Trade bullish about future cruise sales

Cruise lines and agents are bullish about the prospect of sales once sailings can resume.

Most cruise lines have paused sailings to at least April, with Norwegian Cruise Line Holdings brands and Hurigruten among the latest to do so. But MSC Cruises confirmed it would resume ex-Italy operations on Sunday.

Ben Bouldin, Royal Caribbean International’s vice president for the EMEA region, the vaccine rollout “a pivotal point” and said summer 2021 demand was “good” but not as “strong” as for 2022.

Norwegian Cruise Line’s UK and Ireland managing director, Eamonn Ferrin, reported “huge forward demand”, as well as customers “sitting on credit” as they await certainty before rebooking.

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Carnival Corporation chief financial officer David Bernstein said about 45% of deposits were “unapplied future cruise credits” which Carnival expects to “turn into bookings in the next six or 12 months”.

In Tui’s 2020 annual report, chief executive Fritz Joussen pointed out Tui-owned lines welcomed 40,000 guests last summer “without a single coronavirus case”, noting “cruise liners can be safe yet relaxing”.

Barrhead Travel reported “demand for cruise has picked up again in the last week”, stimulated by 2022 programmes going on sale.

President Jacqueline Dobson said: “Similar to many of our other customers, those looking to cruise have a lot of questions and are looking for much more information than pre-pandemic. Cruise customers return to cruising holidays year after year and most are very keen to have their first post-pandemic cruise booked and on the horizon.”

Barrhead also reported a “brilliant” response to a Virtual Cruise Exhibition the agency hosted in November.

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Neil Robinson, managing director of Colletts Travel, said: “Cruise – particularly the luxury cruise segment– is set to make a strong comeback when travel reopens.

“We’ve had a resurgence of cruise bookings over the last few weeks and, while late 2021 and 2022 are the strongest performing booking periods right now, we’ve noticed clients are gaining confidence and enquiring about cruising for early summer 2021.”

Robinson said itineraries in Alaska, North America and the Caribbean are proving popular thanks to attractive pricing and flexible terms, with many choosing to book further in advance than normal “to secure their preferred hotels, cabins and flights while availability is healthy”.

Kelly Cookes, leisure director at The Advantage Travel Partnership, said cruise bookings had been “slower than other sectors” but reported “interest from frequent cruisers” for late 2021 through to 2023.

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