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Book cruises for 2022 now amid 'unprecedented demand' - what to expect next year

Author: Vicky Mayer

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Cruise holiday bookings have boomed for 2022 thanks to pent-up demand, exciting itineraries and a new confidence. Here's why you should book now to avoid disappointment.

Cruises have faced one hell of a year. At the beginning of 2021, no ships were sailing. But then, starting in May, cruise lines large and small began launching ‘seacation’ trips around the British coast, and these proved hugely popular.

In more recent months, many of you will have enjoyed a longed-for Mediterranean cruise, and the even better news is that long-haul cruises to in-demand destinations such as Alaska and Australia will be back for 2022. So there’s even more to look forward to next year.

"With domestic and international travel continuing to open up, and with a host of new ships on the horizon, we’re very excited about cruise in 2022," says Andy Harmer, UK director of industry body CLIA.

"The success of this year’s season has resulted in great feedback, both from past cruisers who were delighted to return, and from guests who sailed for the first time and are now keen to get back on board."

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Cruising with confidence

The success of ‘seacations’, coupled with the extensive anti-Covid precautions that all lines have introduced, means customer confidence is high and sales are booming.

"After almost an 18-month pause in operations, the excitement of cruising is well and truly back," says Chris Hackney, MD of Marella Cruises.

- READ MORE: 6 of the best New Year cruises for 2021/2022 -

"Our customers are delighted to be sailing with us again, and the feedback from our first international itineraries has been extremely positive."

Janet Whittingham, head of cruise at online company Travel Counsellors, adds: "Seacations this year have proved to be a huge success in attracting new customers, and we are now experiencing considerable interest in cruise, with P&O, Celebrity, Royal Caribbean and Regent Seven Seas being our top performers.

"Our latest stats show a much earlier demand for cruising in key holiday periods for winter 21/22 and summer 2022, when families and loved ones can travel together."

Cruise holidays: "Our latest stats show a much earlier demand for cruising in key holiday periods." Credit: Shutterstock

That view is echoed by Simone Clark, MD of online travel agent Iglu Cruise.

"Next year is shaping up to be a bumper one for cruise, with many new itineraries on offer," she says, adding the big cruise lines including Virgin Voyages, Celebrity Cruises, Royal Caribbean, Norwegian Cruise Line and MSC will be focusing on Mediterranean routes for next year.

But while there will be plenty of choice in 2022, supply will take time to reach pre-pandemic levels – and with demand currently sky-high, that means there’s no time to lose if you want to grab a piece of the action.

"With so many cruisers having moved their cancelled bookings forward due to the pandemic, it is more important than ever to book ahead," says Simone.

- READ MORE: How to book a cruise for the first time -

The great getaway

While the end of the year has always been a busy time for bookings, cruise bosses all agree that demand for cruising in 2022 is unprecedented.

As head of trade sales at Saga, Iain Powell is accustomed to market fluctuations, but even he has been surprised. "We have seen an incredible demand for our cruises, with the Mediterranean proving particularly popular as people look to take a long-overdue summer holiday," he says.

"We are already seeing that a number of cruises for 2022 have limited cabins left, so it’s definitely worth booking now to secure a space."

Cruises 2022: "We are already seeing that a number of cruises for 2022 have limited cabins left." Credit: Oceania Cruises

Chris Hackney agrees, revealing that Marella has seen a strong increase in bookings across the board, with summer 2022 especially popular. It’s the same story at other lines, too.

"Demand for our cruises is almost double compared to a normal year," says Fred. Olsen MD Peter Deer. "It’s clear that people are excited to start exploring the world again."

And it’s not only the ocean sector that’s experiencing this pent-up demand. "We’re seeing strong interest in our river cruises, and itineraries such as the Rhine, Rhone, Douro, Danube and Seine are proving incredibly popular for the early part of 2022," says Phil Hullah, CEO of Riviera Travel.

- READ MORE: Douro river cruise guide: What to see and do on Portugal's famous river -

"My advice is to book your preferred destination and cabin for next year now, because we’re already close to capacity on a number of sailings."

Yet another reason for booking 2022 trips now is that you’ll be buying before strong demand pushes prices up – a point underlined by Bernard Carter, European MD of Oceania Cruises, who says that 2021 prices have remained low while 2022 fares are already rising towards pre-pandemic levels.

"We have seen a dramatic increase in bookings for next year and beyond," he adds, "not only from regular cruisers but also from new-to-cruise guests, especially for longer and more exotic itineraries."

One of the biggest trends in bookings for 2022 is the popularity of once-in-a-lifetime cruises. Credit: Shutterstock

The rebookings issue

When the pandemic stopped ships from sailing in 2020, cruise lines offered their customers the chance to rebook for a future cruise at no extra cost. To be on the safe side – sensibly, as it turned out – many people opted for a sailing in 2022.

According to both Lynn Narraway, MD of Holland America/Seabourn, and Tony Roberts, European vice president of Princess Cruises, this is why many summer 2022 cruises have been heavily booked for a year or more.

Happily there are plenty of trips still available, but anyone who has their eye on a specific itinerary would be well-advised not to delay.

- READ MORE: Top 10 destinations for 2022 from Norway to Mauritius and how to cruise there -

Bucket list boom

According to Tony Roberts, one of the biggest trends in bookings for 2022 is the popularity of once-in-a-lifetime cruises.

"A lot of our customers have said: ‘I’ve had two years to plan my bucket-list cruise and now I need to get on with it!’" he reveals. "That’s why we’re seeing a lot of guests booking big trips to South America, Australia, New Zealand and Alaska."

"Cruise travellers are booking to visit incredible destinations like Alaska and Denali and the Yukon." Credit: Shutterstock

It’s a trend that’s happening across the board, as Fred Olsen’s Peter Deer explains. "More than ever, our customers are thinking about travelling somewhere new or treating themselves to a special experience."

HAL’s Lynn Narraway agrees: "Our cruise travellers are booking to visit incredible destinations like Alaska and Denali and the Yukon."

New company Ambassador Cruise Line will launch in April 2022, sailing the 1,400-guest Ambience from London Tilbury, and according to CEO Christian Verhounig it, too, is seeing customers booking cruises to destinations they’ve always dreamed of visiting.

"There is an unmistakable appetite for guests to sail further afield now that the world has opened up," he says. "Our exciting Cuba sailing has proved incredibly popular, along with cruises to Canada, Greenland and Iceland."

- READ MORE: Ambassador Cruise Line boss on Ambience's community, 'luxury' space and no 'gimmicks' -

Firm favourites

For all the current popularity of exotic locations, there’s no chance of the Caribbean and the Med losing their traditional place in cruisers’ hearts.

"These destinations remain firm favourites with UK guests and they’re shaping up to be very popular next year," says Andy Harmer.

Over at Princess Cruises, Tony Roberts adds that two-week Mediterranean cruises are proving very popular for summer 2022, though there is also high demand for no-fly Baltic trips to St Petersburg and an October cruise that visits Canada and New England.

Cruises 2022: Two-week Mediterranean cruises are proving very popular for summer 2022. Credit: Shutterstock

Maiden voyagers

Savvy cruisers know that booking a trip on a recently launched ship is a wise move. Not only will everything on board be sparkling and state-of-the-art – from the cabins to the restaurants and pools – but the itinerary will often include some great new destinations too. And there is an exciting choice of maiden voyages on offer for 2022.

Viking is celebrating its 25th anniversary with the launch of new brand Viking Expeditions, whose first ship – Viking Octantis – sets sail in January 2022.

Look out too for the line’s new river ships, Viking Aton and Viking Saigon, destined respectively for the Nile and the Mekong in 2022, plus two new ocean ships, Viking Mars and Viking Neptune.

- READ MORE: Viking cruise line EVP on best cruises for 2022 and what to expect from 'the biggest year yet'' -

P&O launched its new 5,200-guest supership Iona in August, and Simone Clark of Iglu Cruise says that interest is already building in sister vessel Arvia, which will join the fleet in December 2022. Designed to follow the sun, Arvia will be heading from the UK to the Canaries for her maiden voyage.

Bookings are also brisk for another big ship in 2022. Making her debut in April 2022, Celebrity Beyond will sail from Southampton to Europe.

"This incredible ship takes the innovative design of Celebrity’s Edge-series further than before, so guests can be brought even closer to the experiences and places they’ve been missing," says Jo Rzymowska, European MD of Celebrity Cruises. "With sailings around Europe and the Caribbean in 2022, we’re enjoying early bookings for her exciting first voyages."

Fred Olsen’s Peter Deer reveals that his line’s two newcomers, Bolette and Borealis, are also proving popular with customers for 2022 cruises.

"Both ships carry less than 1,400 guests so they offer faster sailing speeds than bigger vessels," he explains. "This means we can visit more ports in less time and offer plenty of scenic cruising en route."

Celebrity Beyond "takes the innovative design of Celebrity’s Edge-series further than before." Credit: Celebrity Cruises

To boldly go...

It’s not only new ships that are tempting customers aboard. Innovative and unusual itineraries are attracting seasoned cruisers, and the best of these are booking up fast for 2022.

"Our multi-country itineraries are extremely popular for next year’s sailings," says Wendy Atkin-Smith, MD of Viking Cruises UK. "Guests are keen to make up for lost time and squeeze as much as possible into each trip. For example, our European Sojourn cruise, which is 23 days long and visits eight countries, is already selling fast.

- READ MORE: Princess Cruises announces 111-night 2024 World Cruise to 51 destinations -

Tony Roberts reiterates this, reporting that Princess Cruises’ sailings to the west coast of the US and Hawaii are very popular with UK guests as there aren’t a lot of cruise lines that sail to Honolulu.

So the message from the cruise bosses, loud and clear, is that the voyage of your dreams is there for the taking in 2022 – but don’t wait too long before booking if you want to make the dream a reality.

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