Europe Tops Alaska As Cruise Destination

When it comes to taking a cruise vacation in 2011, more people are expected to choose the allure of Europe in favor of the beauty of Alaska, according to booking numbers released by Cruise Holidays. Mediterranean cruises climbed into second place in Cruise Holidays’ 2011 Cruise Trends report, with Alaska closely trailing. Caribbean cruises remained high atop the destination list by a wide margin.

Europe’s success could be based on its exceptional value right now, according to Cruise Holidays. The company polled 145 of its cruise experts across the United States and Canada, who by a three-to-one margin, said Europe was a better value than Alaska, at least in 2011. The Caribbean placed first with 49 percent of the vote, followed by Europe with 26 percent and Alaska with 8 percent.

“Repeat cruisers are especially drawn to Europe,” said Mark Schiffner, vice president and COO of Cruise Holidays. “First timers may choose the Caribbean based on its proximity to North America. Once they experience the value, including the convenience, the chance to visit several destinations and all the amenities of the ship, they are much more comfortable going to Europe. Barcelona and Rome are particularly popular choices as cruise destinations – not only when compared to other European cities but as top cruise destinations around the globe.”

Data from Cruise Holidays showed the average cost of a Mediterranean 12-day itinerary has steadily dropped since 2009. In fact, cost per day across all stateroom categories in the Med has fallen, on average, to $222 a person – down from $262 in 2010 and $290 in 2009. Average pricing in the Caribbean also continued to trend lower. Alaskan pricing has risen from 2010, but is still lower than it was in 2009.

Working with a cruise consultant also adds to the value of planning cruises, according to the survey. While price is important, the right itinerary actually ranks as the highest determining factor in choosing a specific cruise.

"Our clients value our experts’ opinions on which destinations they may want to include," said Schiffner. "You could sift through hundreds and hundreds of novice opinions on the Internet, which we certainly recognize does happen, but when it comes to making the final decision our clients feel safest making the booking through a real person."

Cruise line incentives also help sweeten the pot for travelers. When asked which incentives offered by cruise lines are most attractive to their clients, the Cruise Holidays experts provided these rankings:

1. Onboard credits 38.5%
2. Free air offers 19.6%
3. 2 for 1 pricing 18.9%
4. Early booking discounts 11.2%
5. Onboard amenities, such as a bottle of wine, complimentary dining in a
specialty restaurant, etc. 5.6%
6. Third or fourth person sails free 4.9%
7. Other (please specify) 1.4%

Although cruise values are expected to remain strong throughout 2011, Cruise Holidays also noted the booking window (time between cruise is booked and when the ship sails) began to increase in 2010. The percentage of people who booked their 2010 cruise more than six months prior to the cruise increased to 48.5 percent, compared to only 40.5 percent in 2009.