Despite COVID-19 Impact, Cruise Industry Already Sees Surge in 2021 Bookings

Three in four cruise passengers who cancelled their 2020 trips chose to receive credit for future trips instead of cash refund. APU GOMES/AFP via Getty Images

The world’s largest cruise companies have taken a massive hit from the COVID-19 pandemic and most government stimulus plans don’t have a bailout budget for them. But recent consumer sentiment reports indicate that, if these companies can manage to stay afloat till next year, they are set to see a strong rebound.

For example, CruiseCompete.com, a site comparing cruise package prices, has seen booking volume for 2021 jump 40 percent in the last 45 days from a year ago, the Los Angeles Times reported. And only one in ten of those bookings were made by people who had to cancel their 2020 trips due to COVID-19.

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“People are still booking cruises and are anxious to sail again when this is all over,” Heidi M. Allison, president of CruiseCompete, told the LA Times.

Elsewhere, an industry report from Swiss bank UBS dated March 31 found that cruise booking volume for 2021 was up 9 percent in the last 30 days compared with the same period in 2019.

“That includes people applying their future cruise credits from sailings that were canceled this year, but still shows a surprising resilience in desire to book a cruise,” wrote UBS equity analysts.

Of people who had to cancel their 2020 trips, 76 percent chose credit for a future trip over cash refund, according to the UBS report. Asia, Alaska and the Caribbeans are the among hottest routes in 2021 bookings.

Cruise Planners, a U.S. travel agency franchise network, has seen a strong 2021 booking volume as well. CEO Michelle Fee said in a recent press conference that orders for 2021 voyages had gone up 15 percent from last year, per Travel Market Report.

“There’s still thousands of future cruise credits out there that haven’t rebooked and those people are in the wait-and-see game,” Fee said. “People are just waiting for the bans to get lifted and get back to selling travel.”

Consumers were happy to buy cruise packages, too. A recent online poll by CruiseCritic.com found that 75 percent of cruise travelers plan to rebook vacations as soon as the pandemic is over—at either the same rate or more often than before.

However, public health experts are less optimistic as far as when the pandemic will end. On Tuesday, a study authored by a group of Harvard researchers predicted that we might need to practice social distancing into 2022 “even in the event of apparent elimination” of COVID-19.

Despite COVID-19 Impact, Cruise Industry Already Sees Surge in 2021 Bookings