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Cruise bouncing back as agents report sale spike

Cruise sales are bouncing back quicker than anticipated as ships return to service and new vessels enter the market, agents report.

Sixteen ocean ships – including Royal Caribbean International’s 6,998-passenger Wonder of the Seas and MSC Cruises’ 5,079-passenger World Europa – are due to launch next year, according to trade body Clia.

Odyssey of the Seas was named in Fort Lauderdale, US, last week and parent Royal Caribbean Group expects 50 of its brands’ 61 ships to be operating before 2022.

Carnival Cruise Line expects all 22 of its ships to return to service by the spring, with more than 50% of parent Carnival Corporation’s fleet capacity back last month.

Norwegian Cruise Line Holdings, parent of NCL, Oceania Cruises and Regent Seven Seas Cruises, expects to be back to full service by April 1, up from 40% of its capacity at the end of September.

Oasis Travel managing director Sandra Corkin reported “a real upturn” in cruise bookings at the Northern Irish agency in the past four weeks.

She said cruise was now accounting for 40% of business, up from 33% in the same four-week period in 2019, with more than half of bookings in the past two months for departures before May.

She said “the bounce-back is quicker than I expected”, and predicted “a lot of opportunities” in the coming months, including from customers “who have not used agents for years”.

Michele Dance, owner of Eastleigh-based Ocean World Travel, said business remained “way down” on 2019 but agreed booking levels were increasing rapidly.

“I cannot believe the speed at which it’s happened,” she said.

“The spike in bookings has put us in a much more comfortable place because we’re getting balances paid right now. Almost overnight we went from a worrying place to a safe place.”

Dance said almost all enquiries were late bookings and reported “a lot of money out there”, noting her sales team had recently booked a Seabourn cruise in March worth £36,000.

Cruise Circle managing director Jason Daniels cautioned that the agency was still dealing with “the last round of cancellations” but said “it should be positive new business from here on in” with lines “ramping up” marketing activity as ships resume operations.

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