|Cost and time of air travel is creating greater demand among families for cruises from nearby home ports.|
A quick glance through summer travel surveys points to sunny times ahead for family travel in general and multigenerational trips in particular. Travel Agent reached out to some home-based agents to get a sampling of what’s happening on this front.
Candie Steinman of CruiseOne Steinman and Associates, Fort Myers, FL, observes that her family bookings are up compared to the previous two summers and that, “More of my clients are booking multigenerational cruises this year,” with multi-gen Caribbean resort stays also in demand.
Andrea Joyce of Cruises Inc. in Somers, NY, says her multigenerational bookings this summer have remained steady, “about the same as last year,” but that “families, in general, are up.”
Along those lines, Valarie Contrino of Contrino Travel in Staten Island, NY, reports that her agency has booked more multi-gen trips this year and is “seeing more families going on cruises than ever before,” adding that, “The pricing of flights is killing land packages.”
While Joyce says her family business remains steady for fly-to land destinations such as Walt Disney World and Universal, as well as all-inclusive Caribbean resorts, air travel is proving to be a factor in her cruise sales. “The most popular cruises are those departing from [the client’s] home port,” she says. Long waits and long lines at airports, not to mention “the hassles of airport delays,” are trying enough for adults, let alone children. By skipping the plane and driving to the nearest port, where feasible, families save both time and money, which gives them more actual vacation time and “allows clients to spend more on amenities.” Having Norwegian Cruise Line’s Norwegian Breakaway home-port in New York is creating a lot of excitement, she adds.
Citing the enormous popularity of certain family-oriented ships, Steinman emphasizes that agents should be prepared to book well ahead of time, especially regarding multigenerational and other group cruises. In the case of Disney Cruise Line ships and Royal Caribbean’s Oasis of the Seas, she books them at least a year out. This is necessary, she says, because her multi-gen clients want adjacent cabins to keep all the family members in proximity. These also tend to be suites or other high-demand staterooms that do sell out quickly.
Booking that far out isn’t always possible. Says Joyce, “I have noticed that families tend to book less than six months ahead. They are afraid to book until they get their kids’ school schedules and such.”
Children also seem to be exerting increasing influence in their family travel plans. According to MMGY Global’s 2013 Portrait of American Travelers, 47 percent of parents with children in the household say their kids play a role in planning the family vacation. “Kids have more input than we think,” says Steinman. “They do research on the Internet, they know what they want and they are more and more outspoken.”
That explains, in part, why she has booked a lot of Disney cruises as well as Oasis of the Seas. “The kids,” she says, “are attracted to the DreamWorks aspect of the cruises” (which includes characters, shows and activities from the “Shrek” and “Madagascar” movie franchises), while teens generally seem to “want newer ships with all the latest amenities.”
Contrino has noted in a “handful of discussions” that adults are getting input from the children who would be traveling alongside. But she makes it clear that, for the most part, “Adults are making the final decisions.”
Joyce concurs that it’s ultimately the grown-ups you are selling to, but that “parents love to indulge their children,” and therefore “kids do take a big part” in the process. She points out that young people not only research travel but are influenced by social media. “My 20-year-old saw commercials for Quantum of the Seas on Facebook and now he wants to go on it next year. [Kids] catch something like that and they want to go.”