Early 2020, before COVID-19 shut down the world, the cruise industry was abuzz with plans for several eagerly-anticipated new ships including Virgin Voyages' Scarlet Lady, Carnival Cruise Line's Mardi Gras, and Regent Seven Seas Cruises Seven Seas Splendor.
More than a year later, Mardi Gras is finally cruising, Seven Seas Splendor will sail in September, and Scarlet Lady is set to launch later this fall. Not to mention, Royal Caribbean's first Quantum Ultra Class ship to be based in the U.S., Odyssey of the Seas will arrive this October.
But the old buzz isn't necessarily there. Instead, the existence of these new ships seems to be an afterthought for many cruisers who now are simply looking at getting back onboard.
Other Concerns Take Priority
For many clients, advisors say, fear is still their number one motivating factor.
"If you have legitimate travel fears for your safety, the new ships are not enough incitement to overcome those fears," Mara Hargarther, owner of a Dream Vacations franchise in Ponte Vedra, Florida said.
And for many clients willing to cruise, other concerns are more important than the need to be among the first on board on a new ship.
"Some of the novelty isn't what it used to be," said Dan and Joanne Bateman, independent vacation specialists with Cruises Inc. "Our clients are more concerned with safety issues in cruising, evaluating the value, and finding an itinerary that would be different from the usual."
The concern over the inherent uncertainty of cruising in the COVID era is even more pronounced when it comes to new ships from new cruise lines like Virgin Voyages or the Ritz-Carlton Yacht Collection.
"People are hesitant on new cruise lines that were not sailing before the pandemic," said Cindy Locke, owner of Seize the Seas, an independent agency in the Avoya Travel Network.
Any Cruise Ship Will Do
One thing almost all the travel advisors we spoke to agreed on was that mainstream cruise clients who are ready to cruise don't care what ship they're on.
"I think avid cruisers just want to be back on the water, and want to do this as easily as possible," Julie Schear, owner of a Cruise Planners franchise in Coral Springs, Florida told Travel Market Report.
Susan Pretkus-Combs, the owner of a Dream Vacations franchise in Trabuco Canyon, California, agreed, saying she's had few clients putting off cruising. "Everyone else is so anxious to cruise again, they just want to get aboard any ship they can."
They "just don't care what ship," Dawn Chavis, owner of Travel Time Cruises, an independent agency in the Avoya Travel Network, echoed.
New Luxury Ships Are the Exception
Several travel advisors we spoke with pointed out they're still getting inquiries about new luxury ships.
"I am not seeing a drop-off but a higher level of excitement for a new ship," Locke told Travel Market Report, who said she's getting requests about Oceania Vista and Regent Seven Seas Splendor and Regent Seven Seas Grandeur.
Oceania Vista will also be a "HOT seller" for Adam Martindale, a Cruise Planners franchise agency owner, Martindale said.
Eric Goldring of Goldring Travel, an Ensemble-member travel agency, said he's seeing plenty of interest for "new" luxury ships. (Goldring used the recently elongated and refurbished Star Breeze as an example of a new ship.)
"That is why, in part, I jumped at Windstar's offer to be a guest on the Star Breeze's Inaugural cruise," he said. "Once I explained in my articles and conversations the COVID related protocols… clients and potential clients quickly shifted all questions to the new ship and virtually no questions regarding COVID-19 concerns have been raised since."
New Ship Demand Will Return
Most travel advisors Travel Market Report spoke with said cruising probably needs to be fully normal again before we see a return to the type of new ship excitement that was typical pre-Covid.
"I think the allure of new ships has appeared to fade only because cruising has been unavailable for 15 months," Schear said. "Once people get their feet wet again, so to say, and we start seeing social media posts from people cruising on news ships, we will see the hype again."