After last year’s steep fall in Russian passenger sourcing, 2016 is pointing to a recovery. The main driver of this recovery is lower cruise prices for Russian passengers.

“Our customers are focused on saving money on travel, opting for a cabin without a balcony, or even an inside room. They are also booking shorter trips,” said Elena Karmanova, director of marketing at VIA Maris, a Russian tour operator.

Katherine Ilyushina, commercial director, Cruise Home MK, said the Harmony of the Seas was selling very well with competitive rates and booking incentives.

The key to maintaining demand, according to several Russian travel agencies, has been discounts and onboard incentives.

“One of the more popular strategies we are seeing in the Mediterranean and Black Seas are cruises that begin and end with a Russian port (such as MSC embarking in Sochi), which has allowed lines to lower pricing,” said Marina Gavrilenko, general director of Art Travel.

Among interesting developments has been the push from St. Peter Line, a traditional ferry operator, for more cruise passengers.

The company was offering cruises on the Princess Anastasia for $70 per person (entire cruise fare), round-trip from St. Petersburg and with calls in Tallinn, Helsinki and Stockholm.

 “More of our customers are interested in Asia, especially winter cruises in Southeast Asia,” said Ilya Milititsky, director, Breeze Line.

He pointed to the rise in booking incentives for Russian passengers, giving examples of significant onboard credits in the market for 2016 sailings.

Natalia Andronova, general director of Atlantis Line, sees Russia continuing to grow, predicting 330,000 outbound cruise passengers within the next three years, which would be roughly five times more than what is expected for 2016.

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