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Cruise Lines Continue to See Strong Bookings for Future Cruises

Cruises remain popular for the traveling public, and many cruise lines are reporting strong interest among travelers for sailings in 2021 and beyond.

Seabourn recently reported a lot of interest in its 2022 World Cruise: Extraordinary Horizons, which is already more than 50 percent booked for segments through its halfway point in Shanghai.

“We are really encouraged by the tremendous amount of positive interest and bookings for our 2022 World Cruise, which clearly demonstrates that now is the time to consider a booking rather than later on when suite availability may be limited or even sold out,” said Steve Smotrys, vice president of global sales for Seabourn. “The past few months has given travelers time to consider when they are ready to explore the world again and know that when they travel with Seabourn, they’ll visit some of the world’s most fascinating destinations while experiencing the personalized, intuitive service we are known for.”

Oceania has also seen record bookings for its upcoming 2021 and 2022 seasons.

The cruise line launched a Labor Day sale and saw record-setting booking numbers with nearly half of the new reservations from first-time guests, and less than five percent of those reservations were from future cruise credits.

The cruise line followed its successful Labor Day event with the launch of its 2022 Europe & North America Collection of voyages and experienced a record-setting day for a summer season launch.

“The tremendous response from our loyal repeat guests, our travel partners and first-time guests underscores the tremendous pent-up demand for immersive, destination-focused cruises and our acclaimed small-ship experience that features The Finest Cuisine at Sea,” said Bob Binder, president and CEO of Oceania Cruises.

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Another cruise line that is seeing big booking days is Regent Seven Seas Cruises (RSSC), which set a new record with its largest booking day in the cruise line’s 28-year history. That took place the day Regent opened its 2022-2023 Voyage Collection.

“The staggering response to our 2022-2023 Voyage Collection demonstrates the incredible future demand for the unrivaled Regent experience. Luxury travelers simply cannot wait to get back on the oceans to see the world again, while enjoying impeccable, personalized service on luxurious and spacious ships,” said Jason Montague, RSSC’s president and CEO. “Our loyal guests wasted no time in securing their perfect itinerary and suite with last year’s Voyage Collection launch day total eclipsed after only 90 minutes of being on sale.”

Royal Caribbean Group CEO Richard Fain has said that the cruise line is experiencing strong bookings and, in its most recent business update, Royal Caribbean said new bookings in 2021 have continued to improve.

Demand is definitely there, with a strong response among travelers eager to volunteer to sail on test cruises for which dates haven’t even been announced.

Frequent cruisers are not the only ones excited to sail, either.

In its most recent earnings call, Carnival noted that, while repeat passengers make up 55 percent of bookings for 2021, 45 percent were new to the brand.

One major motivator for cruise bookings—and perhaps travel bookings on the whole—is the announcement of a potential vaccine.

While the lifting of the CDC No Sail order didn’t bump up NCL cruise bookings much, Norwegian Cruise Line Holdings brands, CEO Frank Del Rio noted that the vaccine may have provided the cruise line with a bounce.

“Over the last 24 hours, bookings were pretty good, better than the previous four or five Mondays,” Del Rio said. “I think that’s attributable to the vaccine news, since we don’t have any promotion or marketing. I do think that was positive news.”

If ocean cruising is strong, river cruising may be even stronger.

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Cruise Planners, which recently hosted a river cruise-themed webinar noted that savvy consumers are booking their 2021 river cruises now—before they sell out.

“Most of our future bookings (25 percent) are coming from river cruises and the pent-up consumer demand is trending high in this area and with limited inventory, even into late 2021. Savvy travelers are working with their travel advisor to get the best possible sailings, secure their cabins and lock in the best rates,” said Michelle Fee, CEO and founder, Cruise Planners.

Fee also noted that it’s a good time to be shopping for cruises as a whole.

“I do think people should start looking and if they’re even planning on traveling next year, especially to Alaska, and I gotta tell you, Europe is leading the pack as well we’ve been having amazing weeks selling Europe for next summer and beyond,” said Fee. “So you know, again, it’s supply and demand right, so if the demand is there and there’s limited supply you’re going to see a little bit higher price point but at this point we’re not necessarily seeing that.”

For travel advisors, the demand is slowly coming back for cruises.

Valerie Dorsey, of Cruise Planners, said that she is still seeing more land requests than requests for cruises.

“All-inclusive properties are the strongest right now for Mexico and the rest of the Caribbean,” Dorsey said. “Day-to-day the challenges change with Covid-19 requirements and so requests don’t always turn into current bookings. I do have large ship bookings outweighing my small ship bookings right now, but I must say that my customers on luxury small ships were the longest holdout for canceling their cruises and they all want to go again when the ships start to sail after the vaccine.”

Jeremy Hall of Cruise Vacations International noted that cruise bookings are up and down but that most interest is for later in 2021 and 2022.

“It’s been a bit of a rollercoaster in regards to new cruise bookings,” he said. “Some weeks are better than others but nonetheless, travelers are planning their 2021 cruises though mostly for spring through winter. We are seeing mostly premium and luxury ocean bookings as well as river. The phrase I hear most often from our most eager clients is ‘It has to be over by then.’ I agree with that thought and am anxiously awaiting it to be proven.”

Scott Lara of The Cruise Genius has found avid interest in cruising with clients anxious to get back out there.

“I’ve been getting overwhelmed with calls regarding new cruises for 2021,” said Lara. “Some interest in river cruises, but mostly new and repeat clients are anxious to sail on Carnival and a few other cruise lines. I’ve also received many calls about all-inclusive resorts in Cancun, specifically TRS Yucatán and Grand Palladium Costa Mujeres.”

Lawton Roberts, CEO of Country Place Travel, said that many people are hopeful but are seeking assurances.

“At this point, we are still not seeing “strong” future bookings for ocean cruises,” said Roberts. “The preference still remains smaller vessels, mostly river cruises. Clients are now wanting to learn more about the ‘passenger protocol’ on ocean cruises during the phased start-up guidelines from the CDC before committing to another ocean cruise. Everyone wants to go on a vacation, but they don’t want it to be a laboratory environment where you can seldom if ever truly relax.”

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