Economic, pandemic and geopolitical headwinds continue to challenge the cruise industry, but they’ve combined to create a rare opportunity for travelers: It’s the ideal time to book a voyage as fares are falling, extra perks are offered, and there’s plenty of space on cruise ships.
“Now is definitely the best time for consumers to book a cruise,” said Michelle Fee, CEO and founder of Cruise Planners, a travel agency franchise network. “We are seeing incredible pricing on cruises for close-in sail dates through 2022 and early 2023. It’s hard to beat considering everything these packages include, so it’s a phenomenal time to cruise, considering the deals. If you factor in the high price of gas, cost of airfare, hotels and soaring cost of land vacations, a cruise is not only more economical, there’s no cooking or cleaning involved once you get to your destination, so it’s a great option to truly enjoy your vacation.”
David Crooks, senior vice president-product and operations at World Travel Holdings – parent company of agency networks Dream Vacations and CruiseOne and consumer booking sites including CruisesOnly and Cruises.com – agreed that this is an unusually opportune time for booking cruises.
“If you want to go on a cruise, this is the year to do it,” he said. “It’s safe, affordable and not overly crowded.”
Crooks noted that cruise lines are launching promotions because many people have already made summer vacation plans and the vaccination and negative testing requirements complicate things for some people. The sagging economy isn’t helping.
“Certainly, the decrease in disposable consumer income due to inflation is definitely making some clients hesitant to make vacation plans,” said Steve Hirshan, senior vice president of sales at Avoya, a travel advisor network.
Therefore, the discounts.
“Part of the reason for these low fares is to entice travelers to get back out and explore,” Fee said. “Everyone loves a good deal and sometimes that little extra perk can be the reason you decide to book. Cruise lines have 100 percent of their fleet back on the water and they have the capacity to serve clients. Remember most of the travel protocols have just dropped from many destinations; however, you still need proof of vaccination and testing to cruise. There is a part of the population that does not qualify to cruise yet.”
With full fleets back in service and worldwide staffing shortages, some cruise lines have reduced onboard capacity – and the resulting benefit for passengers is plenty of space onboard and few lines or crowds.
“For some cruise lines, the return to a full fleet happened earlier than expected, leaving them the need to fill extra berths close in,” Hirshan said. “Of course, there are some great sales to take advantage of like Avoya’s exclusive offer with Royal Caribbean International for seven-day cruises departing Aug. 1-Dec. 31, 2022.”
As an example, Avoya offers a seven-night roundtrip out of Tampa to Cozumel and Costa Maya in Mexico, Roatan Island, and Belize for $369 for an inside stateroom and $487 for an ocean-view room on the Nov. 26 departure on Royal Caribbean’s Serenade of the Seas.
Several cruise lines also launched very attractive promotions.
Norwegian Cruise Line is offering up to 35 percent off cruises booked July 1-14, 2022, as well as 70 precent off the second guest in a stateroom. Plus, the deal includes “Free At Sea” extras, such as unlimited open bar, free specialty dining, free shore excursions, free Wi-Fi and free third and fourth guests in a stateroom. If that wasn’t enough, those who book airfare with NCL can get free air for the second guest.
Princess Cruises is offering $1 deposits on 2022 and 2023 voyages booked between June 30 and July 5 – and that’s on top of discounts of up to 40 percent on 2022 voyages and 25 percent on 2023 sailings booked by Aug. 31. That means a seven-day Alaska cruise on Grand Princess departing on May 6, 2023, can cost as little as $499 – the same price as the Jan. 8, 2023, departure on a seven-day Western Caribbean itinerary on Ruby Princess.
Celestyal Cruises is offering savings of up to 44 percent off select 2022 itineraries booked through July 11, so a seven-night “Idyllic Aegean” itinerary has been reduced to just $845, based on double occupancy.
Hurtigruten Expeditions is offering up to 40 percent off on itineraries to Greenland, the Northwest Passage, West Africa, and Antarctica – all destinations rarely on sale, the line noted. The Norwegian coastal voyages also are up to 40 percent off, while guests can save up to 50 percent on North, Central, and South American cruises, including Alaska, on 2022-23 departures. The company’s “Summer Sail” campaign runs through July 6, 2022.
Celebrity Cruises is waiving the single supplement on more than 275 select sailings through March 30, 2023, and the offer is combinable with “Always Included” and “BOGO60,” its semi-annual sale through July 6. The “BOGO60” deal is 60 percent off the second guest for nearly all sailings from July 10, 2022, through April 30, 2024. Guests can also save up to $500 off airfare when they book using Flights by Celebrity.
There likely are more screaming deals offered by cruise lines, so ask your travel advisor about promotions and keep your eyes open. Be aware that promotions usually have a booking deadline, but they are often extended as long as the cruise line needs to fill berths.
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