Caribbean Cruising Calm: What A Difference A Year Makes


Back in June and July there was substantial uncertainty about fall Caribbean business. Agents were pointing to signs of weakness like more reduced deposits than normal, an increase in onboard credits, etc.

It was noticeable, but nothing drastic was cited. "Slight pricing actions were taken but mainly in terms of consumer offers versus price cuts," recalls one national seller.

Move forward to the last week of August, and, as several sources report, concerns about the state of business in the Caribbean have receded.

"There are some limited time bonuses going on, but the Caribbean seems to have come back, and we're not as concerned about Q4 as we once were,"  says one national seller. ''There seems to be a big sigh of collective relief, as opposed to three months ago, when it was, 'You got to do this, you got to do that' to sell the Caribbean."

Less Active Hurricane Season

The summer's lack of hurricanes in the Atlantic is seen as a big factor for improved fall Caribbean business in August.  The head of one agency group observes: "Not only are there no hurricanes, there are not even any tropical storms going on now in the Caribbean."

Helping matters out are the official forecasts that there will be no repeat of last year's nightmarish hurricane season. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) reported on 9AUG, "We now expect a less active Atlantic hurricane season than was predicted in May."

Back then, NOAA had predicted five to nine hurricanes, including one to four major hurricanes with Category 3 strength or higher. Now it's just 0-2 strong hurricanes predicted for the Atlantic.

One year ago this past weekend, Hurricane Harvey was raging through southeast Texas and ships were being moved about to different ports. This week, there's not even a single ship repositioning in the Caribbean.

Fall Caribbean In Perspective

David Crooks, SVP of World Travel Holdings, sums up the current book position: "This summer we have seen very solid demand for Q4. So while there are still some needs, there's not panic. In fact, as every week goes by, Q4 feels stronger."

Of course, it's not all wine and roses. Crooks says, "I cannot remember any year when the cruise lines say, 'Q4 [Caribbean] and the holidays look great.' There's always going to be a need to fill some space. So it's not like everyone is saying, 'We're fine.'"

But it's a big step forward from early summer, when there seemed to be some real anxiety from the retail side of the business about the state of both summer and fall Caribbean. "Now I'm starting to hear cruise lines talk less about Q4 and more about Q1 [2019], which is good," notes Crooks. "They are kind of moving past Q4."

He's optimistic: "Some would say too much capacity, but I would disagree. The cruise lines are trying to yield manage their product and make sure they're not oversaturating any one port of embarkation with the capacity increases.

"What's nice about next year is that where you look at where the increases are in capacity, except for Mexico and Alaska, there's [just] a modest increase in the Med, modest in the Caribbean. It's good that the cruise lines are trying to avoid oversaturation in various ports."

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