Americans Flocking to European Cruises

Americans are confidently booking cruise vacations to Europe thanks in part to the declining value of the Euro against the dollar. In fact, 71.2 percent of Travel Leaders agents polled indicate they are booking European cruises for 2012, Travel Leaders says in its annual Travel Trends Survey. The vast majority of those cruises are Mediterranean cruises.

Travel Leaders also reports in this year’s survey, the Caribbean retains its overall popularity with U.S. cruisers. However, a closer look at specific itineraries being booked for 2012 reveals Alaska as the number one itinerary followed by Western Caribbean, Eastern Caribbean, Mediterranean, and Southern Caribbean cruises, Travel Leaders says.

Conducted November 21 - December 16, 2011, the cruise-specific travel trends are based on responses from 410 Travel Leaders owners, managers and frontline travel agents throughout the United States who identified that 50 percent or more of their portfolio consists of leisure travel clients and that they book cruise vacations for their clients. These trends were part of a comprehensive travel trends survey which included responses from 640 Travel Leaders agents.

“The information revealed in our survey this year is extremely encouraging, particularly the European cruising statistics. Americans, in general, are showing an inclination toward traveling farther from home in 2012. It only makes sense that many of those travelers would seek cruise vacations abroad, such as Mediterranean cruises,” stated Roger E. Block, president of Travel Leaders Franchise Group.
“One of the reasons Americans may feel very comfortable booking European cruises, in addition to their familiarity with well-established cruise lines they know from North American homeports, is that the dollar is currently very strong against the Euro," Block said.
Specific cruise-related trends for 2012 include:

European Economic Crisis Not Deterring Cruisers: It appears the economic challenges facing the Euro – resulting in a favorable exchange rate – may actually be driving demand among Americans to take advantage of European cruises.

  • Of the 410 agents surveyed on cruising, 71.2 percent indicated they are booking European cruises (Mediterranean, Baltic and/or European river cruises) for 2012.
  • Of the 292 agents who indicated they are booking European cruises for 2012, 75.3 percent are booking Mediterranean cruises.
  • Eastern Mediterranean and Western Mediterranean cruise itineraries are equally appealing to Travel Leaders’ cruise passengers.

Airfare Costs and European Cruising: When asked “How much impact does the cost of airfare [to Europe] have in the length of cruise or itinerary that your clients are choosing?” only 15.4 percent of Travel Leaders agents said it had a significant impact.

  • Getting to Europe via Air: When asked “Which type of air ticket do you book for the majority of your Europe cruise clients?” the majority of Travel Leaders polled said “regularly scheduled airline tickets” followed by air consolidators.

Caribbean versus Alaska: Of the 410 agents who indicated that 50 percent or more of their clientele are leisure travelers and they are booking cruises for 2012, 92.9 percent indicated they are booking Caribbean cruises for this year.

  • Agents were asked to choose up to five of their clients’ most popular Caribbean ports of call. The survey revealed: St. Thomas (54.1%), Grand Cayman (39.9%), St. Maarten (27.8%), Aruba (25.2%) and Cozumel (24.1%) as the top five selections.
  • When asked about more well-defined cruise itineraries, rather than general regions of the world, Alaska was the number one itinerary being booked.

River Cruising Rises in Popularity: Over 75 percent of Travel Leaders agents polled indicated that they have seen an increase in interest and bookings for international river cruising (24.2% said “Yes, significantly” and 50.9% said “Yes, somewhat”). While this particular question didn’t specifically call out European river cruises, it should be noted that European river cruises rank #13 overall on Travel Leaders list of Top International Destinations. That’s a jump of eight spots in competition with international destinations and cities worldwide, the survey reports.
Top International and Domestic Destinations: The top cruise destinations include Alaska and Hawaii for domestic destinations and the Caribbean first among international destination followed by European Mediterranean and river cruises.

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