Regent Seven Seas Cruises President Mark Conroy predicts ‘the best year ever’ for a cruise line with per diems as high as $800 in many cases. “It should be the best year in our history in spite of all the events that have occurred around the world, starting with floods in Machu Picchu, earthquakes in Chile, pirates off the coast of Africa, volcanic ash covering Europe, the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico and civil disorder in Greece. What’s next?”
Despite all the troubles in the world, cruise sellers are still seeing encouraging signs. Jack Mannix, President and CEO of Ensemble Travel Group says that of the 20 strong cruise selling members he has touched base with, “eleven of them felt business was up in the past few weeks, while four felt it was about the same. Five did feel that business was down in the past couple of weeks.”
Mannix acknowledges his survey is far from scientific: “But it’s a large enough group to imply generally things are no worse and perhaps a bit better of late. This jives pretty much with my anecdotal knowledge. Looking at our sales numbers, we do see some improvement in yields, as well, versus earlier in the selling year.”
But, several other agents have reported a slowdown due to the problems in Greece, not only for its effect on the stock market but with Med. bookings themselves. “I have people looking for an August cruise out of Greece expressing concerns of getting caught in the riots in Athens or that their flight will be cancelled,” reported one seller.
That’s a concern with some suppliers as well. While Athens is not a major roundtrip port, many lines still start or end a cruise in Greece, and Athens is a frequent port of call for cruises starting elsewhere.
To date, the major lines have made no changes. “We had some discussions and a few calls, but, so far, we are planning to operate as scheduled,” reports Regent’s Conroy. “Athens always has strikes and protests during the summer, many of which occur on Friday or Monday, but this month’s violence was unprecedented. According to our local agent, that was a wake-up call to the mainstream population, which may be why things have calmed down.”
Conroy adds that the turnaround can be handled in spite of the protest and demonstrations. “You don’t need to go into central Athens to get to the airport, so as long as the airport workers and air traffic controllers don’t go on strike, things should work out fine. The EC stepping in and bailing Greece out
should also help to calm things down.”