Despite COVID-19's ongoing impact on the travel industry, 76 percent of Cruise Critic readers said they'll book a cruise in the future, with more than a third saying they're already looking for that next cruise vacation.
Most of the readers surveyed by Cruise Critic are avid cruisers -- many who have taken 10 or more cruises. Of those looking to book, most plan to cruise seven months or more from now. Only three percent say they won't book another cruise.
Cruise Critic launched its comprehensive survey beginning in April 2020. We've collected 35,000 responses worldwide.
With cruising on pause since mid-March, travelers have been asked by the cruise lines, in most cases, to either full refunds or future cruise credits, to be used for sailings down the road. Given this choice, 77 percent of Cruise Critic respondents said they chose the FCC.
Those who have seen their cruises canceled, though, are taking their time to decide on their next cruises. Some 48 percent say they're still deciding whether to book another cruise, while 30 percent say they will but haven't yet. When asked what would make them feel more confident about booking, respondents said they needed to see travel restrictions and warnings being lifted, COVID-19 cases decreasing and a COVID-19 vaccine.
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For a look at recent sentiment among cruisers, we pulled results submitted between June 5 and June 16, from 3,571 respondents in our Cruiser Sentiment Survey. Here's what our audience had to say.
Booked Cruises: When & Where Are They Sailing?
Many respondents currently have a cruise booked, and most are still planning to sail -- though most of these sailings are further in advance. The Caribbean/Bahamas and Bermuda top the list of destinations people would like to visit, followed by Europe (which includes the Mediterranean, a popular summer destination) and North America (which includes Alaska).
- 52 percent of respondents have a cruise booked, and 40 percent of those are still planning to cruise. Only 12 percent of those with a currently booked cruise are reconsidering their plans.
- Of those still planning to take their booked cruise, most aren't scheduled to cruise until at least seven months from now (50 percent). An additional 35 percent of those who still plan to cruise have a cruise booked four to six months from now, and 14 percent have cruises booked two to three months from now.
- Of those who have a cruise booked, 47 percent are heading to the Caribbean/Bahamas/Bermuda, 25 percent to European on an ocean cruise and 13 percent to North America.
For those reconsidering their currently booked cruises, most are looking at trips that are scheduled to sail four to six months from now (42 percent), with an additional 31 percent reconsidering cruises seven to 12 months from now. Another 12 percent are reconsidering cruises 12 months or more from now.
Canceled Cruises: How Has the Experience Been?
Since March, the industry-wide pause has affected a significant number of sailings. And while we've seen many people on our forums discuss frustration over the delay in issuance of refunds or future cruise credits, respondents to our survey have rated the cancellation process rather positively.
Those who have gone through the cancellation process were asked to rate their experiences on a scale of 1 to 5, with 5 being "very satisfied."
- For those passengers who initiated the cancellation, 54 percent rated the experience a 4 or a 5, with 31 percent rating it a perfect 5. An additional 22 percent rate the experience a 3, and 23 percent rate it 2 or below.
- Of those whose cruises were canceled by the cruise line, 62 percent rate the experience a 4 or 5. An added 19 percent rate it a 3, and 19 percent rate it a 2 or below.
Of those whose cruises were canceled by the cruise line, 77 percent have taken or will take an FCC, 18 percent have taken or will take a refund and 5 percent are unsure.
While there could be a number of reasons for the heavy preference toward future cruise credits, cruise lines have boosted the FCC option for canceled cruises, with most offering at least 125 percent of the value of the canceled cruise. Some cruise lines have sweetened the offer by adding items like onboard credit.
Will Cruisers Cruise Again?
An overwhelming number of travelers show confidence in the industry and report that they will book a cruise, with many already going through the process. A whopping 76 percent say they will book a future cruise, while 37 percent already are looking to book. Only 21 percent say they are unsure whether they will book again, and 3 percent report they won't book a cruise in the future.
Unsurprisingly, those most confident about returning are avid cruisers who have been on 10 cruises or more. Experience proved to be the most significant driver of cruise intent -- far more so than age.
- 81 percent of those who have taken 10 cruises or more will book future cruises, while 67 percent of those who have taken three cruises or fewer will book future cruises.
- 76 percent of those 65 years of age and older will book future cruises, while 79 percent of those under 65 will book a future cruise.
When Will They Sail?
The million-dollar question, of course, is when will people sail. The current cruising suspension is scheduled through mid-September, with some cruise lines announcing even longer bans. And while return to service will dictate when cruisers can actually board ships, they're still looking at booking, with most focused on seven months or more from now.
- 40 percent of those looking to book a cruise are looking to sail seven to 12 months from now.
- An additional 33 percent are looking to sail 12 months or more from now.
- 19 percent are looking to sail four to six months from now.
While lines like Royal Caribbean and Carnival have said cruisers shouldn't expect deep discounts on cruises because of the pandemic, cruisers still say the most important factor for booking a future trip is price. Given five options, of which respondents could choose several answers, most listed scoring a great deal as the top consideration.
- Price. I'm looking for a great deal: 62 percent.
- Destination. I'm choosing my destination carefully: 49 percent.
- Cancellation Policy. I'll book with a line that has a flexible cancellation policy: 38 percent.
- Departure Port. I'm looking to drive-to cruise ports, rather than flying: 29 percent.
- No special considerations. I'm booking as I normally would: 26 percent.
Cruise lines are slowly providing information about potential health and safety measure coming to the industry, but details are still scant. Cruisers have said they would like -- and in many cases, expect -- changes to be made onboard and in the approach that the lines take to overall health testing and screening.
The most popular among those changes include:
- Increased sanitation/cleanliness in public spaces and cabins, plus hand washing among guests and crew.
- Served food, with the elimination of self-serve buffets.
- Improved health screenings and testing.
- Crowd control, with limited capacity sailings, social distancing onboard, etc.
- Clear protocol for any future outbreaks onboard, with a process in place for containing the outbreak and supporting ill guests.
Are you interested in contributing to our ongoing study? Fill out the survey here.