Today, Cruise Holidays – the oldest and largest cruise specialty retailer in North America – is announcing the authoritative results of the 2008 Cruise Holidays Travel Trends Survey. Among the more noteworthy findings are that cruise customers are continuing to flock to the Caribbean, particularly 7-day Western Caribbean cruises, and the average cost per person per day for a 12-day Mediterranean cruise is US $269 – a great value when considering that figure includes lodging, food and entertainment.  The survey tracked actual bookings of Cruise Holidays stores in the U.S. and Canada, made through December 31, 2007, with a sail date in 2008; also included is supplemental information provided by Cruise Holidays’ franchise owners and frontline agents.

“With eight brand new cruise ships scheduled to launch in 2008, and an estimated 12.8 million cruise passengers expected to set sail this year, consumers interested in cruising need assistance in sorting through the myriad of opportunities to find the best option for them,” said Peter D. Thomson, vice president and COO of Cruise Holidays. “The value of working with a true travel professional has never been more essential – and that is why we believe it’s important for us to use our time and resources to compile this information.  We know today’s traveler does quite a bit of research and we, as cruise experts, want to educate and assist them in any way possible.”

“Our research has consistently shown that decisions about a cruise vacation still are based first and foremost on itinerary and a particular cruise line over pricing.  Consumers have learned that price does not necessarily equal value,” added Thomson.  “The fact that 7-day Western Caribbean and 12-day Mediterranean cruises are the most popular itineraries to those regions also points out that consumers are willing to spend a longer time away from home recharging their batteries and the average costs of those itineraries can hardly be beat when piecing together a comparable land-based vacation.”

Thomson added, “While our ‘average cost’ figures show a modest increase in the average price for a 12-day Mediterranean cruises (7.6%), it is far less than the 13.3% the euro has gained on the U.S. dollar in the past year.  For U.S. travelers looking for the best value in Europe, a Mediterranean cruise would be their best option.”

The following information is based on actual bookings made through December 31, 2007, with a sail date in 2008, by Cruise Holidays stores in the U.S. and Canada:

2008 Top Cruise Destinations        % of Bookings         2007 Ranking
1. Caribbean                 42.8%                1
2. Alaska                 15.5%                2
3. Mexican Riviera            8.5%                3
4. Europe – Mediterranean        7.9%                4
5. Hawaii                 4.4%                5
6. Bermuda                 3.6%                6
7. Panama Canal             3.2%                7
8. Europe – Baltic            2.3%                9
9. Trans-Atlantic             2.0%                10
10. New England/Maritime Canada     1.8%                8

While the top destinations remained virtually the same from 2007 to 2008, the overall Cruise Holidays network has seen tremendous growth as reflected by these numbers:

Regarding bookings to date (1/1/07 - 12/31/07), trends for the following are:

·    Europe bookings are up 42.3% when compared to 1/1/06 - 12/31/06
·    Alaska bookings are up 17.1% when compared to 1/1/06 - 12/31/06
·    Mexico bookings up 10.1% when compared to 1/1/06 - 12/31/06
·    Caribbean bookings up 3.7% when compared to 1/1/06 - 12/31/06
·    Bookings for the entire Cruise Holidays network are up 14% compared to 1/1/06 - 12/31/06

Average Cost of Most Popular Itineraries

(This includes information from all categories of cruise lines: Contemporary, Premium and Luxury.  It also includes all stateroom categories. These figures are based only on the cruise portion of each booking, it excludes items such as: airfare, pre-/post-cruise hotel, shore excursions, etc.)

                2008 Cost  Per Person/Per Day    2007
7-Day Alaska Cruise        US $259 pp/per day (total of $1,813)    $234
7-Day Caribbean         US $159 pp/per day (total of $1,113)    $158
12-Day Mediterranean         US $269 pp/per day (total of $3,228)    $250
7-Day European River Cruise*    US $387 pp/per day (total of $2,709)    N/A

* Unlike most cruises, where shore excursions are optional and an added expense, European River Cruises typically include shore excursions in the price of the cruise.

2008 Top Caribbean Itineraries    Percentage of Bookings     2007 Ranking
1. 7-day Western Caribbean            26.8%            1
2. 7-day Eastern Caribbean            20.7%            2
3. 7-day Southern Caribbean            11.9%            4
4. 5-day Western Caribbean            9.0%            3
5. 8-day Eastern Caribbean            4.6%            

Western Caribbean itineraries could include ports of call such as: Key West, Jamaica, Grand Cayman, Cozumel and Belize.  Eastern Caribbean itineraries could include: The Bahamas, Puerto Rico, St. Maarten, Turk & Caicos and U.S. V.I.  Southern Caribbean itineraries could include: Antigua, Barbados, Curacao, Dominica, and St. Lucia.

2008 Top European Itineraries    Percentage of Bookings    2007 Ranking
1. 12-day Mediterranean            35.1%            1
2. 7-day Mediterranean                9.2%            2
3. 10-day Baltic                    5.8%
4. 14-day Mediterranean            5.7%            3
5. 12-day Baltic                    5.2%            5

The following data is based on a supplemental part of the 2008 Cruise Holidays Travel Trends Survey in which questions were directly asked of all Cruise Holidays franchise owners and frontline agents.  This information represents 93% of the Cruise Holidays network.

Which of the following do you hear most often from your customers regarding their reasons for taking a particular cruise vacation?
                        2008 %        2007    2006
1. Particular itinerary                91.4%        1    1
2. Particular cruise line                83.6%        2     2
3. Price                        66.4%        3    3
4. Particular embarkation point            37.9%        4     5
5. Accommodations – i.e. type of stateroom    37.1%        5    4
6. Particular cruise ship                30.2%        5    6
7. Amenities – i.e. spa, gym or fitness classes,
dining, onboard activities        24.1%        8     8
8. Group space                    16.4%        7    7
9. Excursions                    7.8%        9     9
10. Other                    3.5%        10    10

*Other = Special occasion, loyalty program offer, and entertainment

Emerging Destinations     2008
1. South America        22.9%
2. Australia/NZ            10.1%
3. China/Asia            9.2%
4. River Cruising        8.3%
5. Baltic            5.5%

Cruise lines are adding amazing features such as bowling alleys, rock climbing walls, wave riders, ice rinks, bigger and better spas and numerous specialty restaurants.

How important are these new features and amenities for customers booking certain cruise itineraries?

                        Caribbean    Alaska        Mediterranean
Extremely important                11.2%        0.0%        0.9%
Very important                    43.9%        3.7%        2.8%
Slightly important                38.3%        33.6%        41.1%
Not all that important                5.6%        47.7%        42.1%
Completely not a factor in their decision        0.9%        15.0%        13.1%

What is your personal outlook on your business for the coming year?
Very optimistic                41.0%
Fairly optimistic            45.7%
Neither optimistic nor pessimistic    11.4%
Fairly pessimistic            1.9%
Very pessimistic            0.0%

This is the first of three releases of information from the 2008 Cruise Holidays Travel Trends Survey.  In upcoming news, Cruise Holidays will reveal “Top Ports of Call,” “Most Underrated European Port of Call,” “Best Time to Book,” “Top Short/Medium/Long Itineraries,” “Average Length of Cruise,” “Average Booking Window,” and “Top Reasons for Considering a European River Cruise.”  This exclusive Cruise Holidays data was gleaned from actual bookings along with insight and opinions of Cruise Holidays franchise owners and frontline agents.