Travel Agents Reveal Current Cruise Trends
PHOTO: Bahamas cruise port. (photo by Brian Major)
It’s cruise season and this year more than 22 million people are expected to take to the seas. What trends have travel agents seen in this sector of the industry? Keep reading to find out.
Steve Griswold, owner of Pixie Vacations in Atlanta, Georgia, specializes in everything Disney and said Disney Cruise Line has always been popular, but their new “Special Days at Sea” cruises are trending very high with guests.
With the popularity of the latest installment, “Star Wars: The Force Awakens,” Disney Cruise Line created a Star Wars Day At Sea aboard certain sailings. “These cruises are trending because they offer something extra to the guests like special Star Wars deck parties, Star Wars themed fireworks, music and characters,” he said. “There is even a Jedi Training Academy onboard these sailings. Sailings for 2016 are over, but Disney brought them back in 2017 for dates from January to March on certain seven-day sailings to the Eastern or Western Caribbean.
Ira Kaplan is co-owner of Cruise Holidays, based out of Marlboro, New Jersey, and until a short time ago, local cruisers would have to fly to ports in Florida, Alaska and even Europe to get on that boat. Thanks to the introduction of ports in both New Jersey and New York City, cruises close to her home office are trending.
“Cruise lines such as Royal Caribbean, Celebrity Cruises, and Norwegian Cruise Line, all sail from local ports from Cape Liberty in New Jersey and the piers in New York City,” he said. “They travel to destinations in the Caribbean, Bermuda, New England and the Bahamas. We see clients requesting more sailings from close to home, but there are still a few that are willing to fly to a cruise in Alaska or even to Europe.
With the increased popularity of river cruises, Larry Jackson, owner of Cruise Holidays of Viera, Florida, said that his clients want smaller ships and newer, unique experiences. “This type of cruise includes river cruises, new ocean cruise ships like the Viking Star and more seasoned cruise lines like Azamara and Oceania,” he said.
His retired and empty nesters are opting for cruises that let them enjoy unique experiences without dealing with large crowds. “Some examples of the experiences they’re looking for include a concert in a private Vienna palace with the palace owner, private tour of a 14th-century monastery or lunch with a Chinese family.”
Some agents are calling this cruising season unusual, but say that their clients haven’t been too deterred. “While world events have disquieted some travel consumers, a vast majority are going ahead with their vacation plans, which often include cruise vacations,” said Rich Skinner, Co-Owner, Cruise Holidays of Woodinville, Washington.
Skinner said that Europe is still the leading choice for river cruises, but Asia and new destinations like Africa and India are adding interest to the consumer. “The all-inclusive nature of river cruises brings excellent value to a product that appeals greatly to big ship ‘blue water,’ cruises,” he said. “Alaska, South America, Panama Canals are attracting a great deal of attention.”
Mark Comfort, co-owner of Cruise Holidays of Kansas City, Missouri said that first-time river cruisers are doing primarily the Danube and the Rhine rivers, but the more experienced river cruisers are doing the Seine (Normandy), the Saone and Rhone rivers in central and southern France, and the Douro River in Portugal.
“Then the very well-traveled customers are experiencing the Vietnam and Myamar cruises,” he said. “Ocean cruises that are trending are longer and more exotic in South Pacific, Asia, Australia and New Zealand, South America and the Panama Canal.”
Ellen Bainer, travel consultant at Indian River Travel, A FROSCH Company, said that New England is selling for September and October — peak leaf changing season — and she has been booking the Panama Canal. “I’m getting some requests for the Mediterranean this summer, but it's been hard to close the sale,” she said.
It’s also never too early to book those 2017 cruises and Judy Nidetz, an affiliate of Travel Experts has been selling for next year, especially on the smaller ships.
“I am selling cruises to the Mediterranean on Europe and the Baltics,” she said. “I have been super busy selling Western European destinations, for this summer and also starting for next year.”
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Nidetz also said that vacationers are cashing in on good availability from those who canceled plans due to the most recent terrorist attacks. “People realize the great value of the US dollar against the euro,” she said. “Prices have remained steady and good values are still available for travel to Europe this summer. I have more Italy, France, Germany and Czech Republic FIT bookings for this summer than I have ever had before.”
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