|Celebrity Reflection will sail in Europe in summer 2013 // Photo by Susan J. Young|
When it comes to booking a cruise, consumers are increasingly thinking Europe, according to the 2013 Cruise Holidays Cruise Trends Survey. The survey shows that with unprecedented demand for Mediterranean cruises, European river voyages and Baltic excursions, Europe has quickly become one of the cruise industry’s premier destinations.
European river cruising is also the “hottest ticket in the industry,” according to Mark Schiffner, vice president and chief operating officer of Cruise Holidays International, who says that contributes to the strong European showing this year.
Cruise Region Demand
Nearly 14 percent of all U.S. and Canadian clients who booked a 2013 cruise through Cruise Holidays are headed for Europe. Still, that pales to the Caribbean, the powerhouse cruise destination, the survey results showed.
Based on the top 10 cruise destinations booked for 2013 by Cruise Holidays experts, the Caribbean region remains the leader; nearly 55 percent of all cruise bookings for 2013 are for the Caribbean.
The Caribbean’s dominance fell slightly, year over year, though; it had been nearly 60% in 2012. Europe taking a larger piece of the pie, climbing from 11 percent to 13 percent of the total.
“While the Caribbean reigns, it does not rule,” stated Schiffner. “Each year, newer, better, more spectacular ships enter the marketplace. While many of them make their debut in the Caribbean, we’re seeing a strong enough demand in Europe that some of the crown jewels of the industry are plying European waters,” observed Schiffner.
Cruise Holidays cited Celebrity Cruises’ new Celebrity Reflection and Oceania Cruises’ new Riviera, both of which will sail in Europe for summer 2013.
Alaska was in third place with nearly 8.5 percent of the bookings, up from 6.7 percent the previous year. That was followed by Bermuda with 4.6. The top four places (Caribbean, Europe, Alaska and Bermuda) remained in the same ranking in the survey as the previous year’s results.
However, fifth most popular destination in this year’s survey was Hawaii with 5 percent of bookings, up from seventh place in 2011.
Transatlantic cruising and South Pacific cruising were tied in sixth place this year, at just under 2.3 percent of bookings. Cruise Holidays said the transatlantic cruises are continuing to gain favor; they made their debut in the Cruise Trends top 10 in 2011 at ninth place, and climbed to eighth place in 2012.
South America joins the top 10 for the first time in at least four years. It’s tied with New England/ Canadian Maritime cruises. Both destinations have 1.6 percent of the bookings.
The Bahamas, which ranked sixth in 2011, were folded into the Caribbean category starting in 2011.
European Pricing Trends
Pricewise, while European cruise pricing continues to be a bargain, there are signs that pricing for the second half of 2013 may be headed upward. Cruise Holidays said in a press release that it’s “a sign for the cruise industry that leisure travelers are once again creating demand.”
Compared to bookings made in 2011 for 2012, sample pricing for a 12-day Mediterranean cruise for 2013 is lower by about $35 per person, per day.
“However, keep in mind that this number reflects reservations that go back to early 2012, when demand may not have been as strong as it is now,” said Schiffner. “Pricing for some of the premium and luxury cruise lines that many of our passengers favor is actually ahead of last year.”
Bookings for Europe remain strong despite concerns over high airfares, Cruise Holidays said. “When you couple the cost of the cruise, which is virtually an all-inclusive vacation, along with the airfare, you are looking at a vacation value that far exceeds what travelers to Europe could expect 20 years ago,” said Schiffner.
Cruise Holidays said its cruise experts try to beat the European air dilemma by advising clients to add more time on land pre or post-cruises to get more “bang for their buck” on the flight. They also urge clients to watch for cruise line offers such as two-for-one pricing in Europe or cruise line air deals.
Cruise Holidays agents suggest clients try to be flexible on travel dates. Agents also leverage Cruise Holidays’ clout to obtain airline prices that might not be available online to consumers. In addition, they tout the inclusiveness of a cruise vacation.
Other Regional Pricing Trends
Cruise Holidays’ survey showed that Caribbean pricing for a seven-day cruise is virtually the same as last year.
Seven-day Alaska cruises are up about $20 per person, per day, compared to cruises booked in 2011 for 2012.
These figures include all cruises booked by Cruise Holidays in the U.S. and Canada as of Dec. 17, 2012, sailing in 2013; the survey results covered all cruise lines from luxury to contemporary.
South America joins the top 10 for the first time in at least four years. European river cruising is also the “hottest ticket in the industry,” according to Schiffner, and contributes to Europe’s strong showing this year.
Reasons to Cruise
While price is an important consideration in all vacation choices, the cruise itinerary continues to be the number one factor in locking in travelers’ final vacation decisions.
The top five factors cited by Cruise Holidays cruise experts as to why clients take a cruise are, in order of importance: (1) Itinerary; (2) Price; (3) Cruise Line; (4) Embarkation Point; (5) Cruise Ship.
Other factors mentioned by clients included accommodations available, such as a suite, balcony, or concierge-level stateroom; amenities onboard the ship, such as specialty dining or surfing simulators; and shore excursions available.
The magic “booking window” number? Cruise Holidays clients book a cruise 262 days out, or just under nine months prior to the cruise’s departure, the survey showed.
Maggie Blehert, a Cruise Holidays spokeswoman, told TravelAgentCentral.com on Dec. 27 that the booking window result is essentially comparable to what it was in last year's survey.
Yet,“we have some cruises booked for late 2014 that were booked quite early in 2012. We even have a small number of passengers already booked for 2015,” said Schiffner.