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Goldring Travel Blog – Making Waves

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Record Phone Calls for More Luxury Lines – What Does It Really Mean?

On the heels of Seabourn announcing its busiest days (based upon phone calls and/or bookings) on record, Regent Seven Seas made a similar announcement which is now followed by Crystal Cruises and Silversea…and Regent Seven Seas UK’s office. 

This is a good news/bad news scenario. (Remember calls and bookings do not equal gross sales increases.)

It is good because the prices have been so low and the givebacks (onboard credits/free air, etc.) by some lines so high that resistance has been broken.  This does not mean, however, that the luxury ships are necessarily sailing full.  While there are quite a number of cruises that are now sold out or nearly so, it means that quite a few sailings are simply now sailing with higher occupancies.

What I am finding is that there now is a scarcity of upper end suites on these ships.  I had warned you all about this happening and, unfortunately, many did not listen.  As a result, the across the board bargains (the cruise lines generally did not opt to only severely discount only the lower suites) and complimentary upgrades have filled the ships, but at the possible cost of degrading the perceived rarefied nature of luxury cruising. And…ironically…those willing to “pay the piper” just to get on a cruise this summer or fall are finding that it is the lack of suites, not the price, that is keeping them landlocked.

I am a bit concerned with pressure moving forward that the cruise lines not be perceived as “jacking up” prices when all they are really doing is moving toward “normalizing” them…triggered by simple supply and demand economics.  Moreso, I am concerned that many bargain-hunting cruisers who spent their prior years conversing on how they were going to “smuggle booze” onto a ship and protesting even putting on a sport jacket at dinner may adversely affect the cruise experience the lines have been working so hard to maintain (some with more success than others).

With the summer sailing season just about upon us I will be very interested in the feedback from my clients and readers.  I would not, however, weigh too heavily the comments on message boards like Cruise Critic because the views expressed will, for the most part, be from those who have never cruised on these luxury lines before and, thus, will be very pleased with the differences from the mass market lines.  In other words, while many of the new-to-luxury cruisers will see a steep increase in cruise quality I am concerned that those experienced luxury cruisers will see a commensurate decrease.  Hopefully my concerns will be meritless.

There is, of course, the other side of the coin.  There are those new-to-luxury cruising that are going to really appreciate the product…not just the price.  And those are the new clients that both the cruise lines and luxury travel agents are counting on for the future.  There are four new luxury ships coming on line in the next few years (three for Seabourn and one for Silversea).  While Silversea is rumored to be considering retiring or mothballing one or more of its ships, there is no doubt that there will be an increased capacity in the luxury market and berths will need to be filled.

Added to that is the increased quality and new ships in the premium market.  Oceania has a new ship and  Celebrity has its incredible Solstice-class ships.  I am confident there will be a strong demand in this premium class to further up their game as those who have gotten a taste of the luxury market during this weaker market will just not be willing to part with their money for a cruise which is too far removed from that experience.

So with some bargains still out there, but inventories getting tight, coupled with the change in who will be aboard the ships, it is going to be very interesting.

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