Luxury lines see boost in world-cruise bookings

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FORT LAUDERDALE -- Luxury cruise companies that struggled to fill their world cruises a few years ago are seeing a major change in travel habits.

This year was the first year we saw a real pop in business for the long cruises, said Andrew Poulton, director of marketing for Radisson Seven Seas Cruises. And not only was the 108-day world cruise sold out -- and it was sold out in July -- but the Circle South America cruise was sold out.

Crystal Cruises 2005 world cruise on the 1,080-passenger Crystal Serenity sailed, on average, with 900 passengers.

Interest is coming back, said Bill Smith, Crystals senior vice president of marketing and sales, earlier this year.

Rick Meadows, Holland America Lines senior vice president of sales and marketing, said hundreds of reservations are on the books for the Prinsendams 2006 world cruise.

Only a few lines offer world cruises, which average just over 100 days. The lines sell the cruises in segments to passengers who only wish to take a portion of the cruise and to full-world cruisers, who stay on for the entire trip.

Usually, the challenge for the lines is to balance segment purchases. Certain segments, for a variety of reasons, are traditionally more popular than others, which makes inventory planning difficult.

But all the segments are popular these days.

If people want to book three [segments], theres not space on one of them, Poulton said. Even the final leg, from Rome to Fort Lauderdale, which typically would not be full, was sold out, and we didnt do any kind of tactical mail campaigns or discounting or anything like that, which is very unusual because thats the weakest leg.

A few years ago, transatlantic voyages werent even part of many lines world cruises.

At the start of the Iraq war, with the Middle East and Suez Canal unpopular cruising destinations, many lines put together truncated world cruises that sailed to Asia, eastern Africa and South America while skipping Europe and New York. 

Poulton said Radissons 2006 world cruise was showing tremendous strength.

Steve Schulem, owner of Strictly Vacations in Santa Barbara, Calif., agreed.

Radisson [had] not even come out with a 2006 world cruise brochure and the bottom and very top categories are sold out, Schulem said.

A few clients are passing on the 2006 cruise because the itinerary is similar to the one that was completed late last year. 

Still, Schulem said it looks like it will be a sellout again.

To contact reporter Rebecca Tobin, send e-mail to [email protected].

 

Andrew Doctor contributed to this report.

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