Cruise lines are sailing into what could become a historic year for the industry.
A record-setting 26 million people worldwide are forecast to take a cruise this year – an increase of 3 percent from 2017, according to analysts at CruiseMarketWatch.com.
The website attributes the growth to new and larger ships, more local ports, and new onboard and on-shore activities. A total of 13 new ships will be added this year from cruise lines such as Carnival Cruises, Celebrity Cruises, Holland America Line, and Royal Caribbean International.
Nearly a quarter (24%) of the entire U.S. population has taken a cruise, according to Cruisemarketwatch.com. The site projects that 13.1 million people from the U.S. and Caribbean will take a cruise this year. A AAA Consumer Pulse™ survey found 7 percent of North Dakota travelers plan to take a cruise this year.
“Ocean and river cruises are some of the most popular vacations booked with AAA,” said Vicky Evans, Assistant Vice President, Travel Sales Development, AAA – The Auto Club Group. “AAA’s 2017 cruise bookings were the highest since the recession. This year is already off to a hot start. Agents have noted the strengthening economy is giving travelers more confidence to book their cruise further in advance.”
The most popular time to book a cruise is during the first three months of the year. This period, traditionally known as “wave season,” is when cruise lines and travel agents -- like the ones at AAA -- work to maximize ship occupancy by offering perks like cabin upgrades, onboard credits, beverage packages, pre-paid gratuities, and specialty dining.
“Booking a cruise is one of the best vacations for using a travel agent,” Evans continued. “There are so many incentives for travelers this time of year. Travel agents can help you bundle their offers with the cruise line’s promotions and any rewards provided by your credit card.”
Travelers can review the latest cruise offers at AAA.com/Cruises.
Top Spring Destinations
Caribbean – destinations include Key West, the Bahamas, Puerto Rico, St. Maarten, St. Thomas, the Cayman Islands, and Mexico
Europe – destinations include United Kingdom, France, Spain, Portugal, Denmark, Sweden, Russia, and more
Alaksa - destinations include Juneau, Skagway, Tracy Arm, Glacier Bay, British Columbia, and more
Panama Canal – Panama, Aruba, Columbia, Jamaica, Costa Rica, Grand Cayman Islands
Mediterranean – Italy, Spain, France, Monaco, Sicily, Croatia, Greece, and more
“The Caribbean is especially popular in the spring, because travelers want a break from the cold,” says Gene LaDoucer, North Dakota spokesman for AAA – The Auto Club Group. “The proximity of the ports and flexible trip-length are convenient for travelers who have a limited amount of time off in the spring. Conversely, itineraries like Alaska and Europe skyrocket to the top of our list during the summer, as the temperatures rise and people can allocate more time to travel.”
Book early. The longer you wait, the more likely you will find rising prices as cabins fill-up. Many cruise lines are now accepting bookings though 2020.
Use a travel agent. They can access to cruise lines’ exclusive offers, which can be bundled with other promotions. People booking with AAA also get access to perks including discounted rates, priority check-in, specialty dining, hundreds of dollars in on-board credits, and discounted or exclusive excursions.
Check reviews before booking by either talking to a travel agent or reading travelers’ personal reviews.
Bundle various vacation elements. Many cruise lines offer special rates for those who combine purchases for air, hotel, and/or transportation to and from the ship, in addition to the price of their cruise.
Book shore excursions directly through your travel agent when you book your cruise; do not wait until you get to your destination or onboard as many popular activities sell out quickly.
Fly to your embarkation port the day before the cruise, not the morning of departure. Cruise ships have firm departure times and won’t wait for delayed flights.
Check-in online before leaving for your cruise. This will save you a lot of extra time at the cruise ship terminal.
The Auto Club Group (ACG) is the second largest AAA club in North America. ACG and its affiliates provide membership, travel, insurance and financial services offerings to more than 9 million members across 11 states and two U.S. territories including Florida, Georgia, Iowa, Michigan, Nebraska, North Dakota, Tennessee, Wisconsin, Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands; most of Illinois and Minnesota; and a portion of Indiana. ACG belongs to the national AAA federation with nearly 58 million members in the United States and Canada and whose mission includes protecting and advancing freedom of mobility and improving traffic safety. Motorists can map a route, identify gas prices, find discounts, book a hotel, and access AAA roadside assistance with the AAA Mobile app for iPhone, iPad and Android. Learn more at AAA.com/mobile. AAA clubs can be visited on the Internet at AAA.com.