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According to new research, cruise vacations are still a favorite choice among American travelers. 41% indicate they're considering a cruise in the future, with Millennials even more eager as over half (52%) say they're ready to return to the open seas. Knowing this, it's worth taking a closer look at why now might be the perfect time to add cruise offerings to your portfolio.

Consumer research from AAA, in addition to AAA Travel booking data, shows that cruising is making a strong comeback with 2022 bookings nearing pre-pandemic levels. Of those Americans who say they are likely to cruise again, 41% cite a better understanding of the risks presented by COVID-19 as influencing their decision.

"The cruise industry has done an excellent job of prioritizing the health and safety of its guests while still creating a memorable onboard experience that makes cruising so special," said Paula Twidale, Senior Vice President, AAA Travel. "This includes every major cruise line continuing to exceed CDC guidance, even though it is now voluntary. As things continue to improve, travelers are eager to return to the high seas to unplug and relax with those they love most."

AAA found that 58.3 million (23%) Americans are considering a cruise in the next two years, with the all-inclusive experience, quality time with family and friends and shore excursions topping the list as the most attractive aspects of a cruise vacation. Younger generations, like Gen Z, are most excited about spending time with family and friends (57%) and outdoor activities such as the pool and other similar amenities (44%).

"Cruising is a unique experience because it's as much about the journey as it is the destination," continued Twidale. "In one sailing, you may visit new corners of the world. And the best part—there is something onboard that appeals to every age."

When it comes to cruising internationally, AAA found destinations like the Caribbean and Mediterranean rank among the most popular choices for travelers.

Demand for all things travel—including cruising—is increasing, which means group travel professionals should encourage travelers to start planning their next trip now to ensure as many of their wants as possible are met. Cruise lines open up reservations as early as two years ahead of sailing and sometimes offer better rates for booking early. Remind travelers that group travel planners and professionals can help take the stress out of planning and can help by sharing:

  • What to expect while onboard and while visiting ports or participating in offshore excursions.
  • Vaccine/testing requirements and safety protocols for individual cruise lines.
  • Cancellation policies.
  • Travel insurance options.
  • How positive COVID-19 cases are handled (for yourself, other passengers and crew).

Perceptions around cruising have also improved, with AAA finding that Americans specifically view cruising as safe as resort vacations and safer than exploring large cities. Cruise lines have implemented several safety protocols onboard, such as vaccination and testing requirements for passengers and crew; enhanced medical facilities; upgraded ventilation systems; hand washing and hand sanitizer dispensers in high traffic areas; contactless room service; use of medical-grade cleaning supplies and virtual safety briefings. Knowing this, it comes as no surprise that 43% of Americans who plan to cruise in the future are satisfied with the cruise industry's overall response to the pandemic.

Written by Sarah Suydam, Managing Editor for Groups Today.

 

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