After a year of isolation and lockdown, four months on board seems an excellent choice to keep cruise enthusiasts entertained.
The COVID-19 pandemic hit in July when Viking Ocean Cruises opened bookings for a 136-day world cruise itinerary. As for the 2021 Christmas cruises, they sold out in a matter of weeks. Then, amid the second wave in December, the company opened a second cruise for the same period; She ran out of cards quickly, too.
The company had no problem filling two of its nearly identical 930-passenger ships, the Viking Star and Viking Neptune; despite the borders of many of the 20 countries it plans to visit, it remains largely closed to international visitors. The only cabins that were not sold were closed due to potential quarantine needs; The company is now rushing to lay an additional route around the world starting in 2023.
“We look forward to opening the next opportunity as quickly as possible, so look at this space!” Richard Marnell, Viking’s Executive Vice President of Marketing.
Despite — or perhaps because of — the cruise industry’s dire struggles over the past year, the hottest tickets on many cruise lines are those considered to be expensive for the multi-month world tours planned for a year or more away.
These reservations, which can cost from about $50,000 per couple in standard rooms to hundreds of thousands of dollars in first-class suites, represent a rare glimmer of hope for an industry that has suffered more than $30 billion in losses and remains burdened with uncertainty. It is worth noting that the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention considers cruises to pose a “very high level” of Covid-19 risk and recommends that travelers avoid them worldwide. So far, most lines have canceled sailings through June, and that schedule looks optimistic.
And Viking isn’t the only company with big plans for the distant future. On January 27, Oceania Cruises opened sales to the public for its 2023 “Around the World in 180 Days” cruise, which will take you to five continents, including Antarctica; The high-end cruise company ran out of tickets for a ship with a capacity of 684 passengers in one day.
Seabourn, for its part, sold out all the high-end suites on two world cruises aboard the 450-passenger Seabourn Sojourn, with couples paying up to half a million dollars for the two-hour cruises. Five months, starting in 2022 and 2023. Due to the high demand, the company recently opened waiting lists.
Many factors are driving this trend, from cabin fever to favorable offerings to the promise of vaccines for the core older cruise demographic.
Whatever their name, cruises don’t necessarily revolve around the world. But it seems that the cruise lovers have been stuck at home since March 2020 and are optimistic about seeing as much of the world as possible in one fell swoop, Including hard-to-reach destinations such as Easter Island, Bora Bora, or Seychelles. Take, for example, the latest Silversea itinerary; When it sets sail in 2022, passengers will spend the first-ever “global expedition” over 167 days on a voyage from Ushuaia, Argentina, to Tromso, Norway – almost from pole to pole.
In this regard, Matthew Upchurch, Chairman, and CEO of Virtuoso, a network of luxury travel advisors, says that pent-up demand and “reprioritization of life goals” play a significant role here. In addition to global cruises, typically during winter through spring, longer sailings of several weeks or months are attracting more interest than before the pandemic. Upchurch says:
There is a longing for missed opportunities over the past year and a strong desire to take advantage of the worldview while they can; When you are deprived of something, you realize its actual value and appreciate it.
Extra credits and free services
Other value propositions may also play a role. And for cruise fans who have had to cancel one or more trips in 2020, these once-in-a-lifetime itineraries appear to be an excellent way to capitalize on their credit. For the past 12 months, cruise lines have encouraged travelers not to seek a refund by offering 10% to 25% value added in the form of “extra credits,” which on some lines must be redeemed by April 2022.
Cruise lines also ramp up their VIP freebies for long-term guests, such as free dry laundry, Wi-Fi, and visa services. In addition, to help secure long-term occupancy and income on their negative-balance balance sheets, companies are adding lavish pre-departure parties, business-class tickets, and thousands of dollars in onboard spending credits.
An argument for safety
Linda Wiseman and her husband, Marty, a retired orthopedic surgeon, are among the people eager to get back at sea; The couple used to escape the frigid temperatures of Michigan and “winter” on Cunard’s world tours fourteen times – always staying at one of the Queen’s Grill’s fanciest suites and spending millions of dollars there. The operation. They plan another four-month global outing aboard the Queen Mary 2 in 2022.
Post-pandemic, passengers will have to grapple with some serious concerns, including the frequency of disease outbreaks on ships that promised enhanced COVID-19 protocols last summer and fall. Despite these headlines, Viking’s Marnell says fans of global cruises will benefit from a safe “steady environment” where travelers can feel comfortable lounging around for a long time. Like other ocean lines, his company’s ships are equipped with laboratories for frequent PCR coronavirus tests and new air filtration systems, among other measures.
However, the security of visiting beaches is still a primary concern, especially in countries where vaccination hasn’t yet been implemented. While cruise operators are usually developing plans to improve security at these ports, the rapid change in travel advice and the lengthy period when itineraries can be resumed means that this information is not widely distributed.
The subject isn’t 100% guaranteed.
Many elements must be fulfilled to allow cruise lines to implement these plans. For instance, the Viking cruise is scheduled to begin sailing in December 2021 and will visit 56 ports across 27 countries, which includes places that are located in Central America, Hawaii, Australia, New Zealand, Asia and in, the Middle East, and the Mediterranean, which will have rates that range between $53,000 and $ 166,000 for a person.
The company, along with other cruise companies that offer global travel, will face the ever-changing requirements of restrictions on entry and quarantine in an international environment that may not be able to attain herd immunity for many years.
The uncertainty surrounding regulations by the government can make it difficult for cruise companies to create itineraries, says Upchurch from Virtuoso. “Having to alter course after the voyage has begun isn’t practical, costly, and will not boost confidence among consumers,” he adds.
The cruise operator hopes that COVID-19 is not an issue by the time the remote itineraries depart. If the border remains open for longer than planned, the itinerary may have to be delayed, similar to other cruises on the calendar.
Nobody would like to see a repeat of this winter’s events. In the aftermath of the spread of COVID-19, cruises worldwide were forced to cancel at mid-point, with passengers returning home from rush-to-plan excursions or stuck on cruise ships. But one of the consequences is that passengers are aware that “nothing can be guaranteed,” says Upchurch.
The same is true for the Wisemans from Michigan, that were required to pack ten bags (eight for Linda) and travel back from Perth as their cruise on Queen Mary 2 was cut short in March. They’re hopeful for the best outcome for 2022.