When, where and what are the trends in the cruise industry
Cruise lines aren’t giving up their vacation at sea anytime soon. But, for now, most cruise lines want to stay closer to home and prefer to book with cruise lines that have strict safety protocols and policies. flexible cancellation.
“We’re the fly on the wall for booking habits,” said Mark Patscher, CruiseCritic.com sales manager, during a presentation on “The State of the Cruiser” at this Seatrade Cruise Global conference. week. The media and booking site has been taking the pulse of its subscribers with monthly surveys since the start of the pandemic.
Fifty-eight percent of respondents to a September poll said they have currently booked a cruise and have no plans to cancel it. Another 8% said they have booked a cruise but are reconsidering their plans. Only 4% of the 5,400 people surveyed said they had canceled a cruise that had already been booked.
Of the 58% who have booked a cruise, 65% are sailing within six months and 27% within seven to 12 months. Eight percent are booked for a cruise longer than a year.
Most cruise lines stay closer to home, with 49% having taken a cruise to the Caribbean, Bahamas or Bermuda, and 13% having booked a cruise in North America. (North America includes Alaska, New England, and Canada, as well as North American river cruises.) An additional 4% is reserved for a cruise on the Mexican Riviera and 5% is reserved for a cruise in South / Central America and / or the Panama Canal.
However, not everyone stays close to home. 15% is currently reserved on an oceanic cruise in Europe and 5% on a river cruise in Europe.
The vast majority of those who have booked cruises will be sailing with family or adult friends. Only 4% said they were a family planning to sail with children under the age of 18.
More than half (51%) of those surveyed said they are actively looking to book a future cruise.
However, almost a third (29%) said that even if they want to book a cruise, they wait for travel restrictions and warnings to relax. And 16% said they just didn’t know if they wanted to book a future cruise.
Of the 51% of cruise passengers actively looking for their next cruise, 43% want to go on a cruise within seven to 12 months and 31% want to go on a cruise within the next six months. But almost a quarter (24%) do not want to sail for one to two years.
While a large number of cruise lines who book soon are looking to stay close to home, more are likely to go further than those who are already booked.
Only 34% (vs. 49% above) are interested in a future cruise to the Caribbean, Bahamas or Bermuda. Eighteen percent (vs. 15% above) want to take an ocean cruise in Europe and 7% (vs. 5% above) want to take a river cruise in Europe.
Fifteen percent (compared to 13% above) plan to stay in North America. According to Patscher, the increase is due to the return of Alaska cruises, which were not an option for much of 2021.
Additionally, 6% said they were likely to book a cruise in South / Central America and the Panama Canal (up from 5% above).
Interest in more exotic places (Asia, Australia / New Zealand, Antarctica / Arctic) increases when it comes to future cruises, but not by much. Only 3% of cruise passengers looking to book a cruise said they would likely choose a cruise to Asia, Australia or New Zealand (compared to 1% of those with a currently booked cruise).
Travel counselors have been saying this for months, but cruise lines are looking to get away for longer. Barely 4% of those surveyed who are actively looking to book a cruise want to go from three to five days. In fact, more cruise lines – 17% – want to leave for more than 15 days.
The majority seek to sail six to nine days (41%) and 10 to 14 days (38%).
Uncertainty of shore excursion
Overall, survey respondents who booked a cruise are planning at least one shore excursion. Most (56%) said they would book through the cruise line. Another 10% said they would book with an independent tour provider.
Still, a quarter (26%) of respondents said they were unsure if they would take a shore excursion. And, an additional 8% said they definitely wouldn’t.
The fact that travelers have kept their cruise reservations reflects their trust in cruise lines to ensure their safety. But reluctance to book an excursion shows less confidence in the destinations visited.
Cancellation policies / health and safety protocols are essential
Price and destination top the list of considerations for travelers looking to book a cruise. These are not new and should come as no surprise to travel counselors. But, a new consideration emerged as almost as important. Cancellation policies are now also a major concern for cruise passengers. In a world of uncertainty, they want to know that they can cancel a cruise without any penalty.
Likewise, when asked to rate the most important aspects of their next cruise, survey respondents overwhelmingly cited the same three things that have always interested them: the itinerary, the ship and the price. But coming in fourth is a new area of concern: security policies and protocols.
Most cruise lines want cruise lines to have strict mask and vaccine policies in place, Patscher said.
The reservation window fluctuates
Of all the booking elements that CruiseCritic.com has tracked since the pandemic began, the booking window has fluctuated the most, Patscher said. As the COVID-19 pandemic progresses, so does the booking window.
For example, at the start of the year, before vaccines were readily available, the reservation window was around 325 days. But it gradually got shorter until July, when the Delta variant took off. From July to August, the reservation window went from just over 200 days to just under 250 days.