In a normal year, travel advisors would be preparing right now for Wave Season, traditionally the busiest time of year for selling cruises.
It normally hits right after the New Year and extends throughout the first quarter. Increasingly, as more travelers jump the gun, the selling season can begin late in the year, well before Christmas.
But with nothing being normal in 2020, what happens to Wave Season in 2021 when most cruises are canceled several months into the year?
Will Wave Season be later? Will it be shorter? Will it skip a year? Will it be crazier than ever?
“Wave 2021 will be timed differently than the historic norms, which is to be expected,” said Jeff Anderson, co-president of Avoya Travel. “Indicators we’re watching for to drive Wave 2021 demand are the COVID-19 vaccines’ effectiveness and distribution, another federal government Covid-19 stimulus and relief package, and governmental approval of safe travel, such as reopening borders and approving cruise ships to sail. Travel bubbles are working successfully in Europe, and it’s just a matter of time before they’re successful in North America as well.”
“Unfortunately, I don’t believe we will experience a typical Wave Season in Q1 in 2021. The cruise lines will still be in ‘testing’ mode and have very few ships in the water. It will also hurt bookings if the CDC continues to have a warning in place for cruise travel.”
Still, Fee said Cruise Planners is “seeing large number of bookings for European cruises with Alaska in the second-place spot, which is encouraging. We highly recommend that if someone wants to visit Europe or Alaska next year, they book as soon as possible as trips will fill up.”
John Lovell, president of Travel Leaders Group, said he expects the first quarter to be somewhat quiet.
“I expect cruise season to be a little subdued due to the uncertainty still taking place within the cruise industry,” he said. “Furthermore, we don’t have a handle on how many ships will be in the water initially, or even when they are going back in the water. Capacity might be limited as well.”
However, these executives say travel advisors can expect a different sort of Wave Season later this year once cruising gets the A-OK.
“I do believe there is pent-up demand,” Lovell said. “That is what we are hearing from our members and our wholly owned locations. However, with the announcements that cruising will not resume until 2021, we anticipate a wave season that will be unlike anything we have ever seen.”
Demand will likely surge, especially if there are few ships in the water and they operate at reduced capacity.
“We do believe that ships will fill up fast because of the limited capacity that is allowed and the limited number of ships per brand that will be sailing,” Fee said. “Because of that and cruisers’ desire to sail again, we do believe that ships will sell out and demand will be high. That’s good news. But on the flip side, I don’t anticipate that we will see booking levels get back to pre-COVID levels until at least late 2021, into 2022.”
Adding fuel to demand is the sense of loss felt by travelers in 2020. “Travelers by nature are adventurous and savvy,” Avoya’s Anderson said. “Wave 2021 will be a reflection of the balance between supply of available products and demand while considering health. With limited inventory available, we anticipate ample demand for the products and destinations that are reopening. It’s important to remember that everyone lost a year to check destinations off their bucket list, and we believe travelers will want to make up for lost time.”
Fee said she doesn’t anticipate a large influx of bookings in Q1 2020 unless a vaccine is widely and easily available to all Americans, the CDC lifts its Level 3 advisory on cruise travel, and cruise lines are given the approval to resume sailing for a good number of their ships in the fleet.
“Whatever happens,” she said, “Cruise Planners will be here to support the travel industry and our cruise line partners to help rebuild the travel industry back up to the strong industry it once was in the not-so-distant past.”
Comments & Discussion
Shop The Jet Set
Holiday Shopping Ideas
Travel Advisor Melinda Fortunato Shares How Travel Looks Like During The Pandemic
Cruises4 days ago
CDC Updates Recommendations for Cruising
Airline News3 days ago
Which Thanksgiving Foods Can You Carry Onboard Flights?
Happening Now2 days ago
CDC Advises International Travelers to Test Three Times for COVID-19
Airline News2 days ago
Some International Travelers May Be Required To Get COVID-19 Vaccine Before Flying