Future cruises to Alaska, the Caribbean -- especially cruise lines' private islands -- and Mexico are all selling well, while Europe bookings are somewhat lagging.
That was the word from four cruise executives, who, during a Monday panel at Avoya Travel's virtual conference, addressed where 2021 bookings are strong and where they are lacking.
The Caribbean is No. 1 for Norwegian Cruise Line, chief sales officer Katina Athanasiou said.
"People are just excited to be able to get out of their home," she said. "Many close-to-home travelers are really looking at where they can get quickly, how they get there quickly, and then what sort of cruise does that look like."
Vicki Freed, senior vice president of sales, trade support and service for Royal Caribbean International, agreed that the Caribbean is a popular choice for future cruisers.
Also popular, Freed said, is any itinerary that includes Royal's private island in the Bahamas, Perfect Day at CocoCay.
"Because it's an all-inclusive island, we can control every piece of that island," she said, adding that it is a popular destination for both shorter, three- to four-day cruises, as well as longer, seven-day trips.
Alaska also is proving to be popular, Freed said, part of what she believes is a larger trend of travelers staying closer to home in 2021.
Adolfo Perez, the senior vice president of global sales and trade marketing at Carnival Cruise Line, agreed about Alaska. He also said Carnival is seeing similar demand for the private destinations Half Moon Cay and Princess Cays in the Bahamas.
"Each of us has the ability to make very concrete policies and put in protocols to make sure that everything is controlled and done the way it should be done," he said.
Once cruising restarts, Perez believes shorter, three-, four- or five-day cruises will be a big focus. Carnival is well positioned for that trend, as it has a presence in many U.S. ports, he said, making the cruise line less dependent on air travel.
Like the other lines, the Caribbean is performing well for Carnival. Perez also said both coasts of Mexico have been selling well.
Celebrity Cruises is getting good traction with its Galapagos cruises, said Dondra Ritzenthaler, senior vice president of sales, trade support and service. Unlike the other cruise lines, Celebrity is also seeing strong Europe bookings, she said.
In 2021, Freed said she believed most of Royal's Europe sailings will be populated by European clients, while North Americans will gravitate to cruises closer to home.
Uncertainty about travel to Europe has dampened its demand for Carnival, Perez said.
Athanasiou reported a similar dip in demand to Europe, specifically in the third quarter of 2021. She described Q3 Europe bookings as "a little bit like a teeter-totter." But, she said, she believed that when travel to Europe is permitted and airlines start to increase routes to Europe, demand will come back quickly.
The cruise lines are well positioned for cruising's comeback, Ritzenthaler said.
"I think all of us -- the four of us on this panel -- and others are poised to have a much better comeback than the setback," she said. "We're all looking forward to getting back in the water."