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You won’t believe how far in advance people are booking cruises these days

March 21, 2021
5 min read
You won’t believe how far in advance people are booking cruises these days
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Thinking about booking a cruise departing in the next few months in the hopes it'll really happen?

If you do, you'll be bucking the trend.

After a year of seemingly endless cruise cancellations, cruise fans increasingly are looking further out on the calendar when scheduling their next voyages -- way further out.

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In a research report issued earlier this month, Truist Securities analyst C. Patrick Scholes said the cruise "booking window" -- the number of days in advance of sailings on average that cruisers are booking trips -- had soared to an all-time record of 365 days.

That's up from just 210 days a year ago, he said.

"Basically, customers are booking an entire year out," Scholes noted.

Cruises traditionally have been booked far further in advance than other sorts of travel, with an average booking window of six months or more being common. But to have the average booking for a cruise be a full-year away is unprecedented, Scholes suggested.

Related: The best credit cards for booking cruises

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Sailings for cruises in 2022 and even 2023 are already selling heavily at such lines as Oceania Cruises. (Photo by NAN728/Shutterstock)

Scholes credits the widening booking window in part to strong pent-up demand for cruises in the wake of the shutdown of most cruising for a year. Cruise fans who missed their trips in 2020 and already have mostly given up on 2021 are now looking ahead to 2022 and beyond and snapping up cabins with gusto.

To that point, Truist Securities data shows the pace of 2022 bookings for all types of cruises is 30% to 35% ahead of where it normally would be at this stage in the booking cycle. And a breakdown by region shows even bigger increases in some destinations.

Scholes said bookings for 2022 sailings in Europe and Alaska are up around 100% vs. where they normally would be at this point in the booking cycle. Bookings for Caribbean sailings in 2022, by contrast, are relatively flat to up about 5% as compared to past years.

Europe and Alaska, notably, are more expensive cruise destinations than the Caribbean.

"Pent-up demand abounds, especially for higher-end travel," Scholes said.

Related: 2 major cruise lines will resume North American sailings in June

Scholes suggested the widening booking window was being driven in part by older travelers who typically book higher-end cruise products in places like Europe. Higher-end cruises are traditionally booked further in advance than mass-market cruises.

"What has stood out to us in our conversations (with travel industry executives) and booking intelligence around demand is that higher-end/luxury bookings and sales are up substantially more than for mass-market cruises," Scholes said. "As one very large seller of cruises told us, luxury booking volumes are 3x that of mass-market."

Scholes suggested that senior travelers who have recently been vaccinated and have been missing out on travel for more than a year now have a new “have vaccine will travel” attitude.

The demand for further-out itineraries has prompted several cruise lines to open their 2023 and even 2024 sailings for bookings sooner than originally planned.

Related: For the first time in more than a year, a new cruise vessel is debuting in North America

Luxury line Crystal Cruises, for instance, in August opened bookings for its smallest vessel, Crystal Esprit, all the way through early 2024.

Norwegian Cruise Line, Oceania Cruises and Viking are among lines that already have opened a wide range of 2023 sailings -- sometimes with record results.

Oceania, for instance, just reported the single best booking day in the company's history after opening its "tropics and exotics" itineraries for late 2022 and early 2023. The collection of 127 itineraries across Africa, Antarctica, Asia, Australia & New Zealand, the Caribbean, South America, and the South Pacific opened for bookings on March 3.

Oceania is a relatively upscale line that caters heavily to older travelers.

“The tremendous wave of bookings we saw on the day we opened our new 2022 and 2023 itineraries for sale underscores the extraordinary demand for long and exotic cruise vacations," Oceania president and CEO Bob Binder said in a statement accompanying the announcement. "Upscale travelers are eager to explore the world once more and are booking farther in advance to ensure their travel dreams are fulfilled."

To satisfy demand from cruisers who are booking further in advance, the line said this month it would open its spring, summer and fall 2023 Europe and North America voyages ahead of time. They'll be live in the company's reservation computers by September.

Already, Oceania and sister line Regent Seven Seas Cruises, which specializes in luxury voyages, are 40% booked for all of 2022, the top executive at the lines' parent company said in February during a conference call with Wall Street analysts.

Planning a cruise? Start with these stories:

Featured image by (Photo by NAN728/Shutterstock)
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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Apply for American Express® Gold Card
at American Express's secure site
Terms & restrictions apply. See rates & fees
Best for the well-traveled foodie
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
Go to review

Rewards Rate

4XEarn 4X Membership Rewards® Points at Restaurants, plus takeout and delivery in the U.S.
4XEarn 4X Membership Rewards® points at U.S. supermarkets (on up to $25,000 per calendar year in purchases, then 1X).
3XEarn 3X Membership Rewards® points on flights booked directly with airlines or on amextravel.com.
  • Intro Offer
    Earn 60,000 Membership Rewards® points after you spend $4,000 on eligible purchases with your new Card within the first 6 months of Card Membership.

    60,000 bonus points
  • Annual Fee

    $250
  • Recommended Credit
    Credit ranges are a variation of FICO© Score 8, one of many types of credit scores lenders may use when considering your credit card application.

    670-850
    Excellent/Good

Why We Chose It

There's a lot to love about the Amex Gold card. It's been a fan favorite during the pandemic because of its fantastic rewards rate on restaurants (that includes takeout and delivery in the U.S.!) and U.S. supermarkets. If you're hitting the skies soon, you'll also earn bonus points on travel. Paired with up to $120 in Uber Cash (for U.S. Uber rides or Uber Eats orders) and up to $120 in annual dining statement credits at eligible partners, there's no reason that the foodie shouldn't add this card to their wallet. Enrollment required.

Pros

  • 4x on dining at restaurants and U.S. supermarkets (on the first $25,000 in purchases per calendar year; then 1x)
  • 3x on flights booked directly with the airline or with Amex Travel
  • Welcome bonus of 60,000 points after spending $4,000 in the first six months

Cons

  • Weak on travel outside of flights and everyday spending bonus categories
  • Not as useful for those living outside the U.S.
  • Some may have trouble using Uber/food credits
  • Few travel perks and protections
  • Earn 60,000 Membership Rewards® points after you spend $4,000 on eligible purchases with your new Card within the first 6 months of Card Membership.
  • Earn 4X Membership Rewards® Points at Restaurants, plus takeout and delivery in the U.S., and earn 4X Membership Rewards® points at U.S. supermarkets (on up to $25,000 per calendar year in purchases, then 1X).
  • Earn 3X Membership Rewards® points on flights booked directly with airlines or on amextravel.com.
  • $120 Uber Cash on Gold: Add your Gold Card to your Uber account and each month automatically get $10 in Uber Cash for Uber Eats orders or Uber rides in the U.S., totaling up to $120 per year.
  • $120 Dining Credit: Satisfy your cravings and earn up to $10 in statement credits monthly when you pay with the American Express® Gold Card at Grubhub, The Cheesecake Factory, Goldbelly, Wine.com, Milk Bar and select Shake Shack locations. Enrollment required.
  • Choose the color that suits your style. Gold or Rose Gold.
  • No Foreign Transaction Fees.
  • Annual Fee is $250.
  • Terms Apply.
  • See Rates & Fees