World cruises as well as grand voyages of 35 to 80 days are a hot trend right now, thanks to pent-up consumer demand for 2022 and 2023 voyages. That’s according to Annie Scrivanich, senior vice president, Cruise Specialists, speaking to reporters during Internova Group‘s annual media briefing on Tuesday.
Cruise Specialists’ market niche is those long voyages. Since its 1987 founding, the cruise seller has arranged world cruises for more than 10,000 guests.
Longer Voyages Are Selling Fast
“This is the first year in our history that we’ve had two years of world cruise departures to sell,” Scrivanich said. “Two cruise lines sold out on their opening day for their 2023 programs and a third sold out last week. So, already one-third of the 2023 world cruise departures are sold out.”
Scrivanich pointed out that on those sold-out programs, fares typically began at $50,000 per person. “Demand is strong and it continues to grow and we are pleased at our booking pace.”
She also said that her advisors have two full years of worldwide departures to sell into for 2022 and 2023, in addition to the limited 2024 sailings being released now. “So, there’s plenty of opportunity for us,” believes Scrivanich.
Not surprisingly, Cruise Specialists is seeing tremendous pent-up demand in the cruise segment, as consumers are interested to get out and see the world again. Plus, cancellations in 2020 and 2021 have resulted in future credit credits (FCCs), which have a limited time usage. “There are thousands that have yet to be booked,” she pointed out.
Consumers Are Buying Up
Another hot trend? “Consumers are buying up, and they’re moving their travel budgets forward,” said Scrivanich. They’re selecting nicer, more pricier cabins, such as veranda stateroom or suite. She also says that in many cases, they’re also selecting a longer voyage or a one-off itinerary: “On many ships, those are already sold out.”
Scrivanich noted, “Our segment of the market is pretty much retired people, and for most of those individuals, discretionary income is still holding up strong.”
In addition, she is seeing an uptick in multigenerational travel. “Families, in terms of a nuclear group, are a little tired of possibly being together but they’re very excited about seeing their extended family,” she said. So, many families are making plans as the world comes out of the pandemic to vacation together.
Price Integrity Is Holding
Cruise Specialists says price integrity is holding as it sees the cruise lines adding value versus reducing their fares. “They’re enhancing the guest experience by including amenities, such as beverage packages, complimentary Wi-Fi, gratuities, potentially cabin upgrades, shipboard credits and, in some cases, tours. Plus, the booking agent has the opportunity to further enhance the offer with their own programs,” Scrivanich mentioned.
In addition, Cruise Specialists and advisors that belong to Travel Leaders Network are offering their clients additional amenities on thousands of sailings and also, she added, “the opportunity to sail with a host on more than 3,500 voyages.”
Scrivanich said her group has seen an uptick on those hosted voyages. “They’re gaining a lot of momentum,” she said, as they give the consumer a little extra level of assurance in terms of being able to travel with someone. “So, that if something does happen and they need additional assistance, that they will be taken care of.” Plus, hosted voyages also come with other amenities.
Strong Booking Trends
Other strong booking trends for Cruise Specialists and members of the Travel Leaders Network are as follows, said Scrivanich:
- “The number-one focus and our greatest results have been the world cruises and grand or longer voyages…then European travel, with ocean cruises being first followed by river, then the Caribbean, then the U.S.A. being rivers and coastal cruises.”
- In ocean cruising, “the strongest market segments are premium cruise lines, then upper premium and then luxury.”
- “Looking at the river segment, Europe is going to be the strongest, followed by exotic voyages—that would be Egypt, Vietnam, possibly India—and then the U.S.A.”
Seeking Reputable Advisors
In terms of booking methods, Cruise Specialists is seeing consumers reaching out and searching for reputable travel advisors. “They want reassurance they are making the right travel decision,” said Scrivanich. “They want guidance and support before, during and after their cruise vacation.”
Part of that is that they want a clear understanding of travel protocols, travel insurance, the actual arrangements onboard ship, and auxiliary components all taken care of in a seamless transaction. “That means everything from air travel to hotels and shore tours.”
“As a travel agent, we take the work out of travel so our clients can focus on the destination and fun,” said Scrivanich, adding that her groups’ advisors also focus on the best possible value—maximizing how the client’s time and money is spent.
The Path Forward
So, looking at the path moving forward, “the CDC guidelines right now are in flux,” she noted. “We’re waiting for the details from both the CDC and individual cruise line initiatives. We will then be able to work with our clients to ensure they are properly prepared and comfortable to travel.”
Scrivanich emphasized: “It will be a definite evolution in how we go.” Keeping in close touch with cruise line partners to communicate to clients what’s happening is important; they will need to know everything, from vaccine requirements (if any), testing requirements and onboard protocols.
She added that her group’s recommendations to share with consumers includes planning and booking early. “We are in a situation where there is high demand and low availability, so it’s going to become even more so constrained.”
Working with a travel advisor can provide that additional level of assurance and comfort that consumers need at any point in time in travel, she said, also putting in a strong endorsement for the purchase of travel insurance. “At Cruise Specialists, we’re very optimistic about our business and our future, and also in terms of what our guests’ cruise experiences will be,” Scrivanich said.