European Cruise Sales: 54 Percent of Agents Surveyed Point Downward

Fifty-four percent of travel advisors polled in a Travel Agent survey are reporting decreased European sales this year. Cochem, Germany, a popular river cruise port call, is shown. Photo by Susan J. Young

More than 54 percent of travel agents and agency owners taking a Travel Agent survey this spring told us their European cruise bookings are "off" this year, while other regions, including the Caribbean and Alaska, appear to be doing just fine.

That mimics what major cruise companies have been reporting. For example, Norwegian Cruise Line Holdings' most recent earnings report showed both European sales softness and continuing strong demand for cruises in the Caribbean, Alaska, Bermuda and Hawaii

Dozens of front-line travel agents and agency owners across the country took our poll in late April 2016. We asked the agents to compare this year's cruise sales to last year's. 

In addition to the majority who reported decreased European sales, another 32 percent felt European cruise bookings were similar to last year's European sales.

Only 13 percent said European cruise bookings were up. Here's a small sampling of survey feedback below.    

Lower European Cruise Sales

• Barbara Snelling, Travel Agency LLCNorth Las Vegas, NV, says her European bookings are lower this year. Clients that are booking are selecting Asian and Mediterranean (both eastern and western routes) itineraries, plus a few river cruises in eastern Europe for 2017.

Jim Carey, Cruise Holidays, Kennewick, WA, says, "I’ve had some clients say there’s too much uncertainty due to terrorism fears."

Kathy Curran, independent agent, Avoya Travel Network, Lake Worth, FL, is seeing lower European demand. Those that are sailing are opting for western Mediterranean itineraries.

European cruise sales have dipped, say 54 percent of travel agents taking Travel Agent's recent survey. // Photo of Bordeaux, France, by Susan J. Young

David Locke of Seize the Seas, an independent agency of the Avoya Travel Network, Parkland, FL, is seeing lesser European interest and reduced river cruise bookings. His priority for cruise sales this year is to increase his client base, and he plans to spend more on sales and marketing.

Christine Sellers Schwartz, Experience Results Inc. in Atlanta, GA, is seeing reduced European sales and she says that may be attributable to clients “perception of the price points. Since domestic sailing prices have increased, I think consumers believe the price is out of their reach in Europe.”

Shari Marsh, owner/agent, Cruise Holidays, Raleigh, NC, is seeing less robust European cruise sales. For her agency, there is more interest in river cruising, multigenerational family travel (particularly in Alaska) and a move to all-inclusive resorts.

Carol Brocksmith, More than Cruising, Atlanta, GA, cites lower European sales and says “I had one river cruise cancellation [due to] avoiding foreign travel.”

Cheryl Myerson, Unforgettable Cruises & Tours, LLC, Arvada, CO, is posting lower European sales this year, and her clients who do take European cruises select itineraries to the Baltic region and British Isles.

Linda Rasmussen, Explore the World Travel, an independent agency of the Avoya Travel Network, St. George, UT, says about 50 percent of her annual European river cruise clients are not sailing this year. She had significant cancellations after the Paris attacks. Her top priority this year for cruise selling is to “promote options that are not in Europe.”

Carol Zastoupil, Carol Z’s Travel, Diamond Bar, CA, has experienced lower European cruise sales. Most of her clients are concerned about international travel but they want to avoid the hot spots and generally will book after she discusses options with them. That said, her clients are concerned about the “lack of containment of hot areas. Hot areas can be anywhere, as opposed to simply the Middle East.”

Old World European sites, like this Malta building, are not as big a draw this year, say agents. // Photo by Susan J. Young

Lois Sposa, owner, Embrace the World Travel LLC, an independent agency of the Avoya Travel Network, Sarasota, FL, says of her client: “Many are changing their plans from Europe to other destinations or avoiding Paris and Turkey.”

John Gawne, personal vacation specialist, Cruises Inc., Virginia Beach, VA, reports decreased European cruise sales. His clients who are sailing in Europe are selecting western Mediterranean itineraries.

Increased European Sales

Not all sellers were seeing decreased European sales, though. Here is feedback from several retailers posting better European sales. 

• Shirley Melachrinoudis, franchise owner, CruiseOne, Port St. Lucie, FL, says her European sales are higher this year, and she cites “transatlantic” as the type of bookings most desired by clients over the past few months.

Anita Lynch, Cruise Holidays, Durham, NC, reports higher cruise sales for Europe. Her top priority in cruise selling this year is to upgrade clients to more luxury products. “Constant contact and a strong positive response to all [customer] questions or problems” is most important for the best results, she says. 

Nora Blum, director of sales and marketing, Travel Leaders in Maple Grove, MN, is seeing increased European sales this year and says that her top priority for cruise selling this year is a focus on luxury products, with “consumer education” as most important for sales success.

Similar European Sales

Among the 32 percent of our surveyed agents seeing similar European sales were these retailers:

Elaine Goad, Travel Leaders/Main Street Travel, Tyler, TX, says “the UK/Ireland seems to be a bit more popular for the coming year. For travelers from the U.S., the comfort of having no language barrier influences destination choices.”

Carolyn Nemia, vacation consultant, CruiseOne, Fort Myers, FL, said her European cruise sales are similar to last year, with preference by clients for the western Mediterranean. Many of her clients, however, are concerned about international travel and several clients she was working with opted not to take high-end river cruises. Undeterred, she still is focusing on a priority of selling more river cruises this year.

Kar Land & Sea Travel LLC in Medford, NJ, is seeing similar European sales but the agency still overall hopes to increase overall sales by 20 percent this year.

Joad Hamed, vice president, American Discount Cruises & Travel, Englishtown, NJ, also reports similar sales in Europe with a significant amount of bookings in the Mediterranean and mostly “western” itineraries.

Bart Kramer, owner/travel consultant, Bart’s Time for Travel LLC, Springfield, VA, says his European sales are about the same. For his agency, eastern Mediterranean itineraries are most desired by clients.

Travel Agent's cruise sales survey was comprised of 10 questions about current cruise sales trends, the geography of those sales, types of cruises and concerns (or not) about international travel.

Agents can read about these and other agents' views on their Caribbean results as well as their Alaska sales trend gleanings; both which were published within the past few weeks on

Stay tuned for the next print edition of Travel Agent magazine, which will feature a cover story on the upcoming Cruise360 conference as well as our survey results naming the "Top Three Trends" cruise selling agents are experiencing for 2016 as well as their ratings on the "Impact of World Events" on client cruise vacations. 

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