Popularity of cruise vacations is soaring

The travel industry expects 25.4 million people to take a cruise this year in favor of a more traditional land-based vacation. That marks an increase of nearly a million passengers from 2016 and would make 2017 the most cruised year ever.

"I'm going to be doing at least three to four Mediterranean cruises this summer with my family," says Stewart Chiron, who calls himself the Cruise Guy. "I've been on just about every ship that's out there."

In his 27 years in the industry, Chiron, the founder of a cruise-marketing company, has embarked on 245 cruises.

"It's just the best way to vacation," Chiron says. "The value is second to none."

Chiron says that in recent years travelers have recognized that value and rewarded cruise lines for providing it. The up-front cost of a cruise includes food, lodging, transportation, and an ever-growing offering of activities.

"Rock-climbing walls and ice skating rinks, and now we've got zip lines, skydiving simulators, surfing simulators, Broadway entertainment, the best restaurants, the best spas," Chiron says.

To try to duplicate all of those options on a land-based, self-organized vacation would cost the traveler exponentially more in time, effort, and money.

Fears of Zika virus or the norovirus appear to have done little to impact an industry on pace to log its most lucrative year ever.

"Less than one eight-thousands of one percent of all the passengers that go on a cruise are impacted," Chiron says.

The future of the cruise should provide better-connected vessels as cruise lines work with satellite companies to improve internet access, evolving dining experiences, and still bigger ships, Chiron says. This is a change from the late 1980s, when he started cruising and ships lacked balconies and weighed three times less than they do today.

"Larger than the largest aircraft carrier in the world," Chiron says.