Cruise executives have signalled fare prices will continue to rise as people book their holidays further in advance. Combined with flight prices, the experts said cruisers who are looking for voyages, particularly in Europe, may get a shock if they leave bookings too late.

Royal Caribbean President Michael Bayley told reporters and investors during a press conference, that the era of cheap pandemic fares is well and truly over for overseas holidays.

“During this period, even though the ticket was lower, onboard was significantly higher. Business was good, and I think we were comfortable with that.

“I am more optimistic about pricing now than I’d been before. I think we’ve seen ourselves, our load factors are back, our bookings are solid, and our pricing is recovering.”

Mr Bayley also shared that he’s generally optimistic about the industry and its recovery.

“It’s a little bit like being knocked in the mud, and everybody standing up, and then we slip a little bit, but you kind of get yourself back on your feet. And then you know, you’ve slipped a little bit.

“Now we’re in this position where we’re all … looking pretty clean and back on our feet and everything started to normalize, stabilized, and get better and better.”

Do local experts agree?

Sharon Summerhayes, owner of Deluxe Travel & Cruise, says she thinks prices have already started rising again.

“In my experience prices have already risen across the board. The difference between new releases and the same season releases for the last two years is that there is a definite increase in price. I would expect that with the rise in fuel, food, and pretty much everything that it’s had to be passed on within the cruise fares.”

According to Ms Summerhayes this trend is only set to continue.

“As demand ramps up, especially on bucket-list cruises like to Northern Europe, Antarctica, and other exotic destinations, I expect them to rise even higher. Always book these as soon as possible for the best prices.”

Samantha Patton, Product Manager at Cruise Traveller says cabin supply is running lower and lower, leading to prices creeping up.

“Prices for cruise fares prior to covid were consistently low at a per day level due to the huge amount of competition in places like Europe and the South Pacific where many cruise lines operate and customers are spoilt for choice.

“With the return of cruising, and lots of shipboard credits still un-used, a lot of cabin supply has been used up, meaning that demand has been very strong.  During covid, many ships were decommissioned and are out of service as well. This is reducing the number of options for guests and I expect that prices will continue to rise as demand exceeds inventory.”

Should you book well ahead for your next cruise now?

If you’re considering cruising at any point in the next couple of years, Ms Patton says now is the best time to get a booking.

“If you knew during Covid, what prices would be for a domestic flight in Australia right now, would you have booked sooner? It’s exactly the same. If you find a cruise you are interested in, the earlier you book, the better off you will be.”

Ms Summerhayes says if you’re looking around a year out, you can still get some good prices if you act fast.

“If you’re booking far in advance, flights and hotels bought on release 11 months out are still pretty good.

“I’m hoping things get a little better for 2023 as airlines put on more aircraft, but some people are holding off their big international trips until the following year and are more prepared to book further in advance than they usually would.”

Last minute deals

On the flipside, if you’re nifty about it, you might be able to beat the price rises by keeping an eye on last-minute deals that pop up over the following months.

Belle Goldie, owner of iTravel Penrith says she’s seeing plenty of last-minute deals popping up for local cruisers if you are desperate to get on a ship.

“Certain Cruise lines around the world are giving great pricing. Here in Australia, there are some sharp prices

“Some lines are giving crazy prices. I saw an eight-night Xmas cruise for $800 including $400 in onboard spending.”

Ms Patton says it depends on where you’re trying to head, but there are good last-minute deals around.

“If you are booking a last-minute cruise that you can get to easily for start and finish points OR you are booking a package with air included, then yes.

“But if you are trying to get to Antarctica in January, then definitely no. If you are looking a year or so into the future, then in many cases, yes, it is a good time to book!”