After enduring a tumultuous few months for the world, and in particular the cruise industry, it’s nice to be able to see a light at the end of the tunnel. The cruise industry has halted and seen many losses, so it is with great delight that we watch a steady climb in bookings, week over week.
Despite the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) extending the no-sail order until September, the cruise lines are forging ahead with health and safety plans to keep passengers and crew safe. The cruise lines are sharing these plans and ideas and it’s sparking interest in avid cruisers who have faith in the industry’s stringent sanitation protocols and are ready to get back out there. These guests are showing their faith and support with bookings as seen by the cruise lines’ reservations teams and partners.
Travel partners, like World Travel Holdings Senior Vice President of Product and Operations, David Crooks, was asked about future bookings and said “2021 is, surprisingly doing quite well.” Other cruise partners such as Dream Vacations, CruiseOne and Cruises Inc. have seen a consistent increase in volume. Their Senior Vice President and General Manager, Drew Daly said “The good news is our week-over-week booking volume for cruise and land bookings is solid.” Daly continues to break down the areas of strength for cruising, “The Caribbean is the main destination followed by Alaska and Europe,” he said. “Specifically, river cruising is seeing a nice uptick in reservations in 2021 and into 2022.”
It’s not surprising that river cruising is gaining in popularity; people want to be closer to home and stay within a country’s borders in case borders get closed again. Smaller vessels also means fewer passengers, and these are some of the reasons Riviera River Cruises is reporting a 300 percent increase in 2021 sales over 2020 bookings for the same time last year. This dramatic trajectory can also be attributed to it being a newer company in North America.
Cruise lines with ocean-going vessels like Norwegian Cruise Lines Holdings (NCLH) have also seen an increase in bookings despite having shut down their sales and marketing efforts. Del Rio, CEO of NCLH says this is a good sign; “That gives us a lot of encouragement that despite everything that’s going on, people still want to cruise.” He says this indicates “there is a future and the future will be bright.”
One of the most promising displays of the avid cruisers’ desire to get back on the water was SeaDream Yacht Club adding another ship to their homeland cruising itinerary in Norway for June, 2020. They started with SeaDream I and the demand was so high, they had to add SeaDream II to keep up with the bookings. These itineraries stay close to home and are targeting Norwegians and Danes primarily, as travel is allowed for residents between these two countries. SeaDream EVP Andreas Brynestad said, “It has been a very exciting time for our company after pausing sailings in March. We are very happy to see this high demand for our new Norwegian voyages. Our phones have been ringing off the hook from 8 a.m. to midnight with booking requests since the Norwegian voyages were announced.”
The trend of staying close to home seems to be driving new itineraries and consumer confidence to sail again. Another big reason for cruisers to book with extra peace of mind is the flexibility of cancellations and/or rebooking for a later date, sometimes with an added bonus for rebooking rather than requesting a refund. Some examples are NCLH’s ‘Peace of Mind’ booking program, Scenic Cruises ‘Book with Confidence’ program, and Royal Caribbean’s ‘Cruise with Confidence’ program. Avid cruisers want to cruise again and the travelers with FOMO (fear of missing out), don’t want to pass up the deals and these great new flexible booking options. As a result, the cruise industry is starting to see the light at the end of the tunnel and they like what they see. #WeWillBeBack
This post was written by cruise industry expert, Shannon Mckee, founder of Access Cruise Inc. Access Cruise Inc is a Miami based cruise marketing and sales consulting group, specializing in product and business development within the cruise industry.