One reason nobody is panicking about a soft Mediterranean cruise market is that other markets continue to show strength. And it’s not just Alaska and Canada/New England. The latest sign of people staying closer to home is increased interest in Panama Canal cruises.
Retailers report unusually strong sales for the winter months ahead, and groups are forming early for the 17/18 season as well.
But the big change is for next year, with the new and improved Panama Canal locks being promoted on the Caribbean Princess starting in the fall of 2017, just 1 yr. from this month. The new set of locks are 21 m wider and 5.5 m deeper than those in the original canal.
One agent told Cruise Week the new locks are attracting interest from senior clients who in the past would never consider repeating a Panama Canal cruise. “Now some of my seniors are once again showing interest, due to the change that enables bigger ships,” she reported. “There’s also some interest in the new canal by younger travellers, again due to the bigger ship that can now go through.”
As of now, it appears that the 112,000 ton Caribbean Princess is the only published cruise ship scheduled to operate using the new set of locks. A Canal Authority spokesperson says that “due to customer confidentiality, we aren’t able to share the name of vessels before they transit the Canal, without their permission. However, what I can tell you is that we have 16 reservations for passenger ships to transit the expanded canal from October 2017 to April 2018.”
Old locks or new, Princess remains the capacity leader in canal transit cruising.
In addition to Caribbean Princess offering a partial transit through the new Panama Canal locks on roundtrips from Ft. Lauderdale, Coral Princess, Island Princess, and Pacific Princess all sail ocean to ocean with a full transit through all 3 sets of the traditional locks: Gatun, Pedro Miguel and Miraflores.