The cruising world has been arguably the hardest travel industry hit by the COVID-19 pandemic. Media reports highlighting the ships as hot spots, and the government’s hesitation to let them dock for days on end, shed much negative coverage on the gargantuan floating hotels. Jokes swirled online, stocks plummeted, and the question was asked: Will cruising ever be the same again?
If the data for 2021 is telling us anything, it’s that consumers are not shying away from the cruising lifestyle. For many, cruising provides one of the most comfortable ways to see the world, and it’s hard to expect certain demographics to abandon the form of travel.
Given the option of canceling their trip entirely or rebooking, nearly 76% of cruisers have opted for the latter according to UBS analyst Robin Farley. “Booking volume in the last 30 days for 2021 is actually up 9% versus the same time last year.”
But it goes beyond rebooking as well. Carnival CEO Arnold Donald reported that 2021 bookings are continuing to be made, and the company’s senior vice president of global sales and trade marketing Adolfo Perez indicated that many of the new bookings are not simply rebookings.
For Viking, one of the premier River Cruise companies in the world, an increase on inventory has been made to accommodate future travelers. 2021 bookings are 20% ahead of 2020 bookings were at this point last year, and they’re anticipating more travelers for the 2022 season as well.
While a return to the cruising of old is unlikely, the cruise industry is likely entering a new normal that’s here to stay. Especially if a vaccine is indeed developed within 12 months.