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March 11, 2010

Cruise lines report strong Wave Season bookings

Heading into the homestretch of the cruise 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, typically generates the highest sales volume of any time of year. CLIA says this year may break all records as consumers eagerly take advantage, not only of low prices, but of such sweeteners as credits for shipboard spending, accommodations upgrades, free airfare and early booking discounts.

A broad spectrum of cruise lines responded to a February CLIA Wave Season survey.

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 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," said 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" with net yields for 2010 expected 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."

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.


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