Cruise prices remain in consumers’ favor going into 2012, according to a new Cruise Holidays 2012 Cruise Trends survey. Prices to the Caribbean and the Mediterranean are still averaging lower than they were in 2008, 2009 and 2010, the survey says.
However, prices to these destinations have actually risen slightly since 2011, which is seen as a positive trend overall by the cruise industry because it demonstrates increased demand for travel, Cruise Holidays reports.
Additionally, it appears that cruisers' tastes are becoming more sophisticated: Celebrity Cruises – a “premium” cruise line – boasts the most popular new ships for both 2011 and 2012, according to Cruise Holidays.
Cruise Holidays' survey is based on actual bookings from Cruise Holidays’ proprietary booking system, as well as from a supplementary opinion survey taken by top Cruise Holidays owners and agents. The bookings include any staterooms booked by Cruise Holidays from January 1, 2011, to December 21, 2011, for any cruises slated to begin in 2012.
Price is only one factor that contributes to cruisers' vacation decisions, Cruise Holidays says, noting the importance of itinerary.
In this year's survey, Cruise Holidays agents selected the Celebrity Silhouette as their favorite ship to debut in the past calendar year. They voted the fifth and final Solstice-class ship, Celebrity Reflection, as the ship they are most anticipating for 2012. The second most popular ship expected in 2012 is an upscale river cruise ship: AmaWaterways’ Amacerto. Rounding out the top five in the survey of most popular ships for 2012 are the Disney Fantasy, Oceania Cruises’ Riviera and Viking River Cruises’ Freya, also a river-cruise ship.
Alaska and Europe continue to battle it out in the destination race, Cruise Holidays says. While Caribbean cruises are the perennial and overwhelming favorite, early bookings to Europe continue to outpace those to Alaska for the second year in a row. Cruises to the Baltic and Scandinavia increased, further cementing Europe's second-place ranking.
A shift in cruise capacity away from the Mexican Riviera, and ports such as Acapulco and Puerto Vallarta, means this region is down to seventh place after being as high as third place in 2006, 2007 and 2008, Cruise Holidays says. If the Caribbean is broken down into three regions, Western Caribbean cruises are the most popular cruise destination overall, followed by Eastern Caribbean cruises and then Southern Caribbean cruises.
Cruise Holidays predicts the best cruise values will also remain in the Caribbean and Europe.
“These two regions are the clear-cut leaders when it comes to the bang for the buck that a cruise vacation can provide,” stated Mark Schiffner, vice president and chief operating officer of Cruise Holidays. “On the flip side, with fewer cruisers turning to the Mexican Riviera as a top vacation choice, its value proposition is increasing. Mexico’s famed Gold Coast is pulling out all the stops to showcase its world-class beach communities, which depend on tourism for their livelihood,” added Schiffner.
A look back at bookings made in 2011 shows that the average length of the booking window (the time between when a cruise is booked and its actual sail date) continues to lengthen. In 2011, about 52 percent of cruises were booked more than six months prior to the cruise. In 2010, that number was 48.5 percent. The number was even lower – 40.5 percent – in 2009.
However, the number of travelers capitalizing on last minute deals is also growing. More than seven percent of cruises were booked less than one month before the sail date in 2011, which is up compared to the previous two years. “Last minute booking incentives along with very early booking incentives continue to be an attractive way to lock in deals,” said Schiffner.
Looking ahead to the first three months of 2012, otherwise known as “Wave Season” in the cruise industry, the level of optimism is at a three-year high, according to Cruise Holidays. More than 73 percent of respondents say they are very optimistic or somewhat optimistic about Wave Season, with an additional 25 percent feeling neutral. That level of optimism demonstrates an excitement that bookings will be strong in the first quarter of 2012.