This report provides comprehensive and current information and analysis of the US Cruise ship Industry including US Cruises market size, anticipated market forecast, relevant market segmentation, and Cruise Industry data and statistics for the Cruises market in the US.

Current market landscape

Of all of the travel industries affected by the pandemic, the cruise industry suffered the most drastically. While other sectors saw significant reductions in operations, the entire cruise industry was prohibited from conducting business in the name of public safety. Now cruises are resuming, and they are being met by an excited consumer base. In fact, one major cruise line reports that their bookings for the second half of 2022 outpace 2019 levels.

Future cruise industry market trends

However, the pandemic has given past and potential cruisers time to reassess their values and travel priorities. Many are coming back to port with new considerations that the industry needs to address to turn a successful rebound into stable, longer-term growth.

Read on to discover more about the Cruise industry in the US, read our US Vacation Planning and Inspiration Market Report 2021, or take a look at our other Holidays and Travel Market research reports.

Quickly understand

  • The impact of COVID-19 on consumer behavior and the cruise market.
  • Barriers and motivations for cruising, whether for repeat cruisers or first-timers.
  • How cruises are viewed in contrast to other vacation types.
  • How consumers view the cruise industry with regard to environmental and ethical issues.

Covered in this report

Brands include: Carnival Corporation & plc, Royal Caribbean Cruises, Ltd., Norwegian Cruise Line Holdings, American Airlines, American Cruise Lines, Azamara, Facebook, Instagram, TikTok, Expedia Cruises, Viking River Cruises, Princess Cruises, Crystal Expedition Cruises.

Expert analysis from a specialist in the field

This report, written by Mike Gallinari, a leading analyst in the Travel and Leisure sector, delivers in-depth commentary and analysis to highlight current trends and add expert context to the numbers.

The cruise industry has a message for the early-pandemic naysayers: we’re back and here to stay. Cruise passengers are excited about cruise lines resuming operations, making a quick recovery a real possibility. To continue to build affinity, cruise lines need to not only continue to provide safety but also bring new experiences and destinations to the sailing public.
Mike Gallinari, Travel & Leisure Analyst
Mike Gallinari
Travel and Leisure Analyst

Table of Contents

  1. Overview

    • What you need to know
    • This Report looks at the following areas
    • Definitions
    • Market context
    • Economic and other assumptions
    • COVID-19: US context
  2. Executive Summary

    • Top takeaways
    • Market overview
      • Figure 1: Total US passenger volume and fan chart forecast of US cruise passengers, 2016-26
    • Passenger overview
      • Figure 2: Cruise segment demographic distributions, 2021
    • Impact of COVID-19 on travel and cruises
      • Figure 3: Short-, medium- and long-term impact of COVID-19 on travel and cruises, 2021
    • Opportunities
    • Stable desire for amenities makes for a smoother recovery
      • Figure 4: Desired cruise ship amenities, 2021
    • Passengers do indicate interest in small, safe and sanitary cruises
      • Figure 5: Factors that encourage cruising, by cruise segment, 2021
    • Travelers are destination-focused
      • Figure 6: Attitudes toward cruise itineraries, 2021
    • Challenges
    • Ocean cruises compete with resorts; river cruises need an identity
      • Figure 7: Vacation associations, 2021
    • COVID-19 concerns remain an issue
      • Figure 8: Barriers to cruising, 2021
    • Cruisers demand action on environmental and social issues
      • Figure 9: Attitudes toward ethical and environmental issues, by cruise segment, 2021
  3. The Market – Key Takeaways

    • The industry is poised for a bounceback
    • As on land, vaccines are key to cruise success
    • Millennials drive cruise enthusiasm, future growth
    • Inflation is leading to pessimism
  4. Cruise Industry Market Size and Forecast

    • The cruise industry looks to have a strong rebound
      • Figure 10: Total US passenger volume and fan chart forecast of US cruise passengers, 2016-26
      • Figure 11: Total US passenger volume and forecast of US cruise passengers, 2016-26
    • Cruise line revenues are recovering
      • Figure 12: Q3 total revenue and net income for top three US cruise lines ($ millions), 2020-21
    • Impact of COVID-19 on cruises
    • Vaccine situation can be frustrating for cruise lines
      • Figure 13: Vaccination outlook, April-October 2021
    • Americans are more comfortable with leisure activities
      • Figure 14: Activity comfort, 2021
  5. Cruise Passenger Segments

    • COVID-19 caused a temporary shift in passenger demo trends
      • Figure 15: Cruise segment demographic distributions, 2021
    • River cruises have varied appeal among newbies
      • Figure 16: Cruise type passenger demographic distributions, 2021
  6. Market Factors

    • Pandemic affinity for online ordering can change cruise marketing
    • CSO will extend into January
    • Record inflation leaves consumers pessimistic
      • Figure 17: Consumer sentiment index, 2007-21
    • The industry is slowly greening, but still chasing climate effects
  7. Companies and Brands – Key Takeaways

    • Cruise lines have been flooding channels with various messaging
    • Social media is important for reaching cruisers
    • Changes in cruise offerings can future-proof demands
  8. Marketing Strategies

    • Cruise lines dominated travel marketing in the last year
      • Figure 18: Travel acquisition direct mail volume, July 2020-21
      • Figure 19: Travel acquisition email piece count, July 2020-21
    • Brands are trying many marketing tactics
    • Cruise lines are focusing on transportation
      • Figure 20: American Airlines loyalty email, November 2021
      • Figure 21: Norwegian Cruise Line online ad, May 2021
    • Even without deals, consumers are given transit options
      • Figure 22: American Cruise Lines online ad, July 2021
    • Carnival highlights making up for lost time
      • Figure 23: Carnival Cruise Line mailer, July 2021
    • Azamara looks to the future
      • Figure 24: Azamara online ad, November 2021
    • Social media is an important conduit for cruise passengers
      • Figure 25: Sources of vacation inspiration, by cruiser segment, 2021
  9. Market Opportunities

    • Marketing outlets expand, giving marketers messaging versatility
    • River cruising ripe for transformation
    • Cruises can play host to gaming events
    • Flight and cruise packages can solve problems, create value
  10. The Consumer – Key Takeaways

    • There remain a lot of holdouts
    • Some demands don’t change
    • COVID-19 amplified wariness toward disease
    • Grandiosity may give way to simplicity, authenticity in the future
    • Ocean cruises need to pay attention to resorts
    • Cruisers want effective COVID-19 protections
    • Seafarers want to see something new
    • Cruises have a role in work/life buoyancy
    • Travelers sail with a conscience
  11. Cruise History and Intent

    • COVID-19 hobbled an otherwise strong ocean cruise industry
      • Figure 26: Most recent ocean cruise, 2021
    • The real work will be in driving intent
      • Figure 27: Interest in ocean cruises, 2021
    • River cruising has been surprisingly steady
      • Figure 28: Most recent river cruise, 2021
    • River cruise lines should press hard in acquisition now
      • Figure 29: Interest in river cruises, 2021
    • There’s still opportunity to drum up interest
      • Figure 30: Vacation plans in 2022, by interest in ocean and river cruises, 2021
  12. Desired Amenities

    • Pre-pandemic amenity demands are back
      • Figure 31: Desired cruise ship amenities, 2021
    • Wellness demands are driven by younger passengers
      • Figure 32: Desired cruise ship wellness amenities, by generation, 2021
    • The pandemic mindset is creating temporary wants
      • Figure 33: Desired cruise ship amenities, by cruise segment, 2021
  13. Barriers to Cruising

    • Worry about getting sick is the biggest cruise barrier by far
      • Figure 34: Barriers to cruising, 2021
    • Cruise lines need to move beyond safety to satisfy important segments
      • Figure 35: Barriers to cruising, by cruise segment, 2021
  14. Encouraging Factors

    • Cruise lines can think a little smaller
      • Figure 36: Factors that encourage cruising, 2021
    • Safety, and perhaps a smaller scale, are in cruising’s future
      • Figure 37: Factors that encourage cruising, by cruise segment, 2021
    • Smaller, safer ships can further encourage Millennials to cruise again
      • Figure 38: Factors that encourage cruising, by generation, 2021
  15. Vacation Descriptions

    • Ocean cruises compete with resorts, river cruises can choose their way
      • Figure 39: Vacation associations, 2021
    • Ocean cruises need to work to be more on-trend
      • Figure 40: Ocean cruise vs resort vacation perceptions, among potential cruisers, 2021
    • River cruisers see different cruise types as distinct
      • Figure 41: Vacation associations, by cruise passenger type, 2021
  16. Attitudes toward COVID-19

    • Cruise passengers support COVID-19 measures
      • Figure 42: Attitudes toward COVID-19, 2021
    • New cruisers may not be so welcoming of health mandates
      • Figure 43: Attitudes toward COVID-19, by cruise segment, 2021
  17. Attitudes toward Cruise Itineraries

    • Passengers are interested in unique destinations, remote capabilities
      • Figure 44: Attitudes toward cruise itineraries, 2021
    • On-board experience could stand to be a bit more functional
      • Figure 45: Attitudes toward cruise itineraries, by cruise segment, 2021
    • Cruises may be able to bolster low season with remote workers
      • Figure 46: Attitudes toward cruise itineraries, by cruise passenger type, 2021
  18. Attitudes toward Ethical and Environmental Issues

    • Cruisers are becoming more conscious
      • Figure 47: Attitudes toward ethical and environmental issues, 2021
    • Younger cruise population provides a business case for environmentalism
      • Figure 48: Attitudes toward ethical and environmental issues, by cruise segment, 2021
    • Sailors of all waters are now concerned with the effects of cruising
      • Figure 49: Attitudes toward ethical and environmental issues, by type of cruise passenger, 2021
  19. Appendix – Data Sources and Abbreviations

    • Data sources
    • Forecast
    • Consumer survey data
    • Marketing creative
    • Abbreviations and terms
    • Abbreviations
    • Terms
  20. Appendix – The Market

      • Figure 50: Number of cruise passengers sourced from the US, 2016-26

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