Cooped up clients are ready to trade up to a luxury cruise, execs say

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The pool of prospective clients for a luxury cruise will expand when people who have been cooped up at home decide to channel their vacation time and dollars into a no-holds-barred luxury trip.

That was the view of several top sales and marketing execs for luxury cruise lines during a CruiseWorld panel discussion on luxury cruising.

Ken Shapiro of TravelAge West, a sister publication to Travel Weekly, and Mary Pat Sullivan moderated the panel of luxury cruise executives.
Ken Shapiro of TravelAge West, a sister publication to Travel Weekly, and Mary Pat Sullivan moderated the panel of luxury cruise executives.

The thinking is that travelers stuck at home on endless Zoom calls and who miss quality time with friends and family won't want to compromise when they feel ready to vacation.

Nikki Upshaw, the senior vice president of sales for Oceania Cruises, said that 30% to 40% of Oceania's new bookings are new to the brand. "There's an avid cruiser out there realizing, 'you know what, once I'm ready to go, I want to make this big, I want to make this epic,'" she said. "And they're ready to step up to luxury."

Randall Soy, Regent Seven Seas Cruises' executive vice president of sales and marketing, suggested that a good travel counselor could book clients who never had considered a luxury cruise before.

Another sign of cruisers eager to make a splash when they come back to the product: A surge in demand for world cruises. Steve Smotrys, vice president of global sales for Seabourn, said the demand for its 2022 world cruise was "amazing," and Soy said Regent's 2023 world cruise was already sold out. Carmen Roig, the senior vice president of marketing and sales at Crystal, said that as people have gotten more comfortable with remote working, clients will continue to feel less tied to an office and can book a long or multi-segment cruise and work from the ship during the trip.

"I call them the working affluent," she said.

Upshaw suggested that advisors be on the lookout for clients who might be interested in a future world cruise right now. "Most think they don't have an around-the-world customer," she said, but added: "It is on many affluent or avid cruisers' bucket list."

At Windstar, vice president of sales Steve Simao said his line has identified 10 bucket list-worthy itineraries. Windstar has developed creative and training materials specifically targeting those sailings "to help you as the advisor be the expert, and we think that's important for you to understand, what your clients' bucket list is and then matching that up."

Roig had another phrase that struck a chord during the panel: "life lists" instead of "bucket lists."

"We've missed out on so many life experiences," she said of people who have curtailed traveling during the pandemic. "People want to live each and every day."

And Smotrys said that when travel returns, the luxury customer will likely lead the way. "They're used to taking vacations every year," he said. "They've not only have the funds, but they know 'this is my opportunity; I've got to get back out there.'"

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