2024 Cruise Watch Outs! Changes That You Need to Know And Worry About
2024 Cruise Watch Outs! Changes That You Need to Know About
2024 cruise watch outs! After listening to what cruise lines have been telling investors they’re doing this year, I’m convinced that in 2024 we are going to be facing four new and unwelcome challenges. But, I also have some suggestions on how to work around these and get ahead of them, including one that you may not even realise is possible.
There is something I’ve seen happening that is going to be increasingly common in 2024, and that is that people being bumped off cruises due to overbooking. These are the cruise watch outs you need to be aware of!
#1 2024 Cruise Watch Outs – Capacity Challenge
The practice hit the headlines at the end of last year when 11 sets of cruisers waiting to board Royal Caribbean’s Quantum of the Seas, in Brisbane, had their vacation dreams shattered. The ship was oversold and there weren’t any cabins for them, so they were sent home.
On investigating I found this is happening more than I had realised, but wasn’t making the news, as cruisers were being bumped from their cruise in the run up to their trips – not at the port.
What Is Going On And Should You Be Worried?
In 2024 the lines are aiming to have ships sail full and over capacity. All three major cruising groups (Carnival Corporation, Royal Caribbean Group and Norwegian Group) have told investors that sales in 2024 are way above any previous year, and occupancy of their ships is already running at 109% capacity and above.
For those of you not sure what that means, the capacity of a ship is measured based on the number of fixed beds, which on average is around double occupancy per cabin. But many cabins have sofa beds or beds that can be pulled from ceiling recesses for kids or friends to share cabins.
As demand is high, they are overselling using “guaranteed fares”, which just guarantees a cabin grade not a specific cabin, on the assumption that people will drop out when final balance payment is due and again between then and departure and they can take everyone.
All the affected cruisers who are being bumped off cruises have been booking guaranteed fare cabins.
Knowing this is an issue for 2024 what can you do to manage your risk?
First, consider booking the slightly higher fare where you choose a specific cabin so you know you will be on the sailing.
Second, if you have booked a guaranteed fare, check in as early as possible when it opens online, as that often triggers the cabin allocation process.
There is another huge implication of demand being high and ships sailing fuller than ever. Fares.
If you’ve not booked a 2024 cruise yet, you are likely to be paying more than those that have, and you will find it harder to get closer to departure deals.
Cruise lines use dynamic pricing. This means as the ship fills up, the prices increase. So unlike in previous years, holding out and booking late probably will not mean lower or deep deals.
I do have some suggestions on how to deal with this if you’re still looking to book in 2024.
First, the highest demand and where ships are sailing fullest are in the Caribbean and Alaska, regions popular and handy for USA cruisers. You may find it harder to get deals here.
However, I have seen cruise line leaders asking travel agents to push Europe, both the Mediterranean and Northern Europe. North American tourists seem to be steering clear of booking 2024 here due to the ongoing and uncertain situation between Russia and Ukraine, and in the Middle East. There will be more deals.
Second, the biggest opportunity in 2024 for deals will be when final balance payment is due, so if you want to cruise at shorter notice then be ready 60 or 90 days before sailing. The point when cruise lines know who has dropped out and what capacity they must fill.
I’ve noticed a lot of activity around that time, particularly with short flash sales, often advertised to their mailing list and on social media. But if you got this route move fast.
I’ve had several people contact me booking for cruises in 2024, seeing those deals and taking time to think about it overnight and it was gone by the next day. Demand is high and deals go faster than ever it seems.
But high demand and ships sailing full and over capacity is not all the cruise lines are telling investors they are doing. This next one will also hit us harder this year.
#2 2024 Cruise Watch Outs – On-Board Challenge
All cruise lines have said they are working hard to increase the amount of money we spend on board.
Norwegian, for example, say they’ve already got passengers on average to spend up to 15% more versus 2019 and see scope to grow that more.
What I found fascinating and telling is they also told investors that the main way they get us to spend more is through packages. They say passengers that buy packages are spending more than people that don’t and who pay ad-hoc on board.
I’ve often in past blogs said that whenever the cruise line introduces anything, I assume that it’s there to make them more money. So, all those packages like Celebrity “Always Included”, Holland America “Have It All”, Princess Plus, Norwegian “Free at Sea” all make us on average spend more than if we did not buy them.
But so do the drinks packages, dining packages, excursion packages and so on.
So, my suggestion in 2024 is when looking at the packages, don’t assume you’re getting a savings versus what you would spend if you were buying ad-hoc. I know that I will tend to spend more, as without a package I won’t go to as many speciality dining, have as many drinks or use as much Wi-fi or whatever.
Try and cost it out. For example, use the drinks package calculators on sites like Cruzely.com and CruiseMummy.co.uk that by cruise line, you can input the drink amounts you think you will have and, it’ll tell you whether it’s worth buying a package or not.
Look at the excursion options and do comparisons of excursions options. I talk about those and how to do that in recent videos on the topic.
Remember the lines are working to get us to spend more on board than in past years, so be ready for that. But talking about on board there is a massive change that I don’t think most passengers have realised is coming.
#3 2024 Cruise Watch Outs – Experience Challenge
It is one thing I have noticed and is affecting the way that I choose cruise lines.
The lines have told investors they are focusing on attracting new-to-cruise travellers, increasing their marketing spend to attract them and looking to cater more for a changing type of cruise passenger. In practice at the expense of their traditional ones on some lines.
For example, a few weeks back I spotted ads by Holland America pushing their kids and family fares. A line that used to be seen and was catering for a more traditional, older couple cruiser.
On my last Holland America trip, over Christmas, there were 400 kids and teens. Totally changing the dynamic of the line. My Princess cruise in Alaska last summer was full of families versus historic also couples and older crowd.
As 2024 rolls on, you may find a different and evolving vibe and mix from lines you think you know.
Many lines have been launching different classes and styles of ships and working to attract different cruise passengers for them and this will start to affect your cruises this year.
For example, Celebrity Edge Class ships (Edge, Apex, Beyond and Ascent) are very different ships, experience and are attracting a different passenger. I found it’s almost like going on a different cruise line compared to sailing on their Solstice or Millennium class ships – as are the guests.
So, as you plan what lines to use in 2024 and beyond take time to check and reflect if the line is still as relevant to your needs, or if you should be looking elsewhere to get that.
But there is some good news wrapped up within all of this in the next issue.
#4 2024 Cruise Watch Outs – New Ship Challenges
The cruise lines have still committed to investors to add capacity in 2024, which means nine new ocean cruise ships for us to try this year.
And the good news is it looks like the delays and disruptions we saw the last two years where most new ship launches had to be pushed back, from what the lines are telling investors, these are expected to happen on schedule.
Though looking at the line-up, one disappointing thing stuck me is that almost all continue the trend by lines to go bigger and bigger. And most are adding family focused features and activities.
In 2024 there is Royal Caribbean’s Icon of the Sea with 7,600 passengers and Utopia of the Seas carrying 6,700.
Princess Cruises is launching Sun Princess. It’s a 4,000-passenger ship and a new class called the Sphere Class with a big family focus. It’s introducing a thing called Park Nine, Sea Breeze Ride, rope courses, ship within a ship. So, it’s changing and evolving Princess.
Disney Treasure also has 4,000 passengers. Silversea is launching their second of their Silver Nova class with Silver Ray. Again, it’s more passengers than any of their other ultra-luxury ships carrying 728.
Even the luxury line Viking Cruises is launching a bigger ship called Viking Vela now carry 998 passengers instead of that usual round about 900. Cunard are also launching a bigger ship with Queen Anne carrying 3,000 passengers.
The other two ships are a second ship for Explorer Journeys with Explorer II, and Ritz Carlton are launching their second ship, Ilma.
Yes, in 2024 ships are getting bigger and bigger.
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