“Europe Is Off The Charts:” Retailers On March Cruise Sales
After a monthly check-in with top retailers, Cruise Week says North American-sourced business continues to do well, with key trade sources reporting a strong month for most markets.
"March has been very busy from a gross bookings standpoint, primarily driven by discounts on Eastern Caribbean sailings," said one large producer. "Demand for Alaska, Europe, and other trades, such as Australia/New Zealand and transcanal, remains robust. Overall, I am optimistic about the rest of the year."
In terms of specific markets, Alex Sharpe, President/CEO Of Signature Travel Network reports, "Europe is off the charts for sure."
One cruise line exec with a large presence in Europe explained his view of the situation. "A lot has to do with capacity. There was a capacity increase shift to the north of Europe versus the Med when the migrant issue was big and in the news every day. Since that news stopped, the demand has steadily come back and continues to climb."
But capacity hasn't yet caught up with demand in the Med. Where agents report there are some challenges now are Baltic and British Isles, but nothing out of the ordinary, and, again, it's capacity-related.
Meanwhile, Alaska is experiencing some limited tactical offers now, but given that there is more capacity in the cruise-only segment to Alaska (versus the longer cruise tour trips), one would have expected there to be more tactical pricing than currently being seen if there really was a serious problem.
Some agents report that Alaska business is a little slower than normal for March; others brush off the concern. "Remember," said one top agent, "we entered the year with unprecedented Alaska business, way up versus last year."
Strength in Europe and Alaska perhaps explains why when it comes to promotions and sales, the big focus in March has been the Caribbean. Retail comments indicate that three separate challenges are in play – the hurricane hangover in the Eastern Caribbean, summer overcapacity and future hurricane fears.
"Issues associated with capacity increases are real," said one top producer. He explains it's being felt more this year than last year "because it's coupled with hurricane hangover."
Looking ahead, several lines have opened their 2020 books already--Cunard is one example--so there are some earlier booking windows than ever before. It's just one sign of general confidence in the future.