In a media briefing onboard Oceania’s Marina last week, Oceania Cruise president and CEO Howard Sherman told reporters that bookings for the line were “quite a bit higher than last week.” The difference between the two weeks? Norwegian Cruise Line Holdings had since announced it was dropping vaccination requirements for most sailings.
Travel Market Report was curious if travel advisors are seeing the same thing.
Cruise Planners certainly is. “With NCLH removing vaccine mandates early last week, Cruise Planners saw a 70% increase in average daily booking volume for NCL, while Oceania saw increases upwards of 80% in purchase revenue,” the company reported to TMR. “As more cruise lines begin relaxing their policies and removing the requirement for vaccinations, we are excited for the future of travel and its amazing rebound.”
Individual advisors told TMR they’re finally seeing bookings from clients who have been waiting more than two years for the requirements to be dropped.
“It certainly has an impact,” said Helen Capra, an independent travel consultant with Travel Edge.
Capra, whom TMR met onboard Marina, sells mostly premium and luxury cruises. As such, the majority of her clients are vaccinated and boosted. But not everyone is. One client, for instance, has a 25-year-old son who hasn’t wanted to get vaccinated, making family cruises – which were the norm before COVID-19 – impossible.
“With it lifted, it was the first thing she said, ‘he can come.’”
Capra isn’t the only advisor to hear from clients who have been waiting.
“I am definitely seeing an increase in requests for cruises since the announcements by Norwegian Cruise Line and Royal Caribbean,” said Michelle Shrader, owner of Adventures Tours & Travel, an InteleTravel affiliate.
Shrader told TMR she also kept a list of clients who were waiting on cruise lines to lift vaccination requirements and will be reaching out to them.
“I have plenty of families who are unable to take the vaccines for themselves or for their children due to medical reasons. Until now, they felt some disappointment because they were unable to cruise.”
Tisha Spencer, another InteleTravel affiliate and owner of Platinum Life Travels, echoed Shrader.
“The ability to travel without having to be vaccinated… has opened up the ability for people with medical restrictions to travel, and plan for the future,” she said. “There will still be concerns, of course, based on the ports visiting but having the option to even sail is big. I have one family who is now ready to book two cruises, one for the family and one adults-only as they can now travel.”
The new policies also make being a travel advisor more pleasant, Shrader said. “Prior to the press briefing, travel advisors were in the position of evaluating the guidelines and qualifying customers based on their vaccine status. None of us want to tell our clients that they can’t go on that dream cruise.”
“I welcome it as I couldn’t image what those restricted from cruising were feeling knowing they weren’t allowed on board,” added Darryl Jenkins, owner of Boxley Enterprise Travel, another InteleTravel affiliate.