Even though I don’t personally sell cruises – I leave that to the experts with whom I work at Cruise Holidays – I keep a close eye on cruise trends. Starting back in 2005, Cruise Holidays began asking its cruise consultants across the United States and Canada to participate in a Cruise Trends survey, asking simple questions about popular cruise destinations, why people take cruises, and more.Now, in 2011, there are even more sites where you can research, compare and buy. But there are fewer actual travel agencies out there – real travel experts who have “been there, done that” and who are willing to listen and give a recommendation on what’s best for you.
In looking ahead, we can tell you what our cruise experts across North America are already starting to book, where the value is, and how soon you may need to act in order to lock in the best price.
And so here I present to you a few of the more significant findings from the Cruise Holidays 2011 Cruise Trends* survey:
Where are people going in 2011?
More people are expected to choose Europe over Alaska, according to actual booking statistics released by Cruise Holidays. Mediterranean cruises climbed into second place in Cruise Holidays’ 2011 Cruise Trends report, with Alaska closely trailing. Caribbean cruises remain high atop the destination list by a wide margin.
Europe’s allure may be based on its exceptional value right now. By a three-to-one margin, Cruise Holidays experts stated that Europe is a better value than Alaska, at least in 2011. The Caribbean placed first with 49% of the vote, followed by Europe with 25.5%, and Alaska with 8.3%, followed by other destinations.Barcelona and Rome are particularly popular choices as cruise destinations – not only when compared to other European cities but as top cruise destinations around the globe.
Value in Europe
Precise booking data from Cruise Holidays shows the average cost of a Mediterranean 12-day itinerary has steadily dropped since 2009. In fact, cost per day across all stateroom categories in The Med has fallen, on average, to $222 a person – down from $262 in 2010 and $290 in 2009. Average pricing in the Caribbean also continues to trend lower. Alaska pricing has risen from 2010, but is still lower than 2009.
What’s most important when booking a cruise?
While price is important, the right itinerary actually ranks as the highest determining factor in choosing a specific cruise. That’s all the more reason why our clients value our experts’ opinions on which destinations they may want to include, as opposed to relying on a faceless Web site.
Popular cruise line incentives
Cruise line incentives, sometimes more easily available through cruise consultants such as Cruise Holidays, also help sweeten the pot for travelers. When asked which incentives offered by the cruise lines are most attractive to their clients, the Cruise Holidays experts provided these rankings:
1. Onboard credits 38.5%
2. Free air offers 19.6%
3. 2 for 1 pricing 18.9%
4. Early booking discounts 11.2%
5. Onboard amenities, such as a bottle of wine,
complimentary dining in a specialty
restaurant, etc. 5.6%
6. 3rd or 4th person sails free 4.9%
7. Other 1.4%
Book now, or you could be sorry
Although cruise values are anticipated to remain strong throughout 2011, Cruise Holidays experts also noted the booking window (time between cruise is booked and when the ship sails) began to increase in 2010. The percentage of people who booked their 2010 cruise more than six months prior to the cruise increased to 48.5%, compared to only 40.5% in 2009. We advise booking early so you get the choice of itinerary, ship and accommodations that you desire.
This is the second of two Cruise Trends reports issued by Cruise Holidays in 2011. The first report focuses on the new cruise ships available to travelers in 2011.
*Cruise Holidays cruise consultants were surveyed between January 3 and January 17, 2011.