Soaring demand pushes cruise bookings into 2025 and beyond


Cruisers thinking about last-minute summer sailings might have to think again. With record inventory snapped up, cruise line executives and travel advisors say space is dwindling and booking curves are stretching into 2025.

Major cruise lines began the year at their highest booked positions ever, leading to less 2024 inventory, which along with strong revenue management is pushing bookings out further than normal.

“Advisors are seeing great demand across the board, but it is not uncommon to have more 2025 bookings in a week than 2024, which is remarkable this early in the year,” said Alex Sharpe, CEO of Signature Travel Network, adding that Signature’s 2025 bookings each month have tracked nearly 30% higher year over year than bookings for 2024 cruises did in 2023.

It tracks with what the CEOs for the Big Three cruise companies noted during their Q1 earnings calls.

“We’re getting close to the point where we’ll soon be taking more bookings for ’25 than we are for 2024,” Royal Caribbean Group CEO Jason Liberty told investors during a late-April earnings call, adding the company is also taking bookings for 2026.

Royal began the quarter in its best booked position ever, with its bookings in the first four months of the year draining much of the group’s 2024 supply. Its brands, Royal Caribbean International, Celebrity Cruises and Silversea Cruises, have about 12% load factor left for the year, Liberty said. (That doesn’t mean 88% of cabins are sold, because cruises often sail with load factors exceeding 100%, but the group’s supply for 2024 is dwindling, said a company spokeswoman.)

“The booking window continues to extend, so guests are making their decisions much further out,” Liberty said.

Carnival Corp. is in a similar boat, having also entered 2024 in its highest booked position in history. When CEO Josh Weinstein spoke with investors in March, he said the company is even better positioned now for 2025 than it was at this time last year heading into 2024, he said.

The strong pricing has allowed the company to focus more of its efforts during Wave on further-out booking to lay the foundation for an early buildup of 2025 business, he said.

Last year, some of the company’s brands struggled to fill short-term capacity and think long-term, Weinstein said.

But starting 2024 in a record booked position helped the brands better optimize bookings. “When we are doing a good job on revenue management and pulling that booking curve forward and managing the pricing through the curve as opposed to tanking pricing at the end … it works,” he said.

Cunard Line, a Carnival-owned luxury brand that debuted the Queen Anne last week, recently launched itineraries through summer 2026. Matt Gleaves, vice president of commercial for Cunard North America, said he believes this is the furthest out the luxury line has ever opened itineraries.

“It’s certainly a trend,” he said of Cunard, which is seeing strong demand even as it grows capacity with the launch of the Anne. “Obviously, we see what our competitors are doing, we see the launches of our sister brands, so it’s really sort of the same ballpark as everyone else … in terms of getting that early demand and getting people booked, particularly those past guests who want their room on that voyage on that day and they want to secure it earlier.”

Norwegian Cruise Line Holdings reported being in its best 12-month forward booked position of all time. The company said its booking curve, which reaches into 2025, is partly attributable to more Americans booking cruises in Europe, executives said during NCLH’s earnings call last week.

“We continue to see a very strong consumer, consumers who are willing to book further out and who are willing to pay higher prices,” said Mark Kempa, the company’s CFO.

Clients change booking behavior

Travel advisors say their clients are realizing the lack of inventory means fewer close-in options.

Suzy Schreiner, owner of Azure Blue Vacations, said demand has been so strong that her cruise clients have shifted their booking behavior from targeting last-minute deals to booking a year in advance.

“They are learning that if they don’t book what they want now, they may not get it,” she said.

While the cruise lines cite inventory and revenue management as the main drivers of the longer booking curve, some advisors see other factors at play.

Signature’s Sharpe attributed the trend to cruise lines releasing their itineraries further out and spending more of their promotional marketing dollars toward 2025 cruises.

While the bulk of’s business is typically focused on the next six months, president Anthony Hamawy said he’s beginning to see the percentage of his 2025 business grow, which he suspects has something to do with air prices.

“We’re definitely seeing more earlier business, especially for Europe and Alaska for next year. That’s always a good sign to see that early,” he said. “Air prices are cheaper, obviously, if you book now for May of next year.”
Rebecca Tobin contributed to this report.

Courtesy of Travel Weekly

cruise ship at sea