North Americans’ love affair with Europe is sizzling in 2012, according to the Cruise Holidays 2012 Cruise Trends survey*. While Caribbean cruises are the perennial and overwhelming favorite for cruisers, early bookings to Europe continue to outpace those to Alaska, for the second year in a row, making Europe the second most popular cruise destination. What makes Europe so popular? Part of it is the diversity of destinations. For example, a cruise to the Baltics or Scandinavia brings an entirely different experience than one to the Greek Isles. With each of these individual sub-categories growing, Europe is assured of melting even more cruisers’ hearts in 2012.
Meanwhile, a shift in cruise capacity away from the Mexican Riviera, and ports such as Acapulco and Puerto Vallarta, means this region is down to seventh place after being as high as 3rd place in 2006, 2007 and 2008. Hawaii may be the beneficiary of this current cruise trend. West coast cruisers from southern California all the way up to Seattle and beyond need convenient cruise options. Keep a close eye on Hawaii for that very reason.
Top 10 Cruise Destinations 2012
Here is the complete list of the most popular cruise destinations for 2012 according to the Cruise Holidays 2012 Cruise Trends survey:
1. Caribbean (includes Bahamas)
2. Europe (includes Med, Baltic, Scandinavia & Greek Isles)
6. Panama Canal
7. Mexican Riviera
9. Canada/New England
10. South Pacific
Value in Caribbean & Europe
Cruise Holidays experts predict the best cruise values will also remain in the Caribbean and Europe. “These two regions are the clear-cut leaders when it comes to the bang for the buck that a cruise vacation can provide,” stated Mark Schiffner, Vice President and Chief Operating Officer, Cruise Holidays.
“On the flip side, with fewer cruisers turning to the Mexican Riviera as a top vacation choice, its value proposition is increasing. Mexico’s famed Gold Coast is pulling out all the stops to showcase its world-class beach communities, which depend on tourism for their livelihood,” added Schiffner. The top five “cruise value leaders” are:
1. (tie) Caribbean
1. (tie) Europe
3. Alaska/Pacific Northwest
4. Mexican Riviera
** Other responses included Hawaii, Bermuda, Asia, South America and Dubai.
Booking Window Continues to Increase
A look back at bookings made in 2011 shows that the average length of the booking window (the time between when a cruise is booked and its actual sail date) continues to lengthen. In 2011, about 52% of cruises were booked more than six months prior to the cruise. In 2010, that number was 48.5%. The number was even lower – 40.5% – in 2009.
However, the number of travelers capitalizing on last minute deals is also growing. More than seven percent (7%) of cruises were booked less than one month before the sail date in 2011, which is up compared to the previous two years. So, last minute booking incentives along with very early booking incentives continue to be an attractive way to lock in deals.
Cruise Experts Extremely Encouraged Looking Forward
Looking ahead to the first three months of 2012, known as “Wave Season” in the cruise industry, the level of optimism is at a three-year high for Cruise Holidays experts. More than 73% of respondents say they are very optimistic or somewhat optimistic about Wave Season, with an additional 25% feeling neutral. That level of optimism demonstrates an excitement that bookings will be strong in the first quarter of 2012. Considering the vast amount of trend information at Cruise Holidays’ fingertips, including their expert knowledge of pricing, destinations and even the best time to book, Cruise Holidays consultants expect their current clients along with new clients will be turning to them as their personal cruise experts throughout 2012.
Did you miss Part I of our 2012 Cruise Trends report? See the full cruise trends news release.
*Actual booking information was derived from Cruise Holidays’ proprietary booking system, for all bookings Jan. 1, 2011 – Dec. 21, 2011, for all sailings to take place in 2012. Additionally, 118 Cruise Holidays cruise consultants were surveyed for their opinions between December 21, 2011 and January 4, 2012.