CruiseAs the year comes to a close, Regent Seven Seas Cruises' Steve Odell shares how 2023 is shaping up for the all-inclusive luxury cruise line in Asia Pacific.

Luxury cruise travel in Asia surges to a new level

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Regent Seven Seas' Cruises' Steve Odell has observed that Asian cruisers are spending more money, going on longer cruises and opting for unusual experiences.
Regent Seven Seas' Cruises' Steve Odell has observed that Asian cruisers are spending more money, going on longer cruises and opting for unusual experiences.

Not only has travel rebounded in many parts of the world, the luxury cruise sector has also sailed back with a vengeance as repeat passengers and newcomers are turning to travel on the high seas in greater numbers than ever before.

Buoyed by the swift return of travel, Steve Odell, senior vice president and managing director Asia Pacific of Regent Seven Seas Cruises, tells Travel Weekly Asia the exciting offerings, evolving guest preferences and surprising trends that he sees in the world of luxury cruising from this part of the world.

Travellers are cruising longer and trading up

Following more than two years of missed travel opportunities, Asian travellers are more willing to spend a longer time and a bigger budget on their cruise vacations. “Typically, before Covid, the duration of cruises would be nine, ten days, but now we’re up to 14 days on average in the region,” Odell reveals. “People are also buying higher up in the ship – they’re buying middle to upper suites.”

People are also planning further ahead for their cruise vacations, he adds. The booking window for Regent Seven Seas cruises has extended from around nine to 12 months prior to departure pre Covid to 18 months in the current climate. “If we look at bookings made in 2022, 75% of these bookings were for travelling in 2023.

More cruisers are opting for Regent Seven Seas Cruises' suites.
More cruisers are opting for Regent Seven Seas Cruises' suites.

“People are spending more money and they're going for longer cruises,” says Odell, attributing the trend to the greater savings people accrued during the pandemic. “If you told me those things about Asia pre-Covid, I wouldn't have believed it, but the pandemic has changed buying behaviour.”

Another interesting observation, Odell notes, is the significant increase in the new to cruise segment. “55% of our guests booked for 2023 and 2024 are new to Regent,” he shares. Novel cruisers, for example, make up 30% of the guests booked for Regent’s sold-out 2025 World Cruise, which at 150 nights is the cruise line’s longest in history.

Lure of unusual itineraries

As the cruise momentum builds in the region, Asian travellers are seeking out more unusual destinations to enjoy the most of their cruise vacations. “Mediterranean and Northern Europe are still the biggest part of our business, but we are seeing a trend towards more unusual itineraries. People are looking for more out-of-the-box, bucket-list kind of experiences so we're seeing the booking trend break out from what it traditionally was.”

Notably, Odell sees growing bookings from Asia for “more adventurous” itineraries including Regent’s 24N West Africa cruise from Lisbon to Cape Town aboard the Seven Seas Voyager in November 2022 and the 8N round-trip Iceland cruise aboard the Seven Seas Splendour in August 2023.

The Seven Seas Navigator takes guests across the Adriatic to picturesque destinations in Greece, Turkey, Montenegro, Croatia and Italy.
The Seven Seas Navigator takes guests across the Adriatic to picturesque destinations in Greece, Turkey, Montenegro, Croatia and Italy.

All these, Odell maintains, are clear signs of a fast maturing and growing Asian luxury cruise market. “Across the region, the demand is emerging very quickly. We have some big Thai groups next year, while the Philippines, Malaysia and Indonesia are picking up a lot too. North Asia is going to pick up, now that Japan has opened the borders.”

Interest in value over pricing

As a growing class of savvy Asian passengers crave for more unique travel experiences, Regent Seven Seas is also seeking ways to enhance the guest experience before and after sailings. The all-inclusive luxury cruise line has introduced the ‘Gift of Travel’ programme, which offers included pre- or post-cruise land programme for 57 sailings across Europe, April through November 2023.

According to Odell, Regent Seven Seas Cruises deploys a strategy that focuses on “adding value, not discounting”, with prices adjusted every quarter. He adds, “We're not afraid to say we raise prices according to the volume of bookings, and so the best deals are always the early promotions with lowest fares.”

That strategy certainly works, as demand has stayed robust. “Our 2023 sales are already running at about 20% ahead of 2019, with higher daily rates and longer cruises, so the signals to me are really very positive.”

I think any agent’s got the potential to sell cruises, and any agent who sells cruises has the potential to sell luxury cruise. It's a process.

New agents catch the luxury cruise wave

Not only is Regent Seven Seas Cruises seeing more first-time cruisers, the cruise line is also seeing more travel advisors jumping on the luxury cruise bandwagon. “There are some agents who didn't book any cruises before Covid but have cleverly caught on to cruising; we've got agents who only did land programmes and now they're selling luxury cruise groups,” he shares. “I think any agent’s got the potential to sell cruises, and any agent who sells cruises has the potential to sell luxury cruise. It's a process.”

Cruising, after all, remains a lucrative business for travel agents. “Travel agents are not earning commission on a lot of things in travel anymore but they're still earning very good commissions on high-value systems, so cruising is part of a travel segment that travel agents should seriously look at to make some money,” urges Odell.

Luxury cruise space heats up

New players are upping the game for luxury at sea, with Ritz-Carlton and Four Seasons among the latest luxury hotel titans to foray into the luxury cruise market. Odell’s take? It’s going to be a case of a bigger pie for everyone, including for incumbents like Regent Seven Seas Cruises.

Prime 7 is a luxury take on an American steakhouse onboard Seven Seas Grandeur.
Prime 7 is a luxury take on an American steakhouse onboard Seven Seas Grandeur.

“We’re all very different brands and we have very different propositions and therefore we have different kinds of customers. But the fact that luxury hotel brands are entering cruises is fantastic for the industry, because they're tapping into databases, which we don't have access to, and create an awareness of luxury cruising,” he says.

“They're going to be doing something totally different to us because they're small. But the point is they're introducing new customers who are likely to cruise because all the statistics say that if someone's goes on a cruise to the first time they'll continue to cruise.

“It can only be a win for us because so many new people will be introduced to cruise.”

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