Now Is the Time to Book Christmas Market River Cruisesby Dori Saltzman /
If you’ve got clients interested in Christmas Market cruises, get on the phone today. Don’t wait. They’re selling out fast! That’s the message Travel Market Report is hearing over and over again from river cruise operators.
“Now is the time,” said Steve Born, CMO at the Globus family of brands, which includes Avalon Waterways. “As the weather starts to heat up, the inventory starts to melt for those Christmas cruises.
Nearly 80% of the capacity on Avalon’s Christmas time cruise cruises is sold out.
At Tauck, 35% of its Christmas Market cruises are entirely sold out and 35% have limited availability, with the Danube and Rhine itineraries the most booked up, Tom Armstrong, corporate communications manager at Tauck, told TMR.
Though demand for Christmas Market cruises typically shoots up in spring, this year it’s more pronounced than usual, executives said.
“Our Christmas Market sailings are always a customer favorite, and demand is especially high for 2022 following two years of cancellations during the pandemic,” said Ellen Bettridge, president, and CEO of Uniworld River Cruises. “We’ve actually exceeded pre-pandemic booking levels for our 2022 holiday cruises.”
Kristin Karst, executive vice president and co-founder of AmaWaterways said they’re seeing much the same thing.
“After so many missed celebrations over the past two years, friends and family are eager to reconnect and this desire is driving demand for special experiences like our Christmas Market cruises on the Rhine and Danube,” she said. “River cruise bookings for 2022 are looking very strong, particularly for departures in the second half of the year.”
Both Karst and Born mentioned that part of the uptick in demand is driven by guests on canceled sailings rescheduling for this year.
“Unlike a regular year, those are a bank of additional cruisers that are going to be acting,” Born said.
Karst added that simplified entry requirements and reduced travel restrictions in Europe have “encouraged many guests to re-schedule trips, particularly the Christmas Market cruises, which are only available four weeks of the year.”
Some Capacity Left
All of the river cruises TMR spoke with still have some capacity left on the Christmas Market cruises, but all said they expect that to go quickly.
“We still have availability on most departures, but with pent-up demand for these unique experiences, we do expect most 2022 Christmas Market cruises to be full,” Karst said. And that’s with added capacity from the AmaSiena and AmaLucia on the Rhine River, and a longer season of the AmaKristina on the Rhone.
“We encourage those who are dreaming of sailing, whether solo or with a multi-generational family group, to reach out to their travel advisor to ensure they can secure the itinerary and stateroom of their choice.”
Viking River Cruises also added capacity for 2022. And, like AmaWaterways is seeing most of it fill up quickly.
“In response to the strong demand we have seen for these voyages over the years, we introduced several new holiday itineraries along the Rhine, Danube, and Seine rivers beginning this year,” said Richard Marnell, executive vice president of marketing at Viking. “While there is still availability for the 2022 holiday season, many sailings already have limited capacity, so we encourage those who are interested to book soon.”
Uniworld’s Bettridge echoed Karst and Marnell. “I’d encourage advisors to get their clients booked without delay to ensure that their preferences are met for this season.” Uniworld has six Christmas Market itineraries for advisors to sell.
Born told TMR Avalon has capacity left on 34 departures (spanning eight itineraries).
“There’s still a wide range of availability, but my advice to advisors would be not to wait.” That’s particularly true for Avalon’s Panorama suite staterooms, he added, which are always the first to book up.
Born added that the capacity they have isn’t concentrated on any given time frame. Avalon’s “Christmas Time on the Danube” sailings have space in early November, while the line’s “Festive Season in the Heart of Germany” sailings still have space for late November up to mid-December.
Of its four Christmas Market river itineraries, the best selection of cabins for Tauck is on its “Yuletide Spirit: Brussels to Amsterdam” cruises, which has space on three of four sailings. Armstrong also said the line has good availability on all three departures of its family-specific itinerary (Holiday Magic: Danube Family River Cruise).