Report: 2021 Bookings Down 15%, Luxury & River Cruising Prospering Over Ocean

Cruise Week

A financial services company says cruise bookings for 2021 are significantly down when compared to this time last year for 2020 bookings.

SunTrust Robinson Humphrey said it based its report on "intelligence on forward-booking volumes and pricing from large travel agencies and other sources."

"For 2021 bookings, when 2020 cancellations are filtered out of the equation in order to make the comparison apples-apples, we estimate bookings for 2021 are actually down approximately 15% to 20% to where the industry was at this point last year for 2020," wrote Patrick Scholes in a May update.

"Secondly, while pricing is up 10 to 15% on 2021 bookings, we believe this outsided growth is due to some passengers applying their cruise credit bonuses (that extra 25% credit above the original payment) to upgraded cabins.

"For example, if one booked and paid for a $3,000 cruise that was cancelled, they now have a $3750 cruise credit and instead of taking the same $3,000 cabin, they are electing to apply the extra $750 to an upgraded cabin."

Regarding cancellations and FCCs, Scholes concluded, "Basically the cruise lines are getting half of the people who have cancelled a cruise to take a future credit. In order to sustain bookings and cash coming into the company, we surmise: why would the cruise lines cancel six months of cruises when they can cancel them 30 days at a time and keep people booking?”

SunTrust concluded that sales for luxury ocean and river cruises are surprisingly doing much better (or "less bad") than mass market sailings. 

"For example, sales for the overall industry in 2020 are down approximately 50% whereas sailings for luxury ocean and river cruises are down by approximately 10% to 20%.

"Our interpretation of these figures is that wealthier travellers are more likely to book a cruise than mass-market customers, which we believe is not unrelated to the dichotomy between the stock and housing markets and the state of the general economy and employment for the average American."

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