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.
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.”
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.
“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
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
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
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
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.”