2009 wasn't a huge success for cruise lines sailing Europe, but it wasn’t a complete disaster. Some ships, especially in the luxury segment, sailed with empty cabins and yields were less than hoped for but acceptable given the state of the economy.
With this as the backdrop, how is 2010 looking?
Arguably, the best picture can be obtained by looking at the premium and luxury lines, because they’re the ones that set the stage in Europe while the mass market books closer in. Cruise sellers tell Cruise Week that early sales for Europe, while not exceptionally robust, are encouraging.
A strong point is the small but growing river cruise niche. One agent reports that river cruise sales are actually outperforming ocean cruises, at least during the early-booking period. Several cruise sellers also report that aggressive pricing by Oceania Cruises is driving strong advance sales.
Agents report a reversal of sorts from this time last year, when 2009 Europe sailings in the premium and luxury category were booked heavily but advance sales had slowed to a crawl by fall. Last year, the lines couldn’t make the big price adjustments that were necessary. This year, aggressive 2010 pricing from Oceania, Crystal and Silversea is helping agents push early bookings.
In Crystal’s case, the two-for-one pricing offer means savings of nearly $800 per person when compared with 2009 (calculated for minimum category stateroom) on 11-day Baltic or 12-day Med cruises. But Oceania is not standing still, kicking off its 2010 European cruise season with soft drinks and bottled water included in the price.
On the mass market side, some lines are moving away from Europe next year or positioning product in a way that’s geared more toward Europeans than North Americans. But on the premium and luxury side, there’s capacity growth.
Silversea will not only float out a new ship — Silver Spirit — but a number of new ports of call too, including Le Verdon, near Bordeaux on the West Coast of France and Rimini, Italy, between Ravenna and Ancona, with excursions offered to the Republic of San Marco.
With the introduction of Seabourn Sojourn in June, Seabourn will have its two newest vessels operating in Europe as well as two of its older, smaller ships: Spirit and Legend. Sojourn will spend the summer in Northern Europe before joining Odyssey, Spirit, and Legend in Southern Europe and the Med.
Regent is moving capacity to Europe from Alaska.