Booking trends, itinerary changes, and dining lead the way.
Anyone who has opened a magazine, web page or turned on their television since January has most likely been bombarded with ads for cruises. They’re slick, appealing and eye-catching. All with the hopes of filling beds on floating resorts and luxury ships.
Called, “Wave Season” this is the time of year when cruise lines look to book their ships through the fourth quarter. Vacationers, sick of the cold weather at home, envision sunnier climes, relaxed getaways, and great deals. And rightly so.
Traditionally, Wave Season offers the best rates and other incentives to fill their ships. Given today’s economic issues, cruisers and travel agents have become savvy shoppers. It didn’t take long to conclude that unsold inventory would have to drop in price to get the last minute staterooms sold. Granted, it might not be someone’s ideal stateroom category or location, but for those who are price-driven, waiting until 90 days prior to booking their cruise is beginning to make more sense.
Of course, lower pricing affects incoming revenue to the cruise lines, something that makes shareholders a little nervous. David Dingle, Carnival UK CEO stated, “The economy continues to be challenging and the booking curve is shorter than we would like but it is clear that the business is still there and is still strong. Those brands which have visibility, cut-through and distinctiveness will continue to flourish and retain market share.”
Another issue facing the cruise lines in 2014 has to do with consumers’ preferences for where they want to go and how long they stay at one port. Travelzoo provides a wealth of interesting information on the itineraries that cruise lines are revamping for 2014. Several cruise lines, including Holland America, Oceania and Azamara are staying longer in port or even overnight, in response to passenger requests for more immersive stays. Especially in Europe and South America where there is so much to see and do that one six to eight hour stay in port isn’t nearly sufficient.
Azamara Club Cruises CEO, Larry Pimental sums it up, “We’re going to slow down the tempo … allow our guests to not just see the destination, but to live it. Consider destinations like St Tropez. If you’ve experienced it only by day, you haven’t really experienced it.”
And it’s true. Spending longer time in port gives you the opportunity to take in the city’s night life, have dinner in a local restaurant or just relax without having to rush back to the ship for a 5pm sailaway.
Like it or not, when prices drop at the last minute, cruise lines have to recoup their losses. Specialty restaurants have higher price tags this year and everything from yoga and Apple computer classes to golf simulators and reservations-only cooking classes are being added.
Don’t want to wait until the last minute for a great deal on a cruise? Book early, as soon as the new deployment schedule is open for reservations. You’ll find terrific pricing at that time, too. Keep in mind, some cruise lines do not adjust the fare in your favor if prices should drop after final payment is paid.
For an in-depth review of what’s on deck for 2014, head over to Travelzoo UK for their take on cruising in 2014 .
Sherry is editor and creator of CruiseMaven.com. An expert on ocean and river cruises plus trains in the US and Europe, Sherry’s goal is to share her experiences to entertain, inform and inspire readers to travel the world.