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Cruise bookings are on fire -- and it's pushing up prices

June 24, 2021
4 min read
Cruise bookings are on fire -- and it's pushing up prices
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We knew cruisers would be eager to get back to cruising when ships finally started sailing again. And now there's proof.

The world's largest cruise company, Carnival Corp., said on Thursday bookings for upcoming cruises soared by 45% during March, April and May as compared to the three previous months as cruisers raced to grab cabins on newly announced sailings for the summer and beyond.

That's on top of a 90% increase in bookings for future cruises during the three previous months as compared to the three months before that.

The numbers were revealed as part of Carnival Corp.'s earnings report for the just-ended second quarter. With very few ships sailing during the quarter, the company posted a $2 billion loss -- one of its biggest quarterly losses in history.

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"This is a clear demonstration of the pent-up demand for cruises as well as the long-term potential for the market," Carnival Corp. CFO David Bernstein said of the surge in bookings during a conference call with Wall Street analysts on Thursday.

Carnival Corp. is the parent company of Carnival Cruise Line, Princess Cruises, Holland America, Seabourn and five other brands that together account for nearly half of all cruises taken worldwide. It's considered a bellwether for the entire industry.

Bernstein on Thursday said the jump in bookings during the second quarter was driven both by close-in bookings for soon-to-depart sailings as well as strong bookings for trips in 2022.

The soon-to-debut Carnival Cruise Line ship Mardi Gras departs Turku, Finland, on Sept. 28, 2020, for sea trials in the Baltic Sea. (Photo courtesy of Carnival Cruise Line)

He described the booking volumes as "very strong" and noted the company's overall booking picture for the coming year is now looking better even than in 2019 -- the last normal year before COVID-19 hit.

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"Our cumulative advance booked position for the full year 2022 is ahead of a very strong 2019, which was at the high-end of the historical range," he said.

Bernstein noted that the strong bookings were coming in despite minimal advertising and promotional activity in recent months as the line's operations remained mostly shut down.

And the strong bookings are leading to something that might upset some cruisers: Higher prices.

With demand for cruises so strong, Carnival Corp. brands have been able to hold the line on pricing and even raise pricing in some situations, Bernstein said.

"Pricing on our full-year 2022 booked position is higher than pricing on bookings at the same time for 2019 sailings," he noted.

"This is a great achievement given pricing on bookings for 2019 sailings is a tough comparison, as it was a high watermark for historical [pricing] yields."

All nine of Carnival Corp.'s brands halted departures in March 2020 after the COVID-19 outbreak was declared a pandemic and many of them have not operated a single voyage for 15 months. But with COVID-19 vaccination rates growing and case counts falling in many countries, and many destinations lifting travel restrictions, many of Carnival Corp.'s brands are in the midst of resuming departures.

As of Thursday, Carnival Corp.'s nine brands together had just five of their 90 ships operating with paying passengers in various parts of the world. But that number is expected to grow to 42 ships by the end of November as more vessels come back online, the company said.

Carnival Corp. CEO Arnold Donald said during the conference call that the company hoped to have all of its ships back in operation by the summer of 2022.

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Featured image by Getty Images
Editorial disclaimer: Opinions expressed here are the author’s alone, not those of any bank, credit card issuer, airline or hotel chain, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.

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TPG Editor‘s Rating
Card Rating is based on the opinion of TPG‘s editors and is not influenced by the card issuer.
4 / 5
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10XEarn unlimited 10X miles on hotels and rental cars booked through Capital One Travel
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Why We Chose It

The Capital One Venture X card is one of the best all-round travel credit cards ever launched. Not only is it offering a tremendous welcome bonus, but cardholders can earn tons of miles on everyday spending and receive a 10,000-mile anniversary bonus to boot. Its annual fee is $395, but cardholders can count on up to $300 in statement credits toward travel booked through Capital One Travel each year and other valuable benefits like access to Priority Pass lounges and Capital One’s own growing family of airport lounges.

Pros

  • Excellent welcome offer worth 75,000 miles after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first three months.
  • Up to $300 in annual travel statement credits toward bookings make through Capital One Travel.
  • 10,000 bonus miles (worth $100 toward travel) each account anniversary.

Cons

  • The $395 annual fee might be expensive for some, but this card’s benefits provide much more value than that.
  • If you don’t travel frequently, this might not be the best card for you.
  • Earn 75,000 bonus miles when you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening, equal to $750 in travel
  • Receive up to $300 back annually as statement credits for bookings through Capital One Travel, where you'll get Capital One's best prices on thousands of options
  • Get 10,000 bonus miles (equal to $100 towards travel) every year, starting on your first anniversary
  • Earn unlimited 10X miles on hotels and rental cars booked through Capital One Travel and 5X miles on flights booked through Capital One Travel
  • Earn unlimited 2X miles on all other purchases
  • Unlimited complimentary access for you and two guests to 1,300+ lounges, including Capital One Lounges and the Partner Lounge Network
  • Receive up to a $100 credit for Global Entry or TSA PreCheck®
  • Use your Venture X miles to easily cover travel expenses, including flights, hotels, rental cars and more—you can even transfer your miles to your choice of 15+ travel loyalty programs
  • Named editors' choice for "Best New Credit Card of 2021" by The Points Guy
  • Earn 10 miles per dollar when you book on Turo, the world's largest car sharing marketplace, through May 16, 2023