Heading into the homestretch of the industry’s biggest promotional period of the year, member companies of Cruise Lines International Association (CLIA) report strong bookings, sparking further optimism for sales in 2010. “Wave Season,” the period between January and March when cruise lines and their travel agent partners showcase the full scope and variety of cruise vacations through exceptional special offers, typically generates the highest sales volume of any time of year. This year may break all records as consumers eagerly take advantage, not only of outstanding prices, but of such value-added features as generous credits for shipboard spending, accommodations upgrades, free airfare, early booking discounts and more.

The cruise lines responding to a February CLIA Wave Season survey represent the broadest spectrum of cruise experiences. In the small ship, coastal and river cruising category of the industry, American Cruise Lines reported “experiencing its best Wave Season ever. With the addition of the brand new Independence and the Queen of the West, which is the only operating overnight paddlewheel boat in the U.S., our sales are at record levels.” Avalon Waterways said, “Interest in river and small ship cruising continues to accelerate at a faster rate than all other forms of travel. Europe river cruise bookings in the Wave Season are up more than 90 percent over 2009.” And, Hurtigruten noted that “So far we’re 21 percent ahead of the same time last year in revenue.”

Carnival Cruise Lines said, with the support of its travel agent partners, targeted marketing initiatives, itinerary enhancements and a variety of close-to-home departure points, Carnival reported record Wave Season bookings, with strong reservations activity for 2010 departures. From Jan. 1 through Feb. 21, 2010, bookings were at unprecedented levels for Carnival’s 22 ships. “We will implement an across-the-board price increase effective March 22,” said president and CEO Gerry Cahill. “Our first quarter Wave Season promotion definitely persuaded consumers to book a Norwegian cruise vacation as we saw heavy call volumes translating to exceptional bookings,” according to Kevin Sheehan, CEO of Norwegian Cruise Line. Norwegian reported strong growth in group business – “up close to twofold” – as well as consumer interest in the new Norwegian Epic arriving in June and in Hawaii cruises. Royal Caribbean International’s Fourth Quarter Report “noted an improving booking environment and expects Net Yields for 2010 to improve three percent to six percent versus 2009. First Quarter 2010 Net Yields are expected to improve approximately two percent.”

Among luxury cruise lines, Crystal Cruises reports that “soaring sales for its 2010 cruises continued through the end of January. Bookings for the month were 205 percent greater than for the same month in 2009. Additionally, new-to-Crystal guests booked for 2010 are 89 percent of totals for all of 2009.” And, Seabourn Cruise Line reported: “For January, numbers of bookings showed a 106 percent increase compared to 2009, and were up 215 percent compared to 2008. The number of first-time guests booking in January surged 79 percent over the same period in 2009 and 155 percent of January in 2008, which was Seabourn’s best year to date.”

Windstar Cruises, the only CLIA member line to operate sail-powered cruise ships, reports “strong sales during the first six weeks of the year for 2010 sailings.”

Driving the strong consumer response to Wave Season are the special offers still available from many CLIA members. These include:

• A "Be our Guest at Oktoberfest" promotion which includes a complimentary 2-night stay in Munich; free airfare or free companion air on select 2010 sailings

• Early bird discounts of $400 per stateroom for any reservations made 3 months in advance of the sailing

• $300-$1,000 off per stateroom on selected European River Cruise Vacations/Avalon Waterways River Cruises; no single supplement on select departures

• 2-for-1 fares and book a Club Veranda Stateroom for the price of a Club Oceanview stateroom when booking by March 31 on 2010 Europe voyages (sailings April 25 - December 9)

• A variety of attractive fares, including Early Saver rates starting at less than $70 per day, with guaranteed lowest rate with Early Saver’s price protection feature

• New low rates; reduced third- and fourth-guest rates; "Upgrade Your View" to veranda accommodations promotion (Offers on select sailings in Caribbean, Bermuda, Europe and Alaska)

• Up to 60 percent off select 2010 sailings; up to $100 in onboard credits for select summer Mediterranean cruises

• Two-for-one fares for all destinations; All Inclusive – As You Wish spending credits for all destinations – up to $2,000 per couple; Free round-trip air with most cruises; Business class air for Penthouse categories in Europe; 2010 Price Guarantees

• Savings of up to $600 per person on Queen Mary 2 transatlantic crossings. Save up to $1,000 per person off early booking fares, based on double occupancy for Balcony staterooms on select Queen Victoria Mediterranean voyages.

• Select European cruises from April 10 through May 5, starting at just $50 per person, per day, including 14-night transatlantic voyage, 10- and 11-night Mediterranean sailings

• Savings of up to 40 percent on ocean-view and verandah accommodations and third and fourth guest savings

• Summer Special – savings of up to 20 percent off retail rate – to promote 6, 7 or 12-day Norwegian Coastal Voyages this summer (May 1 - October 6)

• “Wave Season” special rates on select 3- and 7-night Caribbean cruises, including theme cruises (comedy, baseball, country music, big band and more) on MSC Poesia, for bookings through January 31, including best available stateroom within the same category at time of booking; $100 per person deposits on all cruises

• “Year of the Freestyle Vacation” promotion that includes up to a six category upgrade and onboard savings certificates of up to $400 for all new reservations made through March 14 on any of the line’s 10 Freestyle Cruising ships 
• All travel partners with qualifying bookings on balcony staterooms or above made during the promotion will be entered to win a cruise

• Free or 2-for-1 airfare from Los Angeles to Tahiti, plus up to 45% standard published fares for bookings made by June 30, 2010. Also no single supplement on select spring departures

• “Balcony Bonanza” – through February 28, travelers can choose to a private balcony for the cost of an oceanview stateroom; “Denali on Sale” - savings of up to 25 percent on a land and sea Alaska cruise tour

• Two-For-One cruise fares plus value-priced round trip airfare add-ons to all 2010-2011 Europe and Asia cruises aboard Seabourn’s award-winning, all-suite fleet of five intimate, ultra luxury cruising yachts. Bookings must be made between March 23 and June 30, 2010

• Up to 60& savings, plus free air and transfers on select voyages

• Upgrade to Business Class Air from only $199 per person from New York to Europe on select cruises by booking and paying in full by March 26. Spring Savings up to $600 per couple on Europe River Cruises by booking and depositing by April 30. Single Supplement waived on select cruises; and 50 percent off for young travelers on family-friendly cruises

• “Europe on Sale” promotion features 7-day sailings in the Mediterranean and Greek Isles at exceptional savings; $100 per person shipboard credit for bookings by March 31; early payment gratuity package valued at $84 per guest for payment in full 6 months or more in advance