Cruise Outlook for 2008!|
The Cruise Line International Association just released its Market Profile for 2008. The purpose of the report is to outline specific factors that influence the behavior of cruisers, and to predict how those factors will affect the near-term future of cruising. This study was conducted online during late March - early April of 2008, and involved 2482 people, some of which were experienced cruisers, some were vacationers who have not yet cruised, and some were basically stay at home types. This isn't just a survey of people who cruise regularly. The point is to compare "cruisers" to the rest of the world.
Taking a random sample of American people, those who identify themselves as experienced cruisers tend to be just one year older (46) than the general polulation of the sample (45). Their household income is higher ($93,000 annual vs. $79,000) and they have more education (69% college grads vs. 62% grads for non-cruisers).
One of the first things the study shows is that cruisers say they are more likely to travel in 2008. Surprisingly, certain kinds of cruisers plan to travel much more; specifically luxury and "destination" cruisers, meaning people who see cruises primarily as a way to see the world. 31% of luxury cruisers and 28% of destination cruisers said they plan to cruise in 2008.
For purposes of this study, "luxury" cruisers are those who favor cruise lines like Silversea, Regent, Crystal, Seabourn and Cunard. "Destination" cruisers tend to take smaller ships to far way places. Destination cruise lines include Oceania Cruises, Azamara and Orient Lines.
The two other kinds of cruiser categories the study recognizes are "contemporay" cruisers who generally take Carnival, Royal Caribbean or NCL to the Caribbean, Mexico or Alaska; and "premium" cruisers who prefer the slightly more expensive brands of Holland America, Celebrity and Princess which cruise all over the world.
2008 is shown in the study to be especially attractive to the luxury and destination cruisers. Why? Two reasons come to mind; The first is that the dollar is now at $1.34 to the Euro, the lowest it has been in years. This is especially important to cruisers who want their dollar to go farther, Indeed, if the current trend continues the dollar soon could be far stronger, compared to the Euro, than it is right now. The second reason is the current economic conditions pointing to the fact that cruise prices are right now becoming historically low.
CruiseMates has seen some fantastic cruise bargains from various cruise lines in all sectors; destination, contemporary, premium and luxury. Orient Cruises just lowered all of the European cruise fares for 2009. Crystal Cruises just announced free airfare for their upcoming Panama Canal cruises as well as reduced deposits, and NCL and Carnival are both having sales in October with 7-day Caribbean cruises at prices below $350/person for a 7-day Caribbean cruise.
Cruisers have not been slouches when it comes to getting passports. Despite the fact that the Western Hemisphere Travel Initiative allows cruisers to arrive from the Caribbean, Mexico or Canada without a passport (you do need a passcard or enhanced driver's license), some 98% of destination and 96% of luxury cruisers do have passports. Unfortunately, only 71% of cruisers who tends to favor "contemporary" cruise lines, meaning Carnival, NCL and Royal Caribbean, hold passports. This means these cruise lines could probably benefit from enhanced education on identification requirements for cruise vacations after the federal January 2009 deadline.
When it comes to asking non-cruisers vs experienced cruisers how likely they are to take a cruise in the next three years, 53% of cruisers said they DEFINITELY will be taking a cruise and 77% said they are very interested in taking one. Once again, that shows how popular cruise vacations are with the people who have tried it at least once. Most people who cruise once do cruise again, and in this 2008 study more than half of them say they will definitely cruise again within the next three years.
Planning is an interesting topic. Surprisingly, the group that tends to book a new cruise closest to the actual sail date are the destination-oriented and luxury cruisers. 53% of luxury cruisers and 51% of destination cruisers book their cruises with four months or less to plan. The percentage of cruisers who book a cruise that sails in under a month: 6% of luxury cruisers, 4% of destination cruisers, 3% of "contemporary" (aka mass market) cruisers and 2% of premium cruisers.
As for the percentage of cruise types who use a travel agent: 88% of luxury cruisers, 83% of premium cruisers, 80% of destination cruisers and 74% of contemporary cruisers. The obvious conclusion here is that the "mass-market" cruise lines are seeing more people booking directly than ever before. This makes sense as the typical 7-day cruise to the Eastern or Western Caribbean has actually changed very little in the last 20 years, and there is no reason why a person would need a travel agent to help with such a cruise.
Ironically, travel agents can still benefit these cruisers with lower prices or more amenities than these people can get by booking the cruise themselves, but there is a growing number of contemporary cruisers who think they get a better deal by booking directly with the cruise line. In fact, this is not true, but many cruise agents are not even concerned. Why? The cost for a 7-day cruise is so low (under $300 per person in some cases) that the commission is hardly worth the work involved.
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