In a September survey of the wealthiest 10% of US households, the American Affluence Research Center found that intentions to cruise during the next 12 months were essentially unchanged at 13% of the respondents, as compared to the historic low of 12% recorded in the Spring 2009 survey.

The good news for the luxury and premium cruise lines is that plans to cruise during the next 12 months among the wealthiest 1% (those with a minimum net worth of $6 million) rose to 31% from 18% in the Spring survey. This represents a potential increase of 260,000 very affluent cruisers.

The new reading of 13% of all respondents compares to a high of 22% in the Fall 2007 survey and the pre-recession record lows of 13% recorded in the Fall 2002 and 2003 surveys.

At 13% of a population of 11.4 million households, the estimated number of affluent cruise buyers is 1.5 million households or 3 million total cruisers over the next 12 months.

The Affluent Market Tracking Study #16, published by the American Affluence Research Center, is based on a national sample of 684 survey participants who have an average annual household income of $300,000, an average net worth of $3.1 million, average investable assets of $1.6 million, and an average primary residence value of $1.2 million. The average age of the respondents is 56 with 88% married,  55% male and 45% female The studies have been conducted twice yearly since 2002.

While the affluent have a negative opinion of current business conditions, they have a positive 12 month outlook for improvements in business conditions and the stock market. Although this marks a strong reversal of the negative outlook expressed in the Spring survey, spending plans show very limited improvement.

Most of the affluent expect to return to pre-recession levels of spending once they are convinced the recession is over and they see a recovery in their net worth, which has been hit by declines in the value of their savings and their home. They do not expect to see the end of the recession, with real improvements in the rate of unemployment and the value of their savings and their homes, for about 18 to 24 months and possibly in to early 2012.