The Journal Gazette
 
 
Sunday, December 20, 2020 1:00 am

Local agents seeing cruise bookings to Alaska

SHERRY SLATER | The Journal Gazette

Local travelers are eager to set sail next year, according to two travel agents.

Grueninger Travel and Travel Leaders have been booking clients on various 2021 and 2022 cruises.

Many of the upcoming vacations are actually rebookings for 2020 cruises that were canceled during the coronavirus pandemic, the agents said. 

Debbie Hanauer, Grueninger's president, said most clients aren't looking to sail away during the winter months, a time of year when vacationers typically flee for warmer climates.

The summer cruise season – May through September – is the most in-demand, she said. Public health experts predict COVID-19 vaccines will be widely available by the middle of next year. Local travelers are paying attention to that timing, Hanauer said.

The pandemic also seems to be factoring into their choice of destinations.

“I think customers are looking to stay a little bit closer to home, and Alaska feels a little closer to home,” she said, offering an explanation for the surge in Alaskan cruise bookings.

Ann Waters, owner of Travel Leaders, has seen similar demand from her clients.

“Alaska is definitely up there as a destination,” she said. “It's a bucket list item for a lot of people.”

Cruise lines suffered a serious financial setback during the pandemic, but they aren't as desperate for bookings as one might expect. Anyone looking to get rock-bottom prices on cruises might be disappointed, Waters said. 

Larger, deep-sea ships haven't returned to the waters yet, and cabins on smaller ships are filling up fast with rebookings, she said.

Hanauer has been booking cruises for clients eager to visit Iceland, Greenland and the British Isles. She has also booked multiple river cruises, which use smaller ships.

Grueninger has seen more clients interested in domestic travel, including Mississippi River cruises and national parks itineraries.

“This year, you can go just about anywhere in the U.S., and there's a tour,” Hanauer said.

Waters said client demand is building as the pandemic – and the travel limits it imposes – is coming up on one full year in March.

“Our frequent vacation travelers,” she said, “are going crazy.”

sslater@jg.net

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