Earlier this year, I wrote about how continued uncertainty surrounding near-term travel has pushed out river cruise bookings, with popular itineraries already filling up for 2022.
That strong, long-term demand, operators say, now is also spilling into 2023, prompting some lines to open up those sailing dates ahead of their usual schedule.
Last week, American Queen Steamboat Company opened up 2023 bookings a year early, the farthest in advance it has offered a season.
"Cruisers yearn to travel again, as evidenced by 2021 and 2022 inquiries and our webinar popularity with guests and travel partners," Kari Tarnowski, the company's senior vice president of marketing, said in a statement. "Opening up 2023 to satisfy that wanderlust had to be done."
In a follow-up release on Wednesday, the company said the response to the 2023 dates has been strong and that February was shaping up as its strongest booking month in a year.
"There is an unwavering desire for discovery among travelers, from markets near and far, eager to plan multiple holidays years in advance," said Bob Salmon, American Queen's senior vice president of sales.
AmaWaterways says it has also opened bookings for some 2023 sailings, a move that company co-founder and executive vice president Kristin Karst said comes about eight months early.
"It's really the clients that are pushing us to open it up," Karst said.
Karst said that 2022 looks strong, both from new bookings and rebookings of canceled cruises. "And now, demand is pushing into 2023 because there are enough guests that want to book the best stateroom, the best suite. Everyone has saved a lot of money" not traveling the past year.
Karst said AmaWaterways has opened 2023 bookings for France and for tulip cruises in Holland and Belgium. She said the company was currently working to load more itineraries and hopes to open more next month. In the meantime, she said, they are putting advisor requests for other 2023 sailings on a waitlist.
On the flip side, Crystal River Cruises, which along with American Cruise Lines and Viking generally open advance seasons ahead of the pack, said the pandemic has disrupted its normal planning cycle a bit.
"Right now I'm spending time analyzing how (if) people will want to vacation differently in the post-pandemic era," Crystal River Cruises managing director Walter Littlejohn said in an email. "Whatever we release for 2023 will need to be in tune with what I expect to be a hot market."