When it comes to advance cruise sales for 2018, more than two dozen travel agents gave Travel Agent their perspective in a recent survey.
Here's what these advisors revealed about their agency's advance cruise bookings for Alaska, Europe and the Caribbean. The retailers compared those bookings with advance bookings they had at the same time last year. Here's what the survey showed:
When Evaluating Advance Cruise Bookings for 2018, How Does Alaska Stack Up?
- My Alaska bookings are better than they were at the same time last year – 24 percent of agents
- My Alaska bookings are about the same as they were last year at this time – 56 percent of agents
- My 2018 Alaska bookings are so-so. Not sure if 2018 will be better than 2017 – 20 percent of agents
- My 2018 Alaska bookings are much less than they were at this time last year – 0 percent of agents
"I’ve received only a few feelers for Alaska, but recently booked two balcony staterooms on Celebrity," said Jack Fingerman, independent agent, Cruises Inc. in Mount Laurel, NJ.
“I believe Alaska is going to be the strongest it has ever been because of what has happened in the Caribbean," Beth Leonardt, Vacations by Beth, LLC, an independent agent with the Avoya Travel Network, in Houston, TX.
“Everyone wants to go...and then they realize its much pricier than a Caribbean itinerary,” says an agent who took the survey but preferred to remain anonymous.
“I have a group for Alaska in 2018, which will increase my sales, because in 2017 I only had individuals,” said Jo Ann Williams, vacation specialist, Cruises Inc., Manassas, VA.
“People seem to be booking Alaska late this year. I am starting to see more interest recently, though,” said Darci Upham, franchise owner, CruiseOne, Hampstead, NC.
How Do Your European Cruise Bookings Look Compared to This Time Last Year?
Describing European bookings as “much higher than last year,” is Timothy Joseph, president, Revitalize Travel, Long Island, NY, who says "Europe has made a big come-back."
Susan Wolfson, owner, Go Astro Travel LLC in Allentown, PA, and Kathy Lunceford, a luxury travel specialist and franchise owner, Cruise Planners, Blue Ridge, GA, are also seeing higher European bookings.
“European cruise bookings are the largest area of growth for us, both river cruise and ocean cruise,” noted Derek Krabill, travel advisor with Royal York Travel and franchise owner, Dream Vacations, New York, NY.
Seeing much higher advance European bookings is Holly Tucker of Tucker Travel, a Nexion affiliated agency in Hendersonville, NC. European river cruises are Tucker's top performer for cruise sales, followed by Australia/New Zealand/South Pacific voyages.
Cheryl Myerson, owner, Unforgettable Cruises & Tours, LLC, Arvada ,CO, says her European bookings are about the same as last year at this time, as does Lois Sposa, owner, Embrace the World Travel, LLC, an independent agent with Avoya Travel Network in Sarasota, FL.
“I think there is still a bit of concern for European travel,” Sposa noted. Ester Herz, director, House of Cruises, Rock Island, WA, says her European advance cruise bookings are about the same as last year, but that European river cruises are her top region/destination for cruise sales, followed by European ocean cruises.
For another agent, Europe sales are tracking a bit lower than last year, but “[we’re] selling more river cruises versus ocean for Europe,” says Jennifer Leventhal, president, Sentinel Travel, an Ensemble agency in Northbrook, IL.
Overall, here’s what our survey responders said about their European cruise bookings this year versus a year ago:
- Much higher than last year – 16 percent of agents
- Higher than last year – 24 percent of agents
- About the same as last year – 52 percent of agents
- Less than the same time last year – 8 percent of agents
How Do Your Winter 2017-18 Caribbean Bookings Compare to Those of a Year Ago?
- Strong - Off the chart compared to last year – 4 percent
- Good - A bit higher than last year – 16 percent
- Okay - About the same as last year – 68 percent
- Not as strong as they were at the same time last year – 12 percent
“With lots of newer ships in the Caribbean, and higher rates than previous years, my Caribbean sales remain very strong,” says Darci Upham.
Reporting “good Caribbean bookings, a bit higher than last year,” is Judith Strauss of Indigo Travel, Indio, CA, an independent agent in the Avoya Travel Network.
Rich Stieff, a Cruise Planners franchise owner in Fort Lauderdale, FL, and Bobbi Wagner, Destined to Travel, LLC Stevens Point, WI, both characterize their agency’s Caribbean sales as about the same as last year. Both also listed their top three areas for cruise sales as Caribbean, Europe ocean cruises and Europe river cruises.
Posting European and Alaska advance bookings "about the same as last year," is Lesley Egbert, owner, Live Longitude Travel, Helena, MT, but her advance Caribbean bookings are down, year over year. Still Egbert expects her overall business results this year to be better than the previous year.
When it comes to the performance of winter Caribbean bookings, the weather plays a role. One agent who responded to our survey, but wished to remain anonymous simply said: “People wake up once it starts snowing."