Against all odds, Cruise Planners is seeing an uptick in cruise travel sales for 2020 versus 2019.
In fact, Cruise Planners is reporting 15% higher sales trends for next year. Part of that includes rebooking currently canceled voyages with future cruise credits, but there are brand-new reservations being made, as well. Europe is leading top destinations for 2021, followed by the Caribbean and Alaska.
“We are hopeful that these numbers are a sign that we are moving a little bit in the right direction,” said Michelle Fee, founder and CEO of Cruise Planners, during a recent press conference.
Fee’s optimism is shared by many in the segment: Times are tough now due to the COVID-19 pandemic, but they are looking up for the future — especially into 2021.
“Our guests continue to demonstrate their desire for cruise vacations as we continue to experience demand for voyages further in the future across our three brands,” said Frank Del Rio, president and chief executive officer of Norwegian Cruise Line Holdings Ltd. in a press release. “When the time comes, we will be ready to safely resume operations and welcome our loyal guests onboard.”
Among the most crucial things for travel agents to remember moving forward is that the coronavirus is a pandemic, and “not a cruise ship illness,” said Vicky Garcia, co-owner and COO of Cruise Planners.
When asked what cruise lines could contribute to the conversation, Garcia believes that “cruise line representatives and Cruise Lines International Association should come out with the recovery,” proactively discussing, for instance, what they are doing to clean more, monitor temperatures and change how buffets are run.
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During another press conference, Arnold Donald, CEO of Carnival Corporation, recalled that the industry was “busy knocking down myths before,” and he encourages that messaging to continue.
This will be vital to attracting new-to-cruise travelers, while loyalists are already itching to return, he said.
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Fee says many clients are telling Cruise Planners that “once this ban is lifted, I’m traveling.” She thinks people aren’t afraid of cruising itself, but of getting sick, and that antibody testing would determine if travel is safe for passengers.
But when exactly will cruising start up again?
For the Carnival Cruise Line brand specifically, plans are currently in place to resume service on Aug. 1 onboard eight ships sailing from Galveston, Port Canaveral and Miami with remaining vessels coming online in September.
Carnival’s nine cruise brands continue to emphasize deep cleanings and mitigating the spread of anything onboard, whether that be norovirus or the coronavirus. Donald says that until there is a vaccine or global immunity to COVID-19, Carnival will await precise protocols, but the company will be compliant with whatever they are.
Cruising is most likely on hold until at least mid-July per the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s no-sail order, but it will probably begin to return during the months that follow.
Until then, Garcia maintains that “travel is beautiful,” and Fee is confident that “people are going to flood back to cruising.”
The most important thing now, according to Cruise Planners, is that agents stay in touch with their customers.