When, where and what is hot in the cruise industry

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Cruisers don’t give 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 security protocols and flexible cancellation policies.

“We’re the fly on the wall for booking habits,” said Mark Patscher, Sales Director of CruiseCritic.com, at a State of the Cruiser presentation at the Seatrade Cruise Global Conference this week. Since the beginning of the pandemic, the media and booking site has been keeping its subscribers pace with monthly surveys.

Currently booked
58 percent of respondents in a September poll said they have currently booked a cruise and have no intention of canceling it. Another 8% said they had booked a cruise but were rethinking their plans. Only 4% of the 5,400 respondents said they had canceled a cruise that had already been booked.

When
Of the 58% with a booked cruise, 65% sail within six months and 27% within seven to twelve months. Eight percent are booked for a cruise in more than a year.

Where
Most cruise lines stay closer to home, with 49% booking a Caribbean, Bahamas, or Bermuda cruise and 13% booking a North American cruise. (North America includes Alaska, New England and Canada as well as river cruises in North America.) Another 4% is booked on a cruise on the Mexican Riviera and 5% on a cruise in South / Central America and / or the Panama Canal.

However, not all of them stay close to their home. A full 15% is currently booked on a European ocean cruise and 5% on a European river cruise.

who
The vast majority of those who have booked cruises sail with adult family members or friends. Only 4% said they are a family that wants to sail with children under the age of 18.

Future bookings
More than half (51%) of respondents said they are actively looking for a future cruise.

However, nearly a third (29%) said they would like to book a cruise but are waiting for travel restrictions and warnings to be relaxed. And 16% said they were just not sure about booking a cruise in the future.

When

Of the 51% of cruisers who are actively looking for their next cruise, 43% want to cruise within seven to twelve months and 31% want to cruise within the next six months. But almost a quarter (24%) do not want to sail for another year or two.

Where
While a large number of cruise lines that are about to be booked will want to stay close to home, more cruise lines are likely to continue traveling compared to cruise lines already booked.

Only 34% (compared to the 49% above) are interested in a future Caribbean, Bahamas, or Bermuda cruise. Eighteen percent (versus 15%) would like to take a European ocean cruise and 7% (versus 5%) would like to take a European river cruise.

15 percent (compared to 13% above) want to stay in North America. The increase is due to the return of Alaskan cruises, which weren’t an option for much of the year in 2021, according to Patscher.

Additionally, 6% said they are likely to book a cruise through South / Central America and the Panama Canal (vs. 5% above).

Interest in more exotic locations (Asia, Australia / New Zealand, Antarctica / Arctic) increases when talking about future cruises, but not by much. Only 3% of cruise lines looking to book a cruise said they are likely to choose a cruise to Asia, Australia or New Zealand (up from 1% of those currently booking a cruise).

length
Travel agents have been saying it for months, but cruisers have been wanting to leave for longer. Only 4% of respondents who actively want to book a cruise want to travel three to five days. In fact, more cruisers – 17% – want to travel for more than 15 days.

The majority would like to sail for six to nine days (41%) and 10 to 14 days (38%).

Uncertainty on shore excursions
By and large, respondents plan at least one shore excursion with a booked cruise. Most (56%) said they book through the cruise line. Another 10% said they booked with an independent tour operator.

However, a full quarter (26%) of respondents said they weren’t sure about going on a shore excursion. And another 8% said they definitely won’t.

That travelers have kept their cruise bookings reflects their trust in the 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 critical
Price and destination are high on the list of considerations for travelers looking to book a cruise. These aren’t new and shouldn’t come as a surprise to travel advisors. But one new consideration has proven almost as important. Cancellation policies are now also a major concern for cruise lines. In a world of uncertainty, they want to know that they can cancel a cruise without penalty.

When asked to rate the most important aspects of their next cruise, the respondents mostly named the same three things that have always been important to them: Itinerary, ship and price. But fourth place is a new area of ​​concern: security policies and protocols.

Most cruisers want cruise lines to have strict mask and vaccination guidelines, Patscher said.

Booking window fluctuates
Of all the booking elements that CruiseCritic.com has been following since the pandemic began, the booking window has been the most fluctuating, Patscher said. With the COVID-19 pandemic, the booking window is also being extended.

For example, at the beginning of the year before vaccines were available, the booking window was about 325 days. But it steadily shortened until July when the Delta variant took off. From July to August, the booking window climbed from just over 200 days to just under 250 days.


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