With the cruise industry on temporary pause due to the COVID-19 pandemic, cruisers are looking ahead to 2021 and beyond to get their sea fix.
Bookings for 2021 are reportedly strong, and a handful of cruise lines have made some bookings for 2022 and 2023 available for reservation.
Where travelers are looking to go to, however, depends a lot on where they reside. We take a look at some of the trends for cruisers making bookings for next year and beyond.
Cruises closer to home are the order of the day for many American travelers, with destinations like the Caribbean, Alaska and even domestic river cruises and small-ship coastal cruises seeing increased bookings into 2021.
Voyages that depart from and return to U.S. homeports are the most popular, due to their ease of access for many American travelers. So-called "drive-to" ports that source travelers from the regional area and neighboring states are seeing more bookings, mainly because leeriness of flying and international air travel remaining dicey because of different countries' travel policies.
Cruise Critic's message boards reveal this trend, with many potential cruisers asking for advice on the best ports within the United States to sail from.
"I am going to book a cruise in either Nov. or Dec. 2021 with my cruise credits," writes member Topdog52. "I am looking at either going from New Orleans or Port Canaveral. We also will go down a day or two early. Any suggestions??"
Other destinations catching the eye of potential cruisers include voyages to Canada & New England; the Mexican Riviera; Hawaii and full and partial transits of the Panama Canal - many of which depart from U.S.-based homeports.
"On April 30th I put down a deposit on the 3/31/22 Volendam 16-day Panama Canal," writes member AtlantaCruiser72 on a thread on future cruise bookings. "We'll physically be transiting the canal on my 50th birthday."
"We have also booked two Caribbean sailings in spring 2021, the Ryndam transatlantic in 2021 and Antarctic in 2022! (along with others we already had booked in 2021)," writes boze9999 on the same thread.**** "We believe In HAL and we will cruise again.....sooner rather than later!"
Unique itineraries sailing from one U.S. port of call to another also proved popular for cruisers, as did more interesting -- but perhaps historically less popular -- destinations like Bermuda.
"I just booked the Tampa/New York repositioning cruise for April 11, 2021 the other day," writes happytotravel on the Norwegian Cruise Line board. "It's always so much fun deciding on a cruise and booking and planning for it. Hope all will have as much fun."
In an interview with Cruise Critic, Royal Caribbean UK head Ben Bouldin stated that the line is seeing demand from British cruisers for more far-flung destinations including Alaska and the Caribbean.
"I think people are waiting to see what's happening in Europe, understandably so, and I think there's definitely signs of interest creeping back," said Bouldin. "We're doing quite a lot of work at the moment to just understand what the demand is in the industry and what the demand is for our products."
That doesn't mean that cruisers aren't interested in sailing close to home: Bouldin tells Cruise Critic that demand for sailings from UK ports remains strong. A number of big-ship operators sail out of ports that include Southampton, Dover, Portsmouth, Liverpool and others, while smaller niche operators like Hebridean Cruises and The Majestic Line routinely draw a mixed passenger base made up of international cruisers and UK residents looking to explore their own region.
"Just can't face not having anything booked so we have swapped to a September Southampton cruise next year," writes chemmo on the Celebrity Cruises board. No worries about flights, no additional money needed, no need to keep alert to travel information until this time next year."
"We were surprised at how many cabins have gone already," continued chemmo in a further post. "With all the uncertainty of flying I think lots of U.K. citizens will opt for Southampton next year."
Many UK-based posters on the same thread were in agreement, choosing to shuttle previously-booked voyages out of close-to-home ports to future years.
"It's a common theme," writes John182. "We have just moved our September cruise out of Southampton to the following September."
Many cruise lines are seeing high demand for voyages next year – so much, in fact, that a few have decided to open up their voyages in 2022 and beyond.
River cruise operator AmaWaterways decided to open up reservations for its 2022 voyages in France, Portugal, the Netherlands, and voyages along the Rhine and Moselle rivers, with the remainder of the company's voyages through Europe, Asia and Egypt opening on May 20 -- some six months earlier than normal.
"We've seen a strong showing for our new offerings, especially with new ships AmaSiena and AmaLucia joining the fleet, and AmaDahlia launching on the Nile in Egypt in September 2021," says AmaWaterways' president and co-founder Rudi Schreiner. "As pent up demand has already started to surface, I anticipate 2022 will emerge as a very strong travel season and look forward to welcoming our guests onboard."
Likewise, Norwegian Cruise Line opened up bookings for voyages in 2022 and 2023 to some of the company's most exotic destinations ever. Of particular note are Norwegian's first-ever itineraries to Antarctica in the winter of 2021-22 aboard Norwegian Star; the line's first voyages to sail roundtrip from Cape Town, South Africa in the winter of 2021-22 aboard Norwegian Jade; and new itineraries in Asia for Norwegian Sun during the winter of 2022-2023.
These newly-released itineraries aren't exactly short runs to the Bahamas. In the midst of a pandemic, Norwegian is offering up the most exotic itineraries in the 54-year history of the company. These rare and new voyages are giving cruisers ample reason to be excited, and to plan journeys well into the future.
On Cruise Critic's message boards, many posters have indicated booking a future cruise gives them something to look forward to during these uncertain times.
"We've booked the Circle Hawaii in 2022 from Vancouver," writes Dismomx5. "While I'm concerned about the Panama cruise scheduled for February, I now have something to look forward to should it not work out."
"Much as I try to live in the moment, I am SO ready to say good-bye to 2020!," writes Georgia_Peaches.
Updated May 14, 2020