-- Luxury cruising is back.
A weak economy,
capacity increases, a decreased popularity of offbeat or exotic
itineraries after 9/11 and competition from mass-market and premium
sectors have put pressure on luxury operators in recent
luxury cruise lines dont follow a strict Wave Season of strong
first-quarter bookings the way major cruise lines do, executives at
several luxury operators are reporting a surge in bookings and
Wilson-Wetty, a co-chief operating officer at Valerie Wilson Travel
in New York, said the agencys Hilton Head, S.C., office has booked
$1 million in business with Radisson Seven Seas Cruises (RSSC) for
2005. That was by Jan. 6.
surpassed 2004, Wilson-Wetty said. So theyve already booked what
[were] their year-end numbers.
seems to be making a comeback, as well.
RSSCs CEO, said the 2005 world cruise, which has struggled to fill
in the past few years, sold out, with a record number of passengers
onboard for the entire 108-day voyage.
The line urged
passengers to book early for its 2006 world cruise, which will make
new stops in Tripoli, Libya, and Rangoon, Myanmar.
Crystal Cruises confirmed that interest was coming back for world
cruises. The line counted 20% more passengers signing up for the
full world cruise this year.
On average, a
spokeswoman said, the 1,080-passenger Crystal Serenity is carrying
about 900 passengers for its world cruise each segment.
also are coming in strong, with a four- to five-month book-to-sail
window on average, said Bill Smith, sales vice
Why shouldnt [we]
be successful? Marilyn Conroy, Silverseas vice president of field
sales, asked rhetorically.
said, are back in the fold, provided you can show theyll get value
for their money.
Youre going to
give them something different that you cant get on a premium line,
she added. People now do realize the difference [between premium
and luxury] and are prepared to spend a little bit more.
luxury yields increasingly are on the rise and discounting is
becoming increasingly passe. Silverseas per-day rates for Europe
are in the $500 range, Conroy said.
Thats not to say
there still arent early-booking rates and other below-brochure
deals available. Silversea extended its savings program for Wave
2005, which offers discounts of up to 50% on the brochure rates on,
for example, the April 5 sailing of the Silver Cloud from
Crystal reduced its 2005 brochure rates from the start, hoping to
get away from advertising 60% rate reductions. The overall brochure
rate dropped by 30% this year.
dependent on tactical discounting, said Crystals Smith.
hounded for 2006 rate dates, itineraries, said Silverseas
reporter Rebecca Tobin, send e-mail to [email protected].