Wave Season Is Off and Running

Ladies and gentleman...start your engines! The annual proclamation at the Indianapolis 500 can also be the declaration at the outset of cruising's wave season, the three-month period from January through March that accounts for a large share of travel agents' annual cruise bookings.

We've already heard whispers of what sounds to be a strong wave season. Royal Caribbean and Carnival both are expecting a strong 2008. "Royal Caribbean's wave season bookings so far are encouraging," writes Robin Farley, a cruise analyst with UBS, in a recent note, "with healthy booking volumes and improved pricing versus the same time last year."

Undoubtedly, the fine people at UBS have their own scientific way of measuring consumer demand, and are proficient at prognosticating the cruise industry's path.

However, at Travel Agent, we have our own way of calculating booking strength. Forget suppliers. We go straight to the source: you, the travel agents.

Therefore, we put a poll into the field. That wave season coincides with the national primaries makes it all that more exciting, too. Unlike other polls, we tried to make ours as simple and straightforward as possible (didn't want a repeat of Florida and its hanging chads), and settled on two questions: How has this year's wave season stacked up against last year's? And, what destination is receiving the majority of your wave season bookings?

Remarkably, in only two weeks' time, we elicited a staggering 114 responses, and appreciate all the industrious agents out there who shared their thoughts. So, without further adieu, on to the numbers.

When it comes to measuring this year's wave season against last year's, 37 percent of agents (42 in all) disclosed that their wave season was an almost facsimile of last year's. That's to say it is going quite well, as on average, last year's wave season was quite strong booking wise.

Now, we come to the two real deciders. The remaining 72 respondents either stated that their wave season was stronger or weaker than last year. Don't blame the messenger, but the weaker camp wins, but not by a wide margin. Thirty-three percent (or 38 agents) admitted their current wave season is weaker than last year; on the other hand, 30 percent (or 34 agents) are enjoying a stronger wave season this year versus last, and for that we applaud you.

Now, on to where your clients are booking. We broke it down into four possible answers: Alaska, the Caribbean, Europe or Other (any booking taken regarding Tom Cruise did not count, however). The Caribbean was the runaway winner—a two-to-one victor over the rest, in fact—garnering 47 percent of the vote, or the pick by 53 agents. Running a distant second and tied with 20 percent of the backing were Europe and Other, while Alaska finished at the back of the pack with 13 percent, or 15 agents.

These, of course, are preliminary numbers, with wave season stretching well into March; however, they do serve as a good indicator of what the final tally may, indeed, be. For those having a weaker wave season, we predict some good karma will come your way for participating in our survey; for those with stronger wave seasons, keep it up; and for those holding steady, well, we say move forward, not back.

Wave Season: This Year v. Last Year

How It Measures

Number of Agents Answering

Percentage of Agents

Same As Last Year



Weaker Than Last Year



Stronger Than Last Year



Source: Travel Agent Magazine, January 7-21.

Where Are Agents Booking Their Clients?


Number of Agents Answering

Percentage of Agents













Source: Travel Agent Magazine, January 7-21.

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