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Half of Agents Surveyed Point to Higher Caribbean Cruise BookingsMay 9, 2016 By: Susan Young
|Holland America's Eurodam sailed from Port Everglades in early 2016. // Photo by Susan J. Young|
Caribbean cruise sales are robust this year, according to dozens of agents who took a Travel Agent magazine survey a few weeks ago. Nearly 49 percent of respondents, including Valerie Mahoney, travel consultant, Live Your Life Travel in West Orange, NJ, and Muffett Grubb, Cruise Holidays of Knoxville, TN, were posting higher Caribbean sales in 2016.
Of the 54 travel agents and travel agency owners who took our 10-question survey on SurveyMonkey.com, approximately 48 percent, including Anita Lynch, Cruise Holidays, Durham, NC, and Michael Graham of Cruise Planners, Myrtle Beach, SC, also reported "similar" Caribbean sales to last year at the same time.
|Silversea's Silver Spirit is shown in Bequia, a quiet Caribbean isle. // Photo by Susan J. Young|
Only about 4 percent of all retailers who took the survey were seeing lower Caribbean sales.
Caribbean Sales Gleanings
“Low cost space with amenities is what’s hot,” according to Christine Sellers Schwartz, Experience Results, Inc., of Atlanta, GA. “It’s not ship or line driven either.”
Texas-based Elaine Goad, Travel Leaders/Main Street Travel, has more robust Caribbean bookings this year and books many cruises that depart from the Texas Gulf of Mexico coast -- the ports of Houston and Galveston. “Prices are generally lower than those [cruises] sailing from Florida,” Goad says, and “these cruises are most attractive for our travelers.”
Also posting higher Caribbean sales are these three agents:
- Lea Nielsen of CruiseDirect.com in Morristown NJ, who is seeing many multi-generational cruise bookings this year.
- Shirley Melachrinoudis, franchise owner, CruiseOne, Port St. Lucie, FL, who is booking more southern Caribbean voyages this year.
- Bonnie Lee, CEO, Travel Leaders in Albertville, MN, who'd like to sell more luxury and experiential cruise experiences this year.
- Carolyn Nemia, vacation consultant, CruiseOne, Fort Myers, FL, who says her Caribbean cruise sales are mostly for early 2017 voyages.
Several agents responding said longer Caribbean voyages, such as 10-day journeys, were doing very well. “The longer Caribbean cruises have been very popular,” said Pris Phillips, an independent vacation specialist, Cruises Inc., Columbia, SC. “I had two groups that sold out months before sailing.”
Lois Sposa, owner, Embrace the World Travel LLC, an independent agency of the Avoya Travel Network in Sarasota, FL, is also seeing higher demand for 10-night or longer cruises, cruises on newer ships and cruises to the Caribbean from New York.
Bryan Villella, owner and senior cruise consultant, CruiseOne, Fort Lauderdale, FL, is posting increased Caribbean and Alaska sales and lower European sales. Potential effect of world events on the booking process? Villela said most of his clients are concerned about world events but they simply want to avoid the hot spots and generally will book after he discusses options with him.
|Warm weather and soft beaches like this one in Barbados draw cruisers to the Caribbean. // Photo by Susan J. Young|
Also seeing higher Caribbean and Alaska cruise sales and lower European sales this year is Erwin Ward, president, Ward Luxury Travel, Inc., an independent agency in the Avoya Travel Network, Pensacola, FL.
How does he handle any fall-out from negative world events? He broaches the subject directly, discusses those events with clients and suggests "they realign their ‘bucket list.’”
Most important for cruise sales success this year? Ward and others points to the value of keeping the client relationship strong and setting the bar high for service standards.
When asked about the top priority for his agency's cruise sales this year, Joad Hamed, vice president, American Discount Cruises and Travel, Englishtown, NJ, puts it this way: "To continue growing...Every year of our 13-plus years in business has been our best ever. We work hard every day to make sure that trend continues."