Why now is a good time to book a future cruise
We are facing a long, cold winter with rising COVID-19 cases, but there is a ray of hope for those longing for a vacation on the world’s waterways.
It’s a great time to book a cruise vacation. No, probably not for February or spring break, but maybe for summer, early fall or later.
Of course, when the cruise will resume with a vengeance, it will depend on the rise and fall of the coronavirus. If you book now, you’ll miss the onslaught of pent-up demand that will eventually spark, likely when testing becomes routine and / or vaccines are available.
There’s also something to be said for anticipating a vacation after a year-long drought – looking forward to a trip can lift the mood on dark days – and most companies still have flexible cancellation and rebooking policies.
Michelle Fee, CEO and founder of franchise operator Cruise Planners, said consultants are swiftly booking summer vacations in 2021.
“Our travel advisors have told their clients that destinations like Europe and Alaska fill up by 2021 and act quickly if they want to get the cabin and itinerary they want,” she said.
Claire Schoeder of Elevations Travel in Atlanta said she doesn’t recommend booking cruises any earlier than late April or early May.
Passengers, many tied to the beach and not discouraged by the cannon, disembark in Grand Turk from Princess Cruises’ Crown Princess (left) and Silversea’s Silver Muse during a COVID excursion. (Alan Solomon / Chicago Tribune / TNS)
“I’ve suggested customers book if they think the deal is what they’re looking for,” she said. “And if final payment hasn’t been made and there’s a better deal, I can speak to the cruise line to see if we can change the booking to get the improved deal – be it a lower price or more inclusions.”
James Ferguson of Travel Edge in La Jolla, Calif. Noted that his seasoned cruise customers are no doubt eager to start sailing again.
“Black Friday and other value-added offers are a solid investment to make that dream come true,” he said.
While there are undoubtedly price cuts going on this time of year, Fee said they weren’t all inclusive. Ships will gradually return to the seas with reduced capacity and much of this space can already be booked by people with future cruise certificates from this year’s canceled voyages.
“We saw a few discounted prices, but not where we see price reductions across the board,” said Fee. “Coupled with the high repayment rates from FCCs, cruise lines are already anticipating high demand given the limited number of vessels and reduced capacity on board the ship.”
Instead, some cruise lines are taking a different route to attract loyal and new customers. They offer free attractive extras like drinks, shore excursions, tips, WiFi, and even air transportation.
The luxury line Silversea Cruises recently announced that it will include free round-trip flights and transfers, as well as at least one free shore excursion in each port of call, starting in 2022.
Also noteworthy was Celebrity Cruises’ announcement that the new standard rate includes unlimited WiFi, tips and unlimited beverages, including classic cocktails, wines by the glass, beer, sodas, specialty coffees and teas, juices and mineral water. The agreement came into force for all open-air departures from November 17, 2020, with the exception of Galapagos cruises.
For many travelers, such extras are more attractive than a discount.
“For some time now, adding amenities has been a much better way to increase sales,” said Fee. “It’s a better experience for the client and better for the advisor’s commissions.”
She said the extras provide convenience and minimize what is considered nickel-and-dimming on a cruise ship. “By bundling air fares, transfers, beverage packages and tips, to name a few, cruise lines can attract people looking for great service and quality accommodations without paying additional onboard fees. … We encourage more cruise lines to offer similar inclusions. “
Claudette Covey contributed to this story.
– Tribune News Service