The cruise business is a Caribbean business in the first quarter, which is why the recent bitterly cold conditions over much of the country bode well for cruise industry bookings for the next few months


I think it even goes beyond that. Unusually cold weather sets a tone for the year, encouraging people who aren't planning a trip to get planning, if only to get out of the permafrost to somewhere warmer.

In speaking last week to a half dozen travel agents from New Orleans, to Atlanta, to Minneapolis to Chicago, none thought the cold would hurt bookings and at least some say they were getting business from it.

"Demand is up," said Mary Kleen, Regional Director US East/Bermuda for Worldview Travel, in New York. "Right now it's not so much cruise related as get-me-to-a-warm-spot related. People are just crazed to get out of here."

Kleen said she didn't have numbers at her fingertips but that she expects demand to continue to increase, "on every tier of pricing from the premium to the luxury."

Others said they expect bookings to start coming after people settle in following the holidays.

"It usually takes the first week before we start seeing an influx of calls," said Joe Caudle, owner of Land and Cruises, in Snellville, Ga., near Atlanta.

Caudle said that when it comes to cold, there can be too much of a good thing.

"When it gets bitterly cold, you actually have the folks up north who want to go on vacation but they worry about getting out into the warm weather because they typically have to take flights to catch a cruise. Though they want to go they worry 'What if the plane doesn't make it?' and things like that," he said.

Rob Clabbers, president of Q Cruise + Travel, in Chicago, said the high cost of last-minute flights can also dissuade clients from booking a cruise that they otherwise want to take to leave winter behind.

It's also hard to tease out whether January calls are coming in because of cold weather or the promotions that launch after the first of the year in response to Wave season.

CruiseOne/Dream Vacations reserves its best promotion of the year for Wave season. "That obviously helps get bookings going," said senior vice president Debbie Fiorino.

"I think the combination of the cold and the promotions and certainly the continued momentum from 2017 has the year kicking off to a really strong start," she said. "It's a little early to know, but we certainly feel good about how we kicked off the year."

Fiorino said based on past experience, including her time growing up in Boston, frigid weather leads to increased bookings.

"I don't see why that would change," she said. "People want to get out of Dodge when they're dealing with these kind of temperatures."

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