If travel advisors are wondering where the best regional opportunities for cruise sales are, here are gleanings from four top cruise line sales executives, who spoke at the virtual 2020 Avoya Conference on Monday.
So, where are the new deposited cruise bookings—not using Future Cruise Credits (FCCs)—coming from? What regions are appealing to consumers for 2021 and beyond travel?
Ahoy, Caribbean and Bahamas
For new cruise bookings, “number one…is the Caribbean and Bahamas,” said Katina Athanasiou, chief sales officer, Norwegian Cruise Line. “People are just excited to get out of their homes and many are looking close-to-home,” both for their departure port and the region they choose for their itinerary.
Concurring was Vicki Freed, senior vice president of sales, trade support and service, Royal Caribbean International: “The best sellers right now are the Caribbean and any itinerary with Perfect Day at CocoCay,” which is the line’s private Bahamian island.
Perfect Day at CocoCay is a private isle, so health and safety protocols can be extended ashore by Royal Caribbean. // Photo by Susan J. Young
Freed said having a pier (no tendering, “so we make the calls now”), plus the private nature of the isle means the line can control the experience. "Any itinerary with Perfect Day at CocoCay, whether it’s a short three- or four-day cruise or a seven-night cruise, is definitely a hot seller right now,” Freed told the Avoya independent travel advisors.
Adolfo Perez, senior vice president of global sales and trade marketing, Carnival Cruise Line, said “the Caribbean and the Bahamas is probably having the most success, as is Mexico” from both sides of the coast. “Mexico has been one of the few places Americans can travel [to] during this pandemic, so we are definitely seeing great demand for those products,” he noted.
When the final plan is released for Carnival’s rollout of cruises, Perez said it’s likely to include much focus on shorter cruises, and “and we’re well positioned in many of the home ports around the U.S. for drive markets, where we don’t necessarily have to rely as much on flights as some of the other ports might have to."
He also concurred with Freed about the popularity of the private destinations, mentioning Carnival Corp.’s Half Moon Cay or Princess Cays. “Each of us has the ability to make very concrete policies and put in protocols to make sure that everything is controlled and done the way it should be done,” Perez said.
Alaska, Europe and The Galapagos
Executives also cited Alaska as a positive region for upcoming sales. “We’re going to see a lot of people staying closer to home in 2021, so while we are a big player in Europe, I think you’re going to see more of the Europeans cruising Europe for our brand, and for most of the North American market you’re going to see cruising Alaska as well as the Caribbean,” Freed said.
“Obviously, Europe right now is off limits [to Americans],” noted Perez. “Until there’s more certainty in when we can go and travel, I think some of those more exotic destinations are going to be the ones that are struggling the most.” He, too, cited Alaska as a good opportunity for travel sellers.
European demand should rebound as more of Europe opens to Americans and flights are added. Norwegian Jade is shown above in Hamburg, Germany.
Athanasiou acknowledged that European demand is “continuing to taper off just a little bit" for third quarter 2021 but she also believes that "as Norwegian starts to see its ships return to cruising, and most importantly, as airline partners have the ability to increase their routes and flights, “Europe will come back super quickly.”
Representing a premium brand, Dondra Ritzenthaler, senior vice president, sales, trade support and service, Celebrity Cruises told the Avoya Travel Network's independent advisors: “Interestingly enough, the product that is really doing well is Galapagos. People just want to go somewhere and I think the Galapagos is a bucket list trip.”
The Galapagos is proving a good booking performer right now, per Celebrity Cruises' Dondra Ritzenthaler.
She also said that even with the uncertainty on air availability, “everyone is comfortable that air is coming back and we can see all this great stuff that the airlines are doing [so] our Europe bookings are actually really strong as well.”
Ritzenthaler told the independent advisors in the Avoya Travel Network: "All of us on this panel and others are poised to have a much better comeback than a setback, so we’re all looking forward to getting back in the water and let’s rock and roll."