With a new year fast approaching, we look at how 2023 is shaping up for cruise from a sales point of view.
Let’s start with a bold statement: “We’re seeing great signs that 2023 demand will be strong. Consumer confidence is growing as more and more guests are ready to get back out into the world and have an incredible holiday experience.”
Those are the words of Ben Bouldin, vice-president Europe, Middle East and Africa at Royal Caribbean International.
He continues: “Demand is bouncing back and we expect this to continue. We’ve seen bookings pick up since vaccine and testing protocols were lifted this autumn and it is looking like cruising is back to normal.”
Research from CLIA, released in late September, shows that demand for cruise holidays has now surpassed 2019 levels.
The survey, of 4,000 domestic and international travellers, highlights the “intent to book a holiday at sea among UK passengers now exceeds levels from three years ago”.
Of the respondents, 85 per cent who have cruised previously said they plan to take a cruise again, a six per cent increase from 2019.
Among those who have taken a cruise in the last six months, 90 per cent intend to cruise again, and of those who have never cruised, 66 per cent are open to the idea, a 0.5 per cent increase from 2019.
Bolsover Cruise Club marketing manager Danny Forsythe is also upbeat about current trends, saying: “If things continue as they are, I fully expect 2023 to deliver the full and final recovery of the cruise industry. Without a doubt, 2022 has seen the encouraging progress we all needed, but there’s still some way to go.
“It’s essential that we continue to see travel restrictions and testing requirements ease and, as a direct result, consumer confidence to continue to grow, providing reassurance to even the most cautious of customers.”
Cruise eager to kick on in 2023
While 2022 has been still somewhat disrupted, as lockdowns gradually eased and restrictions lessened, there is a belief that 2023 will follow the pattern of a more traditional, pre-pandemic season.
“We’re all eager to get 2023 off to the best possible start so we’ll certainly be putting as much, if not more, behind this coming wave season as we ever have,” says Forsythe.
“Customers are certainly ever eager to get travelling again so fingers crossed it’s that perfect mix of supply and demand and we all see a particularly prosperous start to the year and kick on from there.”
Drilling down into the detail a little more, for 2023 “Europe and Caribbean sailings are selling well”, says Bouldin, with the most popular Caribbean sailings for UK guests being seven-night sailings on the line’s Oasis-class ships departing from Miami.
He continues: “While some Brits are excited to travel further afield, we are seeing a strong performance from our Europe offering, including Anthem of the Seas, sailing from Southampton, Symphony of the Seas, sailing from Barcelona, and Odyssey of the Seas, sailing from Rome.”
Bouldin also highlights how “more guests have been continuing to book their holidays closer to the sail date, even for our long-haul products”, adding: “We expect this trend will stretch into 2023.
“We’re seeing an increase in guests booking multiple cruises in quick succession and being more impulsive with their itinerary selection.”
Forsythe explains that current trends for next year are similar to 2022, with the Mediterranean and fjords “proving particularly popular, closely followed by the likes of the Canary Islands and Caribbean for those winter sun seekers”.
He continues: “Our insights indicate that customers are more comfortable right now with those regions and countries most familiar to them and where there’s still plenty on offer to explore.”
Illustration: Phil Couzens