Cruise pricing appears on the increase for the second half of 2022 and 2023, in places including the Caribbean, Alaska and Europe, but don't blame the U.S. inflation rate -- which hit 7 percent in December 2021 -- for the higher fares.
Cruise experts say pent-up demand and tight occupancy are the main factors in why you could pay more for your next cruise vacation.
"At this time, we're not hearing a direct correlation between inflation and cruise pricing," said Pam Young, executive vice president of partner relations at Internova Travel Group, the sizeable travel agency and franchise network.
While select cruise lines have a set cadence of pricing adjustments throughout the year, much of the cruise industry pricing is driven by demand," Young explains. "Consumer demand for cruising in Q3/Q4 is well-positioned and continues to strengthen, therefore you can expect pricing to sustain or increase"
Another influence on fares is that some cruise lines have moved to more all-inclusive pricing models, Young adds. Celebrity Cruises, for instance, now includes drinks, WiFi and gratuities in cruise fares.
Travel advisors are reporting fares rising on popular routes such as select Alaska summertime itineraries, though not across the board, says Mike Driscoll, editor of the industry newsletter CruiseWeek.
"People put off trips due to Omicron concerns and rebooked expecting the seas to be calmer then, leaving less space available," Driscoll says. "Sales had already been strong due to pent-up demand so for the most part there's limited spaces on the traditionally highly sought-after itineraries."
A still-reduced supply of ships is another factor in higher prices says Rob Clabbers, president of Q Cruise + Travel in Chicago. "Still some ships docked, some ships retired, some destinations less open to travel right now," he says.
It's not like lower fares don’t exist, especially on bigger and older ships.
For instance, right now you can book a week on Carnival Vista out of Galveston from under $300, and Royal Caribbean has fares from $439 on one-week Alaska cruises in the height of next summer on its Serenade of the Seas out of Vancouver (the fares are under $400 in September).
Clabbers says later in 2022, such deals are likely to be more an anomaly than reality "For most, guests shouldn’t expect major deals lower than pre-COVID," he said.
His suggestion for those planning cruises: "If you found a cruise/fare you’re happy with, book it. If prices fall, most lines will allow you to adjust (before final payment). That way you also have the best pick from available rooms and can start looking forward to your trip."
Michelle Fee, founder and CEO of the franchise network Cruise Planners, says a busy winter Wave season, with cruise lines offering sale prices and other incentives to book now, will likely impact future availability, and fares.
"We feel that the end of the pandemic is imminent, and albeit delayed, we are on the brink of a demanding Wave season," Fee says. "We believe this pent-up demand for travel will create a supply shortage and that will drive cruise fares higher—just the nature of the beast when it comes to supply and demand"
Fee adds that some consumers have "nearly three years' worth" of rolled-over bookings from canceled or postponed sailings, and they will likely start redeeming those credits soon.
"We know the boom is coming, and travel advisors should be reaching out to their clients now to ensure they are able to book the vacations they waited so long for," Fee said. "Travelers shouldn’t delay to book their cruises—by the time they decide, it might not be available to them."