Industry prepares for strong year as Americans look to set sail

18 January 2023

NASHVILLE, Tenn., (January 18, 2023) – After nearly three years of challenges and uncertainty, cruise lines are gearing up for a strong year with travel demand rising and Americans eager to set sail. A new AAA survey finds 52% of U.S. adults are just as likely or more likely to consider taking a cruise vacation than they were before the pandemic. That number is up from 45% one year ago.

"Cruising is back in a big way. We expect a lot more people to book cruises in 2023 as several new ships have entered the market," says Debbie Haas, Vice President of Travel for AAA – The Auto Club Group. "We already saw this in November which proved to be a record-breaking month for cruise bookings. For many cruise companies, Black Friday was the single largest booking day in history."

Types of Cruises Most Travelers Want to Take in 2023

Contemporary, family-friendly, and luxury cruises top the list of most popular ships among people who are likely to go on a cruise this year, according to AAA’s survey. But smaller, more intimate ships are gaining popularity, like river cruises which offer personalized itineraries and port-centric experiences.

Some of the top reasons keeping some people from cruising are cost and health and safety concerns. Haas says, “Cruising offers tremendous value versus other vacation options.  Our Travel Agents are skilled at  helping travelers identify the itinerary that fits your interests and budget.”

"Increasingly, there is something for everyone in cruise vacation options. Families, couples and friends looking to reconnect are finding that cruising offers outstanding experiences and value," adds Haas. "Cruise lines have undertaken extensive measures to promote health and safety onboard, so you can expect attention to detail and cleanliness. In the case of unexpected illness, they have protocols in place to isolate passengers as they recuperate."

 5 Mistakes People Make When Booking Cruises

Forgoing a travel agent and travel insurance – Travel agents are experts who can help you select the cruise line, ship, and itinerary that best fit your lifestyle, budget, and interests. They have access to the same pricing as booking through a cruise line directly and can provide additional savings, onboard credit, complimentary gratuities, and other amenities you won’t get from booking on your own. Travel insurance gives you peace of mind for many unexpected situations. Without it, you could be on the hook for 100% of your trip if you must cancel unexpectedly. Insuring your trip allows you to breathe a little easier, knowing your travel investment is protected.

Delaying booking in hopes of getting a deal – Think you’ll get a better deal at the last minute? Think again! Cruises can be booked as far as two years in advance. Waiting too long can result in the cruise or stateroom category you want being sold out. With lower stateroom inventory as the sailing date approaches, many cruise lines actually increase prices closer to the sailing date. It’s best to book early to get the specific cruise and stateroom you want.   

Waiting to book shore excursions or onboard dining and shows – Putting off booking a shore excursion is risky because the most popular tours may be sold out by the time you’re on board. The same goes for certain restaurants or shows. Often, cruise lines will offer lower prices for shore excursions booked in advance. That’s another way travel agents can help. They can guide you through the pre-cruise process and assist with those types of reservations.

Flying in on the day of sailing – Weather delays or mechanical issues can turn your dream vacation into a nightmare if you are flying in on the day you are sailing. The stress of possibly missing your cruise is not the way to start a relaxing trip. AAA recommends flying in a day early and enjoying an evening at your port of embarkation before setting sail.

Picking a cruise based solely on price – There are cruise lines for all types of budgets. Travel agents can be invaluable in this area because they can match your interests with your budget while laying out exactly what experiences and service you can expect at different price points.

5 Biggest Myths about Cruising

 

I will be bored. A cruise can be as active or as relaxing as you want it to be. From basketball and pickleball to rock climbing walls and surfing simulators, large ships have amenities galore. At night, end your day with Broadway-style shows, solo acts, movies, casinos, or nightclubs. Expedition cruises are all about the destination and focus on the great outdoors. For travelers looking to take in the sights and sounds of a breathtaking city, European river cruises, for example, offer activities and excursions that immerse passengers in the local culture.

I will get seasick. Cruise ships have stabilizers to minimize the ship’s motion as much as possible. If you’re taking a river cruise, you’re less likely to get motion sick due to minimal waves. But travelers who are extra sensitive can take medications like Dramamine, use acupressure bracelets, or wear seasickness patches behind the ear.

I will have to wear formal clothes. The days of wearing a tuxedo or cocktail dress in the evening are over unless you want to go all out! Most cruise lines have adopted a resort casual dress code. Depending on your mood, you can opt for a more relaxed look or put on something special for a romantic night out

The only activities on a cruise are eating and drinking. It’s no secret that cruises are known for a wide range of cuisine, room service, all-day pizza bars, and burgers by the pool. But there are plenty of other things to do, like hanging out at the pool, going on offshore excursions, watching live entertainment, taking a fitness class, or treating yourself to a spa service.

Cruise ships are only for older crowds. Today’s cruises are popular with people of all ages and offer a fantastic vacation for families, groups of friends, and honeymooners. Kids have their own dedicated space and activities to keep them entertained, while young adults can take advantage of endless sports and activities onboard. Adults can enjoy a wine tasting or spa treatment, and all ships offer quiet corners for reading, relaxing, and even napping.

Top Cruise Destinations for 2023

Below is a list of the most popular cruise destinations for 2023 and the departure cities.

 

2023 Domestic Departure

Cruise

Destination

2023 International Departure

Cruise

Destination

Anchorage, AK

Alaska

 

Vancouver, Canada

Alaska

Seattle, WA

Athens, Greece

Mediterranean

 

Honolulu, HI

Hawaii

California

Barcelona, Spain

Anaheim, CA

Hawaii

California

Mexico

 

Venice, Italy

San Francisco, CA

Paris, France

Mediterranean

European River Cruises

Fort Lauderdale, FL

Mexico

Central America

Caribbean

Budapest, Hungary

European River Cruises

Miami, FL

Amsterdam, Netherlands

Northern Europe

Scandinavian

Orlando, FL

Bergen, Norway

New Orleans, LA

London, England

New York, NY

Caribbean

Bermuda

New England

Canada

Medina, Saudi Arabia

Middle East

India

 

Survey Methodology

The survey was conducted December 2-4, 2022 using a probability-based panel designed to be representative of the U.S. household population overall. The panel provides sample coverage of approximately 97% of the U.S. household population. Most surveys were completed online. Consumers without internet access were surveyed over the phone.

A total of 1,070 interviews were completed among U.S. adults 18 years of age or older. The margin of error for the study overall is 4% at the 95% confidence level. Smaller subgroups have larger error margins.

 

About AAA - The Auto Club Group

The Auto Club Group (ACG) is the second largest AAA club in North America with more than 13 million members across 14 U.S. states, the province of Quebec and two U.S. territories. ACG and its affiliates provide members with roadside assistance, insurance products, banking and financial services, travel offerings and more. ACG belongs to the national AAA federation with more than 62 million members in the United States and Canada. AAA’s mission is to protect and advance freedom of mobility and improve traffic safety. For more information, get the AAA Mobile app, visit AAA.com, and follow us on Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn.