I know that Christmas is just around the corner and your head is more than likely focused on ordering the turkey, cleaning the house from top to bottom and trying to buy that last present or two for those difficult-to-please relatives of yours but let’s be honest — as soon as the whole hullabaloo is over, thoughts invariably turn to ‘Where are we going to go on holidays this year?’ I’m doing you a favour by bringing up the subject a little bit earlier than usual to avoid the panic and impulse purchases that can sometimes characterize consumer behavior during the peak booking season of January and February each year!
Travel is one of those markets that is probably affected by more external events than any other that I can think of. Weather, political upheaval, economic downturns, currency fluctuations, the price of oil, SARS, Zika, Avian bird flu, air traffic controllers, airline strikes — the list of disruptions just seems to go on and on and on. This year was a perfect example of how seemingly unrelated events in far off lands can end up having a consequence over here and on your travel plans. It all started with the shooting down of a Russian jet fighter over Turkish airspace which lead to a diplomatic spat between the two countries which resulted in Russians boycotting Turkey as a holiday destination. There were terrorist incidents in both Egypt and Tunisia which displaced a lot of European nationalities as well. All these tourists had to find somewhere else to travel to and where did they all end up? In traditionally safe countries such as Spain and Portugal. Irish people often forget that we are minnows when it comes to international travel. There are just 4.5 million of us (6 million if you include our cousins across the border) whereas there are some 146 million Russians and 82 million Germans. They all had to go somewhere else with the result that prices increased and availability reduced dramatically as the year moved on.
Since there hasn’t been a whole lot of new hotels or apartment blocks built across Western Europe during the year, I think it is reasonable to assume that the problem will continue well into 2017 as there is little expectation that the security situation in places like Turkey is likely to improve anytime soon. So, what are the alternatives? One obvious solution is to move West and go out to the States, Canada or the Caribbean but not everyone will be able to afford the higher airfares and poorer exchange rates that go hand in hand with such destinations. One less obvious solution is to seriously consider 2017 as the year when you consider taking a cruise for the first time. There is incredible value for money out there, particularly if you book early when all the special offers are in play. The hardware in most of the ships is state-of-the-art and the food on many ships is as good as you’ll get on many fine-dining restaurants.
Of course, the real appeal — particularly for families are the great facilities for kids and the multiple kid’s clubs that operate on many cruise liners. Add to that, the fact that entertainment is provided every night and you wake up in a new destination almost every single day without the hassle of having to pack and unpack and you can begin to see the growing appeal of a travel sector that is fast becoming the new ‘package holiday’!
Royal Caribbean, MSC Cruises and Thomson Cruises all have a strong presence in the Irish market so consumers are spoilt for choice whereas the ‘Foodies’ are well catered for with the likes of Celebrity, Oceania, Azamara and Silversea. Hurtigruten will appeal to anyone who is more adventurous in spirit and wants to experience those more out of the way destinations such as Greenland, Svalbard and Antarctica!
Remember, your holiday costs more than the headline price that you pay for your flights, transfers and accommodation. When you factor in the additional costs of food, snacks, drinks, alcohol, entertainment, excursions and miscellaneous extras, the final cost can often be two or more times your initial outlay so bear that in mind when comparing cruise package costs with those of more conventional holidays and you’ll be pleasantly surprised by the value for money that can be had, sailing the high seas!