ was the challenge of the time it takes to review a cruise product, saying “we can’t evaluate an entire ship in just two nights. An inspector has to go for a decent amount of time.”

Forbes Travel Guides' 2024 Star Awards - Cruises

“The reason I see the cruise segment growing, even if we take our time, is due to the focus on people’s desire for frictionless travel and inclusive experiences – not necessarily all-inclusive – whether that is on land or on sea, is just picking up momentum.

“People think of cruise ships as all-inclusive, meaning big buffets, it’s not that luxurious, it’s kind of mainstream, but I’m talking about how some of the luxury brands are really leaning in well to what it means to be all-inclusive,” she said. 

“In my view, it really means making sure that once you’ve booked that trip, you don’t have to lift a finger to think for anything else.

“You’ve got multiple options of dining, you don’t worry about making reservations, you don’t have to worry about the transport to and from the ship or to the hotel, you don’t have to worry about the activities, you don’t have to worry that the activities are cheesy and touristy – they are high-quality destination immersion experiences in small groups. You’re not getting off the ship and going with 700 people. Instead it may be 20 or 30 people.”

Evrima, The Ritz-Carlton Yacht Collection

Frasier continued, saying “I think cruise ships have a lot to offer, especially with the Ritz-Carlton offering and Evrima which is about to be added to our list very soon, and they have Ilma launching soon too. Four Seasons Yachts will also enter that space in the future, so we’re excited.”

She said for all cruise operators, Forbes Travel Guide remains “new to them” and expects it will take time before it’s fully understood, and likewise for FTG understanding cruising.

While cruising remains in its infancy for Forbes Travel Guide, the company has been rating hotels and restaurants for 66 years and now has more than 1,440 hotels and 258 restaurants… plus 327 hotel spas.

More from Frasier in the next edition of LATTE.

Lead image: Celebrity Cruises’ newest Edge class ship, Celebrity Ascent, achieved a Four-Star rating from Forbes Travel Guide. Pictured is the Rooftop Garden aboard Celebrity Ascent.

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