Over the past two years, the coronavirus pandemic has created a challenging travel atmosphere, especially for the cruise industry. Now, as more cruise ships start to sail again, travelers looking for a vacation at sea are given hope and encouragement that a sense of normalcy is returning.
Originally curious about everyday travelers’ views on cruise vacations – then further interested in the effects of the coronavirus pandemic on their attitudes toward cruising – U.S. News ran a survey on the travel.usnews.com website from early 2020 through mid-2021 to learn more. We received more than 6,500 responses across four months of data collection in January 2020 (before the COVID-19 pandemic began), August 2020 (mid-COVID-19 pandemic) and June and August 2021 (deep into the COVID-19 pandemic, amid the rise of the Delta variant), from two types of travelers: those who have been on a cruise before, and those who haven’t, but might consider a cruise for their next vacation.
Here are some of the noteworthy stats from survey respondents:
- Optimism runs high: In August 2020, 37% of likely cruisers planned to set sail in the next 12 months. In August 2021, that stat reached 49% – even higher than prior to the pandemic.
- What’s more, a higher percentage of travelers in August 2021 were booked for a future cruise than in January 2020. Roughly 28% of total respondents had a cruise booked in August 2021, compared to about 23% of respondents booked for a cruise in January 2020.
- Among travelers who have never cruised, about 30% say they’re likely to take a future cruise. This has not changed meaningfully through the course of the pandemic. Among travelers who have cruised before, just over 50% say they’re likely to take another cruise. This is a modest decline compared to pre-pandemic responses.
- The percent of people who said they will “never take a cruise” increased throughout the pandemic, but that number recently dropped in August 2021 among those who have not yet been on a cruise. Just 13.5% of those respondents in August 2021 said they would “never take a cruise.” Meanwhile, the percentage of people who have cruised before and said they would never take another cruise increased, but only slightly – from 2% in January 2020 to 4.2% in August 2021.
- Only 12% of respondents said the coronavirus pandemic has turned them off from cruising for good. This percentage is about the same among both past cruisers and those who’ve never sailed.
- More than 80% of past cruisers say COVID-19 vaccine requirements are either important or very important, while just 9% are against vaccine policies. Past cruisers care more about vaccine requirements than those who’ve never cruised, but overall, the majority of both types of respondents (those who have cruised and those who have not) consider vaccine requirements important or very important.
- People who haven’t cruised before are most interested in Caribbean (24.8%) and Alaska (13.4%) sailings, though 21.7% are unsure where they’d like to go. People who have cruised before are two times more likely to select a Europe or Mediterranean itinerary, but they are also highly interested in Caribbean and Alaska sailings, with 26.1% indicating they’d like to cruise to the Caribbean and 12.8% saying Alaska appeals to them.
- Having the opportunity to see numerous destinations on one vacation is the dominant reason travelers want to cruise. Value for the money, dining options, kids clubs, wearable technology and social atmospheres are some of the other top amenities today’s cruisers are seeking.
This data from everyday travelers, some of whom are seasoned cruisers and others who have never been on a cruise, is encouraging. It seems that while the pandemic has certainly wreaked havoc across various areas of the travel industry, it has not dissuaded many people from considering a cruise for their next vacation. This is great news for the cruise industry.
In anticipation of an exciting upcoming year of cruise travel, U.S. News announced the 2022 Best Cruise Lines rankings. The rankings take into account expert scores, traveler scores and health data provided by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s Vessel Sanitation Program.
Read on to find out more about each of the ranking lists and use the cruise line profile and ship profile reviews to help you plan your next cruise vacation.
Best Cruise Lines for the Money
Best Cruise Lines for Families
Best Cruise Lines for Couples
Best Cruise Lines in the Caribbean
Best Cruise Lines in the Mediterranean