Although there is disagreement about the beginning and end of Wave Season, suppliers and agents agree that this year is off to a greatly improved star over last year.
Carnival Cruise Lines recently reported record booking volumes from Jan. 1 through Feb. 21, announcing a general price increase of around 5 percent effective on March 22 for summer sailings.
Windstar Cruises, too, reported record sales during the first six weeks of the year with net revenue up 94 percent this year over the same period in 2009 and 13 percent over 2008. Due to the strength of Windstar’s charter and incentive business, net revenue for 2011 is almost double the same period in 2010.
Oceania Cruises announced a single day booking record when the line opened sales for the new Marina, with nearly 50 percent of released inventory selling in less than 12 hours.
Likewise, Crystal Cruises said bookings for January were 205 percent greater than bookings for the same month in 2009. In the contemporary sector, Royal Caribbean International (RCI) reported that volume and pricing has increased year after year for all quarters of 2010, and Carnival Corporation is resuming its quarterly dividend, which was suspended in March 2009.
Tom Baker, president and partner at CruiseCenter.com in Houston, Texas, said he has been “exponentially” busier than last year same time.
“Our business is up about 20 percent,” Baker said. “It is encouraging, but does not put us back into a normal mode after at 35 percent drop in revenues for 2009.”
Along with many other agents, he sees the strength of the industry in luxury and longer cruises. Baker feels that contemporary and premium brands are often undermining the rates with last minute offers within 60-90 days of departure.
“I booked clients on a 21-day Antarctica cruise on a premium brand in a suite for $9,399 per person. By the time they just sailed in January, the rate dropped to $4,599,” Baker said.
Brad Anderson, co-president of San Diego-based America’s Vacation Center, sees pricing overall stabilizing and rising. His company reported “record days, record weeks” during Wave.
“Business is back and it’s back with a vengeance,” Anderson said.
Anderson and others praised cruise lines that have been supportive of agents during recent hard times, particularly RCI.
“The agents don’t forget,” said Anderson.