CLIA Study: Caribbean Remains King of Cruises

Travel agents polled in a survey by the Cruise Lines International Association (CLIA) once again confirmed what cruise enthusiasts have known for a long time: The Caribbean is the hottest cruise region in the world.

In fact, nearly 80 percent of more than 500 CLIA travel agents polled named the destination as the most popular cruising ground for their agencies' customers.

Further cementing the survey findings was the fact that 88 percent of agents reported that the total number of Caribbean cruises sold at their agencies in 2006 increased over 2005—with 93 percent of respondents predicting that 2007 sales totals would surpass 2006 levels.

A Strong Future

"It goes without saying that the trend toward Caribbean cruising will only get stronger in the future," Terry Dale, CEO and president of Cruise Lines International Association told Travel Agent. "More vacationers choose to cruise each year and the Caribbean remains a prime destination for both cruisers and land-based vacationers. Although the Caribbean experiences periods where demand ebbs and flows, that does not change the fact that it remains the number-one cruise destination in guest popularity and number of ships that visit the region's ports."

Customer satisfaction rates also soared, with nearly 90 percent of agencies reporting that their clients were very satisfied or extremely satisfied. Total satisfaction ratings were 98.5 percent.

The high level of satisfaction comes as no surprise to CLIA member cruise lines, which have debuted large numbers of their newest and most cutting-edge ships in the region.

"Hands down, cruise vacationers will find the cruise industry's most innovative ships in the Caribbean," Dale said in a news release. "The Caribbean is a veritable candy store when it comes to the array of cruise lines and ships that are available to travelers."

Sixty-four percent of respondents said their clients rated their chosen cruise lines and ships as the best attribute of Caribbean cruises, and also cited selling points as the Caribbean's climate, overall ambiance, ports of call, beaches and shopping. Forty-nine percent said that a cruise was the perfect way to sample Caribbean islands that they wish to visit again by ship or by land. Generally comparable with capacity deployment, 53 percent of respondents sold western Caribbean itineraries most often, 34 percent the eastern Caribbean and 9 percent the southern Caribbean.

Seventy-five percent cited seven-day itineraries as the most popular cruise length, 13 percent voyages of five days or fewer, and 10 percent cruises of eight to 10 days.

"When booking cruises to the Caribbean, agents have price on their side," says Michelle Fee, a member of CLIA's Travel Agency Advisory Board and CEO of Cruise Planners in Coral Springs, FL. "Plus, you can go from multiple places now. If you sell Alaska and Europe, you're talking major vacations. For the Caribbean, you can get a call on a Monday and sell it for that Friday or Saturday. Europe and Alaska, you have to get more in depth with the sale. For the Caribbean, you are selling sun and fun, that's it. It's just an easier sale."

88% of agents reported that the total number of Caribbean cruises sold at their agencies in 2006 increased over 2005; 93% of respondents predicted that 2007 sales totals would surpass 2006.

75% cited seven-day itineraries as the most popular

13% voyages of five days or less

10% cruises of eight to 10 days

Nearly 90% of agencies report that their clients were very satisfied or extremely satisfied, and total satisfaction ratings were 98.5%

34% Sold eastern Caribbean itineraries most often

9% Sold southern Caribbean most

53% Sold western Caribbean itineraries most often

Nearly 80% of more than 500 clia travel agents polled named the Caribbean as the most popular cruising ground for their agencies' customers

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