Ensemble: Demand high for customized vacations

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The Haven offers an exclusive experience on Norwegian Cruise Line ships.

Demand for customized vacations and personal travel experiences continues to grow, an Ensemble Travel Group survey shows. 

"While mainstream travel continues to be a vacation staple, the customized bucket-list adventures that used to be 'once in a lifetime' have now become 'as often as I can' and built around first-hand immersion into the destination," said Ensemble co-president Lindsay Pearlman. 

The Ensemble Outlook Survey, which showcases responses from nearly 2,000 Ensemble member advisors across the U.S. and Canada, was conducted in September and released during the consortium's annual conference last week. 

Requests for "tailor-made," "active," and "adventure" vacations were among the leading demands made by travelers for 2019. Interest in travel centered on food, wine and spirits has been similarly robust, with "wine and spirits vacations," "culinary-themed cruises" and "hands-on cooking vacations" piquing recent consumer interest.

Within the ocean cruise category, travelers are preferring "small ship" experiences and "family" cruises. Ensemble members cited strong sales for Regent Seven Seas Cruises, Silversea, Crystal, Seabourn and Uniworld as well as lines with large ships that offer all-inclusive experiences, such as the Grills with Cunard and the Haven with Norwegian Cruise Line.

Interest in more intimate and hands-on vacations is helping drive demand for river cruises. The survey listed the "ability to experience smaller villages, towns and cities," "smaller ships carrying less than 200 passengers" and "good value for experience received" as the top three reasons why travelers favored the segment. Ensemble recently added four small operators -- American Queen Steamboat Company, Hurtigruten, Le Boat and Victory Cruise Lines -- to its list of preferred suppliers.

"People are looking for unique, boutique stuff," said Ensemble co-president Libbie Rice. "We had a demand for the American rivers, so we brought on American Queen because we knew our members wanted that and we didn't have anything in that space. A lot of times we're looking for something that's in a space that nobody else is in, whether that's with the geography or a unique product."

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