It used to be that record booking days reported by cruise suppliers in January were a barometer for how the rest of the year would be for North American retailers. Things aren't so simple anymore.
For instance, if a large line with a big percentage of overseas sales reports a record booking date, it might have more to do with the European-sourced market than the North American market. A record booking day could also be the result of business being pushed to a one-day or one-week promo by a supplier or large agency group. Those types of promotions have increased over the past two years.
As one vacation seller recently told Cruise Week: "We have seen surprising inconsistency: great days followed by poor ones, good weeks followed by mediocre ones."
That being said, two upper premium/luxury lines have reported booking milestones already this month, and they do seem to portend good news for this market. Oceania reported a record single day on January 13th, the date bookings opened to past guests for the new Marina. Crystal reported record bookings for the week ending January 11th, reaping benefits from revamped fares and onboard credit incentives.
Overall luxury booking volume is being aided by an unusual surge in capacity by leading players Seabourn, Silversea, Cunard and Oceania. But even taking that into account, many agents now report volume is so strong that they believe rates have bottomed out. Indeed, one of the latest promos from Oceania is headlined "LAST CHANCE for Amazing Savings." That may be more than a marketing pitch.
At Crystal, Vice President Mimi Weisband reports that there is still inconsistency week over week, but not to the extent seen before. As for discounts being added to the strong offers already out there, Weisband observes, "We issued the strongest and most aggressive program for all sailings back in September. For the most part, these are the best promotions you’re going to see from us. Yields are coming up, so people are encouraged to book now."