|Disney Fantasy, launching later this winter, will be home to The Tube and other trendy adult night spots.|
As 2012 gets underway, retailers are dusting off their Wave Season business plans and looking at ways to increase revenue. Despite the still-sluggish U.S. economy, it appears 2012 cruise pricing is on the rise in many categories and for many itineraries. Spurring on early Wave Season sales is cold weather up north, a boon for retailers who sell Caribbean cruises with port calls at balmy island locales.
Pricing and Deals
In early January, several agents wrote glowingly on Twitter about their robust sales. Others told fellow retailers participating in an online agent forum about increases in sales of 28 percent to 39 percent for 2011 over 2010, as well as their positive outlook for 2012.
So what will help spur blue-water cruise sales? Windstar Cruises has unveiled two-for-one pricing on three different Caribbean itineraries. On Windstar’s “Flavors of the Caribbean” voyages on January 28, February 25, and March 10 and 24, clients will sail seven days on Wind Surf roundtrip from Philipsburg, St. Maarten.
Those voyages visit Le Marin, Martinique; Pigeon Island, St. Lucia; Roseau, Dominica; Falmouth Harbor, Antigua; and Gustavia, St. Barthelemy. Two-for-one fares start from $1,399 per person, double occupancy. Booking must be made by February 24.
Separately, Norwegian Cruise Line is hosting a Wave Season sales event, “Norwegians Take It to the Next Level” through March 31. The deal—that provides a free upgrade within the same stateroom category for all new cruise reservations—applies to all ships including the new Norwegian Breakaway, debuting in 2013.
Ultra-luxury Crystal Cruises, which is introducing a more inclusive luxury product in a few months, increased fares on January 1 for as many as 19 cruises. It also set a new booking deadline of February 28 for 2012 and 2013 “Book Now” fares, which save clients as much as $2,000 per person, or $4,000 per couple, off two-for-one fares.
The Book Now promotion provides travelers with the lowest prices possible on every cruise onboard Crystal Symphony and Crystal Serenity in 2012 and 2013. But, when the previously published fares expired on December 31, Crystal raised the replacement promotional fares from $200 to $400 per couple on select cruises. Crystal is now reviewing pricing every 60 days on every cruise. Additional price increases are expected on February 29.
Staying Ship Shape
Certainly, the carrot of a new ship can help agents tweak client demands. So what’s new for blue-water cruises this year? Disney Cruise Line’s Disney Fantasy will launch later this winter; Travel Agent magazine toured the new ship at Meyer Werft earlier this month. Check out our report at www.travelagentcentral.com, search “Fantasy.”
In addition, Carnival Breeze launches in June on 12-day summer Mediterranean voyages before beginning year-round, six- and eight-day voyages from Miami starting November 24.
Also Miami-bound for next winter’s season is the new Riviera of Oceania Cruises. It will sail Mediterranean cruises this summer before repositioning to South Florida. Other new vessels on tap this year are Costa Fascinosa, Celebrity Reflection and MSC Divina.
When it comes to existing vessels, ocean lines continue to spend millions to keep their fleets fresh. That helps draw new cruisers as well as repeat customers. Cunard Line’s 8-year-old Queen Mary 2 just received new soft goods in all staterooms and suites as well as in restaurants, bars, the kids’ zone and other venues.
Princess Cruises marked the end of a three-year project by adding “The Sanctuary,” its popular adult-only retreat, to Sapphire Princess; 14 ships now have the tranquil venue.
Celebrity’s Infinity, a Millennium-class ship, just completed an extensive drydock that added many Solstice-class features. In its $300 million Royal Advantage program, Royal Caribbean International is placing Oasis-class amenities on other ships. Radiance of the Seas and Splendor of the Seas are newly updated. Rhapsody of the Seas, Grandeur of the Seas and Serenade of the Seas are getting the updates this year.
Carnival Liberty was first in Carnival Cruise Lines’ fleet to receive new Fun Ship 2.0 updates late last year. Clients now can head to the new Guy’s Burger Joint (created by Food Network’s Guy Fieri), Cherry on Top sweets-and-gift store, BlueIguana Tequila Bar and RedFrog Rum Bar.
Travel Agent was onboard and rates the venues at www.travelagentcentral.com, search “Liberty updates.”
Specific Fun Ship 2.0 updates vary a bit from ship to ship. Carnival Liberty, for example, has not yet received the new Punchliner Comedy Club by George Lopez. Carnival Breeze will have all the updates when it launches. Carnival Cruise Lines’ schedule for other revitalizations is: Carnival Dream by September 23; Carnival Conquest by October 29; Carnival Glory by November 16; Carnival Splendor after its drydocking this year (dates to be determined); and other ships in 2013-2015.
New Onboard Diversions
|RedFrog Rum Bar is a new Fun Ship 2.0 update on Carnival Liberty.|
One Wave Season perk for families sailing New York-to-Bahamas/Florida voyages on Norwegian Gem beginning February 19 is the addition of Nickelodeon-themed family events, shows and activities. Norwegian introduced those perks on Norwegian Jewel and Norwegian Epic in 2010.
Royal Caribbean International also has rolled out seven dining packages ranging from $50 to $120 per guest. They allow guests on Oasis of the Seas, Allure of the Seas, Radiance of the Seas and Splendor of the Seas to dine in popular alternative venues and receive at least 25 percent savings over the sum of individual restaurant cover charges.
Clients who sail on any Celebrity Cruises ship this year might check out two new “Celebrity Inside Access” ship tours. The new three-hour “See How It’s Done Tour” includes lunch; it takes a small group of guests through such nonpublic areas as the bridge, mooring deck, crew gym, theater, engine control room, prep rooms and main dining room galley. Cost is $150 per person.
Ports and Destinations
This fall, Regent Seven Seas Cruises relocates its South Florida embarkation port from Port Everglades to the Port of Miami, joining sister brand Oceania Cruises there. Beyond operational efficiencies, the move should give some Regent customers more convenient domestic and international flight options.
One unusual phenomenon that’s likely to build interest in western Caribbean cruises this year is the purported end of the world on December 21. Well, don’t worry unless you believe in the ancient Mayan calendar. One fact is sure, though, the intense media and consumer buzz about this doomsday prediction will drive tourism numbers higher at Mayan sites throughout Mexico and Central America. Mexico has already planned more than 500 Mayan events and activities throughout the year. Consider promoting cruises that visit the region.
Cruisers also love new cruise port calls, such as at Falmouth, Jamaica, as well as new attractions. Destroyed several times by fire, Nassau’s iconic Straw Market reopened in December 2011. Replacing a temporary facility, the new $12 million Bahamas attraction is home to 450 vendors and fields 34,000 square feet of space on the ground floor and another 4,500 on a second-floor enclosed mezzanine.
And just as cruisers often seek to be the first to do a particular activity at sea, other clients may want to be among the last to experience something before it changes. This year, agents might dangle the hook of a traditional Panama Canal voyage that transits the same locks created by the U.S. and envisioned by President Teddy Roosevelt a century ago. In 2014, an expanded canal with another third lane of locks for bigger ships will open. So not all future Panama Canal voyages, at least not those on the largest ships, will sail through the original locks.