-An Update:What’s Cruising Look like in 2012 and Beyond?
Q: What will the New Year hold in store for the Cruise Business? What new changes will be brought about in the way we conduct business?
A: As for the first question, it’s really anybody’s guess. But there are some potential concerns looming on our horizon. Much of the cruise and travel industry is rather affected by the struggling economic times we continue to see the world in the grips of. As well our normally busiest of time for booking has become sluggish in the wake of the Concordia Disaster this past January. While it is a good sign, that most cruise lines have refrained from reinstating their fuel supplement charges as a result of ever-increasing prices in crude oil. Warning: they continue to give the topic lip service each and every time you speak with reservations, or get your invoice from them referencing to their right to do so. Also a few cruise lines have already re-instituted the fee add-ons, such as Cunard, and MSC to name just a couple we already know about. Add to that the also seemingly increasing number of new-builds coming onto the scene, (with a dozen or so in 2010 and 2011), and with 7 new and rebuilds looming for 2012 not including a massive delivery of river boat vessels coming out in 2012) as well as the emergence of the “Mega Ships” of Royal Caribbean with 6000+ passengers, we saw our Caribbean market become saturated to the point, that many lines made a mad dash for the Mediterranean this summer. Which for a while seemed to be doing well, with many more European cruisers than Americans, which for many of the North American Cruise Lines was a first time thing for them. Well just about as soon as sales shot skyward, they nearly as quickly nose-dived back to earth, which left a vast number of lines making decisions to return ships earlier than originally planned to the east coast markets. Primarily since their customary “always ready to cruise” East Coast and Florida residents were unwilling (no matter how low the cruise price) or were unable to shell out the $1200 or more per person for a plane ride to get to the ships now repositioned in Europe. European prices are still the lowest that I have seen in years with prices for 7 day sailings starting at an unbelievable $399 per person. While I thought a valuable lesson had been learned, I am amazed to hear the announcements of many lines increasing their number of vessels into the European Sailings planned for this summer and beyond. Oh well I guess it may be a move it, or park it scenario, I don’t know. But unless things get marketably better with our present economy, I hope they are not planning for a lot of folks to head there from the North America’s unless the Airlines move to drastically reduce airfares (and with the current spike in fuel prices), fat chance we’ll see that come about! So that, one can only wonder just where all of this is leading to. Cruise lines are really doing everything they possibly can with regards to improving their bottom lines, but it appears evident even with their ship renovations, that they continue to bring about new ideas for increasing their on-board revenue, which is really the biggest part of their breakeven equation. It’s not merely the cruise fare that is keeping them afloat (pardon the pun). So for at least the first part of 2012, it would appear that we can depend on much the same to continue forward, but we aleady see summer prices to Europe and Alaska being offered at increased prices over 2011, especially with regards to 2013 pricing on the luxury cruise lines in particular. Which makes me ask: What do they know, that I don’t. As for the shape of the Cruise Economy, I really don’t see how they can raise pricing, but only time will tell. So while there is still some of the lowest prices in years, I would recommend that you grab em while they are available, as who really knows how long will it continue. Waiting may leave you disappointed, especially since most reputable cruise lines (when booked through travel agencies), will honor any general discounts they may offer 75 Days or more away from sailing. There are also a good bit of one day sales or specials that I would recommend a good (experienced) cruise consultant or cruise agency to help you find them.
Here’s a good cruise buying tip to store somewhere safe…….It’s always a good bet to buy your cruise during “wave season” which is our biggest sale event of the year and runs from January to March each year. Next to that there is generally some great deals offered each October during a week long event called Worlds Largest Cruise Night! and for some other great tips you might wish to check out this link http://wp.me/p1foVW-Ri for my Ultimate Money Saving Cruise Tips Information.
Q: Will the downed economy continue (and if so how much) to affect Cruise Prices? What is the outlook for Supply vs. Demand, and how will that dictate the overall picture?
A: Now here’s where if you have a crystal ball, I suggest you tune that thing up, and get it a wash and a wax job. As for the Cruise Lines, we have already seen a vast array of cost cutting, stream-lined efforts designed to target their response to the shrinking profit margin. New and innovative ideas for increasing on-board revenues. Bringing aboard special services and product features that the cruise public appears to be buying into, (whether they really wanted it or not). Private Cabana Rentals (equipped with wi-fi), Specialized Classes and Educational (Enrichment offerings), Upscale Coffee Bars, English style Beer Pubs, and International style Beer Bars seem to be grabbing the attention of the cruise lines at present especially since it is a fact that people tend to purchase more of something nice for themselves while on vacation than they would at home. Shore Excursions offering “added” desirability to get that something extra out of your time away from the ship while bringing in added revenue to make up for your lack of presence. New itineraries and destinations, that offer added adventure, but in reality since much of the cruise market is repeat customers, they need to change-up the port of call list to continue to be marketable to those who have already been there, and done that! In short what we’ll need to do in order to fill all of those extra berths.
Q: What will it take for the Cruise Industry to remain on top, and a viable and profitable vacation choice, (or as with the case of most of us) just keep our heads above the water line?
A: It would be best if they were to focus more on specific market segments and their needs. If 2010/2011 is any worthwhile indicator of future business, let’s take a look at specific market segments and what the Cruise Lines have done in the way of meeting the needs of them.
Single/Solo cruisers: While some Cruise Lines have reduced their Single Supplement Fare structures to entice the small market of this type of cruiser, it’s a niche that appears to be growing. Whether it is a senior active adult (without a partner) or a young single upwardly mobile professional person, the Cruise Lines are recognizing this is a unique market and some (two ships launched in 2010) have even gone to the brink of offering special “studio” staterooms designed with the single/solo passenger in mind. With the way these sell out so quickly, it would seem that this would be one area in particular, that cruise lines could take a hard look at expanding on. NORWEIGAN CRUISE LINES we salute You! Also there are some more new ships coming out in 2013 (the Breakaway)and 2014 (the Getaway) both from NCL which will each feature 50+ of these single accomodation studio staterooms. Admittedly, I hear those that say the higher pricing on these staterooms outways any practical benefit. NOT TRUE! as with the case with NCL, the Studio Stateroom Cruiser get access to their own private lounge area which is an absolutely fantastic way to meet some of your fellow single cruisers, and its far cheaper than paying the 200% Single Supplement Fees. So I still say…..Way to Go NCL!
Families – (in particular) Multi Generational cruising passengers are being targeted as a growth market for the Cruise Lines. Whether it is due to the economic climate, or simply an evolving price conscious buying marketplace, the fact remains that there are many more family outings coming to the cruise vacation arena, where they are traveling together. It is important to note, that the number of families with infant aged children continues to increase, and it is gratifying to see at least one major cruise line dedicating some it its “prized on-board space” to offering nursery services for these cruise passengers. Cudos to Royal Caribbean for that!!
Internet (on/Off Board), and The Social Media Market – We are a product of our environment and the Cruise Lines are no different. Just as it seemed there had been an out cropping of Internet moguls to pursue the huge market of the would be deal hunters in front of the computer screen, the Cruise Lines themselves are present, and not only on the internet. Facebook, Twitter, and Blog Sites are jam-packed with the various cruise lines themselves participating in the social media revolution. I admit that I too, when cruise take to the wireless waves, and see a definite increase in business as a result of my presence there. With such popularity of the social connected, there appears to be a potential for the cruise lines to be able to improve their on-board internet and wireless capabilities. If they could improve the service speeds, and the prices it would seem that there is a vastly large untapped market out there just waiting to jump on that connectivity wagon. It should be noted, that some of the cruise lines have taken such a look into the future, and are already taking steps to incorporate these upgraded services and changes (even with their own version of Intranet Service) on board their new vessels, and onto their ships being refurbished to keep people in the habit of staying connected!
Summary: While these are merely a scant look at some of the pressing issues and concerns we all have regarding the future of cruising, it is at least a review of what actions the Cruise Lines themselves are (or in the process of) implementing to attempt to continue to meet the increased challenges we are all going to be faced with for the next few years (at least in my humble opinion). So as for the real definitive answer as to cruising now or later, it appears to remain a topic that you need to decide for yourself, but surely if you can afford to cruise now, by all means take advantage of any of the fantastic lower cruise fares you may find presently being offered, tbut definately I recommend to BUY NOW, as I dont forsee prices doing anything but going higher from here!
For more information on cruising and traveling, you can contact Mike via email firstname.lastname@example.org . You can tweet (or follow) Mike at http://www.twitter.com/cruisewithmike . To “Join” our Travel Club go to http://meetup.com/Sun-Cities-Travelers-Group/ .
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