After a haywire summer of flight cancellations and delays, travelers remain eager to roam, returning to familiar hot spots like New York, Europe and the Caribbean. Here’s what they can expect this season.
Flying has been maddeningly unpredictable. Airline and hotel prices remain high. And inflation has forced many people to cut back on appliances and new clothes. Delayed vacations, conventions and weddings have led to booked resorts and hotels, creating a sort of seasonal drift that has forced travelers to pay summer prices for fall trips.
Still, more than 60 percent of Americans said they plan to travel this fall, compared with 54 percent of respondents last year, according to TripAdvisor, the travel site, which surveyed 2,700 would-be travelers across six countries about their plans this season.
And 66 percent of those respondents said that they planned to spend more money traveling this fall than they did last year, said Brian Hoyt, a spokesman for TripAdvisor. “Travel is not going to be one of those things that they pull back on,” Mr. Hoyt said. “They’re still going to travel even knowing that they’re going to spend more than the year before.”
Some are willing to splurge on flights to Italy and Turks and Caicos and excursions like ATV tours of the Mojave Desert in Nevada. Others are paying to clean up beaches in Barcelona or help restore coral reefs in the Caribbean, vacations crafted as “nature positive tourism.”
How much will you spend if you travel this fall? It depends. Cruise deals are still plentiful, but hotel prices are stubbornly expensive. Airline tickets, while cheaper than this summer, are still higher than they were before the pandemic.
And don’t expect the cancellations and delays that infuriated travelers in recent months to stop anytime soon. “While things have improved since early summer, airline cancellations are still going to be a factor for fall travel,” said Eric Jones, co-founder of The Vacationer, an online travel guide.
What else can you expect this fall?
Cancellations. Lost luggage. Flight delays and endless waits for customer service. Even the official in charge of regulating civilian aviation in the United States hasn’t avoided the chaos. “Airlines need to step up their game,” said Pete Buttigieg, the U.S. transportation secretary, who faced multiple cancellations and delays this summer. Still, he’s optimistic that flying will improve this fall. “I do think that a better situation is within reach,” he said.
Airline executives, labor unions and industry analysts agree: Fall travel should be better than summer travel. They do not agree on how much better. But most concur that the issues that must be addressed, include: not enough staff, too many cancellations and delays, problems with refunds and terrible customer service.
On the question of whether airlines have enough staff, Airlines for America, a trade organization representing seven major U.S. carriers, says yes, they do. “This summer, carriers have proactively adjusted their staffing models to ensure they are adequately staffed for each flight,” a spokeswoman wrote in an email.
Union leaders agree that staffing is adequate, but only on “blue sky days,” the term Gary Peterson, the international vice president of the Transport Workers Union of America, which represents more than 70,000 airline workers, uses for those 24-hour periods when nature works in airlines’ favor. “But when weather hits, they don’t have enough reserves,” he said.
“I believe airlines have taken steps to make things better, but it’s fragile,” said Sara Nelson, the international president of the Association of Flight Attendants-C. W. A., the largest flight attendants’ union. Even before the pandemic, staffing for roles ranging from pilot to wheelchair handler was stretched thin, she said. In order to minimize the ripple effect when something goes wrong, it’s critical to maintain staffing above the Federal Aviation Administration minimum, she added, something that has not happened for years.
A second concern: Have airlines stopped selling more flights than they can handle? Or will they continue with the pandemic trend of canceling flights that they should have never scheduled? Several analysts were optimistic that the airlines had learned from their mistakes. American Airlines, for example, recently slashed 16 percent of its November flights, according to Cirium, a travel analytics company. John Grant, a senior analyst for OAG, a travel data company, noted that cancellation rates were far lower in July and August than earlier in the year. Still, the delay rate has recently hovered around 23 percent, higher than prepandemic times or last summer, according to FlightAware, a flight-tracking company.
The third issue: Will the refund, flight change and hotel voucher process get easier? Mr. Buttigieg is pushing forward several initiatives. One involves updating a federal policy guiding flight refunds. Under the current policy, airlines are supposed to reimburse passengers for flights that have been canceled or “significantly changed.” But carriers have long exploited ambiguity around the term. The proposal, which he will revisit in November, codifies the conditions under which refunds must be paid.
Last week, the Department of Transportation launched a dashboard that Mr. Buttigieg called “a tool for transparency,” outlining the services that each airline has committed to provide when flights are altered for reasons within their control.
Some analysts said that these measures are weak, particularly in contrast with Europe, where airlines must pay travelers — on top of refunds — for certain types of cancellations. Recently, more than 30 state attorneys general blasted the Department of Transportation for failing to keep up with “escalating issues” and argued that they should take over enforcement of consumer protection laws affecting travelers. Some lawmakers have also suggested that airlines should be fined for treating passengers poorly, given the billions of dollars in government pandemic aid they’ve received.
Finally, there is the matter of customer service: Will Thanksgiving week be filled with nightmarish stories of unanswered calls to alter a flight or locate a lost bag? On this front, labor representatives and industry analysts agree: It’s unlikely to get better soon. Airlines see customer service as an area to slash, not grow, costs. — Heather Murphy
Excepting foliage destinations and convention cities, fall has historically been a value-seeker’s season. Across the industry, many prices this year will follow the same pattern. But inflation and other pandemic-related effects mean some deals are weaker.
Consider airfare. The typical seasonal decline between summer and fall fares, according to the booking app Hopper, is 10 to 15 percent. This year it is 37 percent, falling to $238 for an average domestic round-trip ticket. But that doesn’t mean fares are cheaper, only that the difference between summer and fall fares is much greater.
“Fall 2022 looks very different, and the main reason is how high airfare got this summer,” said Hayley Berg, the lead economist at Hopper, noting that summer airfares were more than double 2019 rates.
Airlines are also maintaining capacity cuts this fall to control costs, according to Helane Becker, a research analyst with the investment banking firm Cowen. “The lowest fares I’ve seen for fall are $59 one way and there are only a few seats available at that rate, up from $39 or $49 in the past,” Ms. Becker said.
On the hotel front, travelers should expect to pay close to prepandemic rates this fall. The steady rebound of business travel is bolstering big cities and may diminish fall deals in urban areas. In the latest figures available, average daily rates nationally have climbed year-to-date to roughly $147 in July, compared with $132 in July 2019, or nearly equal to prepandemic prices when adjusted for inflation, according to the hotel benchmarking firm STR. The firm is forecasting a continued recovery for hotels, with occupancy up five points this year over last.
Popular resort destinations may be more expensive, too. Most of October remains high season at the Camden Harbour Inn in coastal Camden, Maine. But its hefty rate hike this year of more than 20 percent to an average of $688 a night in part reflects higher wages, Covid absences, and increased expenses for everything from electricity to linens.
Don’t expect any steals in vacation rentals either. AirDNA, which analyzes the short-term rental market, has average fall rates outpacing fall 2021. The average October rental domestically was recently about $258 a night compared with $243 in 2021 and $195 in 2019.
Rental car rates, however, will be better, but still much higher than they were before the pandemic. This fall, average rentals are 18 percent cheaper than in summer, according to Autoslash, a free service that monitors car rental bookings and flags them for rebooking when rates drop. But prices are still 52 percent higher for the period over 2019, thanks to fleet downsizing.
“We don’t expect rental rates to come back down to 2019 levels anytime soon, if ever,” said Jonathan Weinberg, the founder of Autoslash.
Still, fall remains a good time to ride the value of a strong dollar, trading now at parity with the euro. Among new international low-cost carriers, Norse Atlantic Airways recently started service from New York’s Kennedy International Airport to Berlin starting at $132 one way.
Generally speaking, if you don’t like rates now, don’t expect them to improve. Pandemic uncertainty — including concerns over new variants and trip cancellations — have abbreviated booking windows to often just a few weeks out, meaning rates could rise dramatically in the coming month. — Elaine Glusac
The popularity of ecotourism has hardly waned since the term rose to prominence a generation ago. But a new framing has emerged that puts a bigger onus on the travel industry to examine its complicated relationship with the natural world. Say hello to “nature positive tourism.”
The idea is “a long overdue reinvention of ecotourism,” said Justin Francis, who advises the British government on nature and business and serves as chief executive of Responsible Travel, a travel company based in Britain.
“Ecotourism was about ‘take only photos, leave only footprints’ — it was basically ‘leave no trace,’” said Mr. Francis, adding that the concept applied only to nature-based tourism, not to things like city breaks or cruises.
“But when we look at the problems that we as an industry create for nature, we realize that they come from all types of tourism,” he said. “It’s not just a question of a few ecolodges getting a bit more ambitious. If we’re to be nature positive, then every part of the tourism industry needs to step up.”
Scientists warn that we are in the middle of a mass extinction event. Between 1970 and 2016, the planet lost nearly 70 percent of its populations of wild mammals, fish, birds, reptiles and amphibians. Today, roughly one million species are threatened with extinction.
Tourism contributes to all the major drivers of species loss: Developers fill in marshlands to build resorts (land use change); tourists trample fragile coral reefs (overuse); cruise ships dump waste (pollution); visitors inadvertently carry the seeds of nonnative plants into nature reserves (invasive species); and flying emits greenhouse gases (climate change).
Mr. Francis said that travel companies must understand their negative impacts. But, he added, travel — perhaps more than other sectors of the economy — can do a huge amount to support nature.
Jim Sano, vice president for travel, tourism and conservation at World Wildlife Fund, noted that tourism is the biggest market-based source of funding for protected areas around the world. He described projects in Mexico, Nepal and Namibia in which WWF has worked with travel industry partners to craft tourist experiences that support wildlife protection while also generating income for residents. “It’s creating a situation where wildlife is more valuable alive than dead,” he said.
So far, more than two dozen travel companies — including Exodus Travels, Journeys With Purpose and the Adventure People, as well as the airline Virgin Atlantic — have signed a “nature positive pledge” as part of the Get Nature Positive campaign, which Mr. Francis coleads as part of his work with the British government.
Several companies offer experiences that allow guests to enjoy nature while also protecting it. Rewilding Europe Travel offers wolf-tracking tours in Italy, bison-trekking trips in Romania and other experiences that support the “rewilding” of European landscapes. Responsible Travel, Mr. Francis’ company, sells trips that allow guests to support sea turtle conservation in Greece or spearfish nonnative fish off the coast of Belize.
Shorter experiences are also an option. Barcelona-based Authenticitys, which has signed the “nature positive pledge,” offers one- to three-hour “social impact experiences” in 40 cities in Europe and Latin America. They classify about two dozen of those activities as “nature positive.”
Elena Rodríguez Blanco, the founder of the company, said they initially wondered if people would pay to pick up trash on the beach in Barcelona (as part of a stand-up paddle boarding lesson), or to clean up a canal in Amsterdam (while taking a boat tour). But many guests have enjoyed their experiences so much that they have recommended similar activities that the company could offer in their own hometowns.
“That’s actually been a big part of our growth,” Ms. Rodríguez Blanco said. “It’s really rewarding.” — Paige McClanahan
After a frustrating summer, travelers trying to use mileage rewards this fall may find that their points go a long way — literally. Kyle Potter, the editor at Thrifty Traveler, a travel news website, said that when cash prices go up, it’s harder to use points or miles, as they’re either more expensive or less available. The inverse, he said, is also true: When flight prices decrease, as the travel booking platform Hopper predicts will happen to domestic flights this fall, it’s easier to use points.
“The summer was really tough, whether you were paying exorbitant cash prices or trying to put some points and miles to use and getting a whole lot of errors and empty dates,” Mr. Potter said.
But snagging deals may be more difficult as demand increases. According to a recent survey from Forbes Advisor, more than a quarter of Americans said they expected to pay for at least one trip using credit card rewards this year. And there’s clearly pent-up demand to spend points earned — and saved — during the pandemic. A spring 2021 survey from the personal finance site NerdWallet found that travel rewards credit-card holders had an average of nearly 65,000 points and miles banked.
Before booking a points redemption, you have to know when and where to look. Several airlines, like JetBlue Airways, typically offer flash sales in the fall, to entice travelers in a traditionally quieter season. While the cash deals are often tempting, the sales usually extend to reservations made with points, including on international flights.
A one-way flight from Fort Lauderdale, Fla., to Guayaquil, Ecuador, for instance, was priced at $100 or 4,600 TrueBlue points during the sale. TrueBlue is a revenue-based program, meaning the cost of award tickets is determined by the cash price of a ticket. After the sale, the price for that same route was $448, or 40,800 points.
Other carriers, such as Delta Air Lines and Southwest Airlines, regularly offer deals on short- and medium-haul flights. Delta’s SkyMiles are considered among the easiest to earn from its co-branded credit cards, ride-share apps, transfer partners and flights. Travelers looking for cheap, last-minute deals can find flights from New York to New Orleans, for instance, for as low as 11,000 miles round-trip.
But keep in mind that deals often come with restrictions like limited dates for your travel and what fare class you’ll be in (usually the lowest). For the New York to New Orleans flight, the low cost means you’ll get no miles for the trip or credit toward elite status, seats assigned after check-in and boarding last. A full-fare seat on the same flight costs 5,000 more miles.
To quickly find the best deals, travelers should look to fly from and arrive at a destination predominantly served by their preferred airline.
If United Airlines is your first choice, you may want to pick a United hub as your fall travel destination, such as Newark, Chicago, Washington-Dulles or San Francisco. Travelers can book award flights on partner airlines, too. In United’s case, travelers can book award tickets on Star Alliance carriers like Turkish Airlines or Lufthansa, which offers nonstop flights between the United States and Germany.
Using Air Canada’s Aeroplan program is one of the easiest ways to book flights on United Airlines, thanks to the Canadian carrier’s distance-based award chart, meaning that the number of points required to book an award is based on the distance between the origin and destination airport. Using British Airways’ Avios mileage program is one of the cheapest ways to fly short-haul domestic flights on American Airlines across the United States.
Mr. Potter recommends that travelers not tie their loyalty to an airline but to transferable points programs from credit card issuers. American Express Membership Rewards points can become, for instance, Marriott Bonvoy points, while Chase points can turn into Southwest points.
Travelers thinking ahead to winter 2022 and spring 2023 trips should start planning now, he said. “Now is this time to start coming up with a plan for how you want to get there,” Mr. Potter said, referring to travel destinations, “what points and miles you need to make that a possibility and start looking for those flights because they’re going to go fast.” — Victoria Walker
Cities remain a go-to. So do tropical places like the Caribbean and Cancun.
In 2020, travelers avoided urban centers for beach towns and national parks, where it felt like a safer place to go, said Brian Hoyt of TripAdvisor.
But by last fall, Las Vegas, New York City, and Orlando had supplanted places like Key Largo, Key West and Atlantic City, which were the top three destinations for travelers in fall 2020, according to TripAdvisor.
The trend is continuing: Las Vegas, Los Angeles, Denver, Orlando and New York are the five most booked destinations in the United States for fall, according to Hopper, a travel booking site. For international travelers, cities like San Juan, Puerto Rico; Cancun; Mexico City; Barcelona; and Rome are in the top 10, according to Hopper.
“What’s old is new again,” Mr. Hoyt said. “High-density population centers are back in vogue.”
But lower-key vacations are still a draw. Ocean City, N.J., a beach town of about 11 miles south of Atlantic City, was the top trending U.S. destination this fall based on the number of nights booked, according to Airbnb. That’s part of a growing trend to extend summer. There has been a surge of interest from visitors who flock to the eight miles of beach in September and October, when the summer crowds leave and the town hosts events like an antique car show and a huge block party and fireworks show, said Michele Gillian, executive director of the Ocean City Regional Chamber of Commerce.
Travelers remain eager to go to Europe, where demand for flights and hotel bookings is “on par” with 2019, said Kareem George, a travel adviser and the owner of Culture Traveler, a firm specializing in luxury trips.
“Italy is the standout,” Mr. George said, “which is not a surprise because Italy always is the standout.”
London, Paris, Munich, Copenhagen and Dublin were the top cities searched by people looking to travel between Sept. 6 and Nov. 15, according to Expedia.
The Amalfi coast in southern Italy and Santorini, a whitewashed Greek island in the Aegean Sea, are so popular this fall that travelers are struggling to find accommodations, said Charles Neville, a spokesman for Jayway, a boutique travel agency that specializes in European travel.
People are so eager to tour these destinations they are willing to spend $600 to $700 a night for accommodations that may not justify that amount, he said.
Mr. Neville said he is encouraging clients to book later in the fall when the weather is still pleasant and the crowds have abated, or to consider Sicily, Croatia and lesser known islands in Greece like Paros and Naxos. “Maybe that’s a way to have your Greek island vacation dreams come true without spending stupid amounts of money,” he said.
In the Americas, Mexico, the Dominican Republic, Colombia and Costa Rica are seeing more passengers book trips than they did in 2019, said Scott Keyes, founder of Scott’s Cheap Flights. The countries are easy to get to and airline tickets are generally cheap — round-trip fare from nearly anywhere in the United States to Colombia was selling for about $260 in August, he said.
“For a lot of folks, the trip they want to take as their first one back is fun, overseas, but not too far away,” Mr. Keyes said.
That sort of ease is what Silvia Sims, a retired sales manager who lives in suburban Detroit, said she and her three friends wanted when they began planning their fall trip last May. They settled on Jamaica, where Ms. Sims, 71, has traveled nearly a dozen times since the early 1980s but had not visited since April 2019.
“I’m going back to a place where I really love to visit and I feel safe,” she said. — Maria Cramer
Budget travelers and the crowd-averse have long embraced the fall shoulder season, when airfares and lodging rates tended to drop and visitors could enjoy quieter hiking trails and fewer tourists around the Eiffel Tower.
But flexible work, climate change and high-season hassles have pushed more travelers into fall, effectively extending summer and narrowing the bargain window ahead of the winter holidays.
“I am managing hotels for the past 20 years and never seen such a rush on rooms,” said Henrik Muehle, the general manager of Flemings Mayfair in London, noting that rates are, in most cases, double 2019 prices. “Guests don’t seem bothered,” he added.
Lingering consequences of the pandemic have encouraged the shift. At Little Gem Resorts on Nantucket and Martha’s Vineyard, Mass., the rise of fall bookings includes a surge of postponed weddings. Social events and business gatherings have picked up at the Inn at Perry Cabin in St. Michaels, Md., where September rates remain comparable to summer, averaging $850 to $900 a night, and won’t fall substantially until November, when they start at $340.
Thanks in part to flexible work policies, business has been so good at Four Seasons Resort and Residences Jackson Hole, in Jackson, Wyo., that the resort will forego its traditional three-week fall closure this year, and offer cycling and wolf-watching trips in Yellowstone National Park. “Guests are aspiring to be here when the crowds aren’t,” said Cory Carlson, the regional director of marketing for the resort.
Seasonal drift depends on location. Vrbo, the vacation home rental agency, said fall prices still drop as much as 25 percent compared with summer in some popular beach destinations.
In these climate-changing times, planning a trip around perfect weather seems futile. At Remote Lands, which specializes in Asia, bookings in Thailand in the traditional shoulder season, August through October, are up 25 percent.
“Prepandemic, the thought of a rain shower was something that clients would avoid and would shift their desired location or dates,” said Catherine Heald, the co-founder and chief executive of Remote Lands. “Now, clients understand that with climate change there is a chance that they may have blue skies throughout the stay and are ready and willing to travel.”
Other travelers continue to prioritize space and untrammeled access to nature, readily found in fall. In southern France, Coquillade Provence Resort & Spa will stay open this year from November to January, when temperatures are often more comfortable than summer, rather than closing as usual. Management plans to offer seasonal activities like truffle hunting.
“A lot of people are trying to experience the same thing at a much lower volume and without as many people around them,” said David Arraya, the general manager of Six Senses Ibiza off the coast of Spain, where the 2021 summer peak lasted to November.
Overtourism and climate-change impacts have disrupted tourism around Yosemite National Park in Northern California. Wildfires, the need for a reservation and fewer European visitors owing, in part, to a weak euro, have depressed summer numbers this year in Mariposa County, where the park is.
“Shoulder seasons are disappearing and peak seasons are not peak any longer,” said Jonathan Farrington, the executive director of Yosemite Mariposa County Tourism Bureau. “April through November is one season and December through March is shoulder season.”
He attributes the shift in part to younger people who visited the park during the pandemic and discovered its appeal in the calmer but still comfortable months, when tourism is more sustainable.
“If you have the ability to choose when to go outside of June, July and August,” Mr. Farrington added, “it’s the responsible thing to do.” — Elaine Glusac
In early October, Jess Field, her 9-year-old daughter and husband will spend four nights in Cabo San Lucas, Mexico, in a hotel with a balcony overlooking crashing waves. The luxury Hyatt hotel they booked goes for more than $1,000 a night, but it will not cost her anything; she will pay only the taxes on the family’s flights from Houston. This is because Ms. Field has a system for covering vacation costs with hotel and airline points, which she acquires by opening new credit cards with stellar welcome bonuses.
She is just one of many parents who will turn to points this fall. Last year, concerns about Covid were the primary reason that parents opted not to travel, according to several travel advisers. Now, as six-month-old babies are getting vaccinated, coronavirus cases are falling, restrictions are fading and inflation is driving up prices, money has become the main obstacle to booking trips, according to a study of 16,000 adults by Morning Consult, a market research company.
Ms. Field, who teaches a course on leveraging credit card offers, has found that families are eager to find creative ways to cover costs. A recent survey by Vacasa, a vacation rental site, reinforced this observation, finding that people with children were significantly more likely to have fall travel plans than people without.
“People want to travel, but they don’t have the budget and this allows them to have the best of both worlds,” Ms. Field said. In a recent week, around 180 students signed up for her Travel Hacking Mom course. This is more than she or her co-founders could recall enrolling during such a short period throughout the course’s four-year history.
Money concerns are not the only thing that has changed. Most children must now attend in-person school. This means less flexibility for travel. And yet, several travel agents said that they have noticed the pandemic has imbued parents with more of a you-only-live-once-and-it’s-OK-to-pull-my-kid-out-of-school-for-a-vacation way of thinking.
“There’s been a shift in mind-set,” said Amie O’Shaughnessy, the founder of Ciao Bambino!, a travel agency based in Sun Valley, Idaho.
As to the sorts of trips that families are planning this fall, Nadia Henry, the founder of Travel with Sparkle, an agency based in West Orange, N.J., said that interest in Europe, reunions and all-inclusive resorts continues to be strong.
Ms. Field has found that many families also crave a cruise. “Parents are tired and burned out and they want to go somewhere easy,” she said. She’s also picked up on excitement about Disney’s restarting certain fall events and allowing children to hug characters once again.
Gregg Kaminsky, a co-founder of R Family Vacations, based in Southampton, N.Y., observed that despite the passage of what opponents call “Don’t Say Gay” legislation in Florida, it’s still looking as if the state will be a popular fall destination for L.G.B.T.Q. families. One difference, he notes, is that some gay and trans parents seem to be more interested in group travel, something that reminds him of the 1990s when L.G.B.T.Q. people traveled in groups for safety.
Another influencing factor: Some parents are still working remotely. Among “high net-worth families” with small children, this has translated into interest in hiring a nanny who can hit the road at a moment’s notice, according to the Nanny Authority, a child care provider placement agency based in New York City.
As to where families stay, the pandemic seems to have pushed many parents and grandparents toward Airbnb and VRBO, said Seth Borko, a senior research analyst at Skift, a travel trade publication. Chekitan Dev, a marketing professor at Cornell University’s Nolan School of Hotel Administration, said that vacation-home competition has prompted some hotel brands, such as Hilton, to finally make it easier to book connected rooms. — Heather Murphy
Major cruise lines like Carnival, Princess Cruises and Norwegian Cruise Line have dropped their vaccine requirements. As of Sept. 5, passengers leaving on Royal Caribbean International from the United States on certain cruises were allowed to provide their own Covid test results, instead of one from a health professional, according to the company, which has also dropped its vaccine requirements.
Lindblad Expeditions, which takes passengers to far-flung destinations like the Galápagos Islands and Antarctica, said it is keeping vaccine requirements in place but is no longer requiring booster shots.
MSC Cruises, which also dropped its vaccine requirement for residents of the United States, will no longer require tests for vaccinated passengers.
The changes came soon after the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention dropped a voluntary program through which cruises reported the vaccination status of passengers and crew and regular updates about case counts.
As a result of the looser restrictions, more passengers from Europe are flying into the United States to board cruises, said Rubén A. Rodríguez, president of MSC Cruises USA. “We’ve also seen more people from the U.S. branch out and book itineraries in the Mediterranean and elsewhere, now that international travel protocols are easier to manage,” he said in a statement.
It has been a boon for the cruise industry, which experienced two years of enormous losses because of the pandemic and a slow restart in June 2021.
Jeremy Clubb, founder of Rainforest Cruises, which specializes in exotic riverboat and small ship cruises, said he expects the company will surpass its 2019 sales total by at least 20 percent. The winter is looking especially promising, with the number of bookings for cruises up 60 percent compared with the same time last year, he said.
“It is clear that many people are growing noticeably less fearful of Covid and are eager to get traveling again,” Mr. Clubb said in an email.
Don Zingale, 76, said he and his wife are planning a 45-day cruise on Oceania Cruises from Barcelona to Rome to Miami in October. Mr. Zingale, a retired university executive based in Point Richmond, Calif., said he was “very unhappy” to see the company loosen restrictions around testing and vaccines. “Letting unvaccinated people on a ship filled with older people is not the smartest thing in the world,” he said.
Still, Mr. Zingale, who estimates that he spends 100 nights on cruises a year, said the new rules would not keep him from ships, where he often enjoys luxurious amenities for “bargain prices.”“The value outweighs the risks,” he said. “It is too fun.”
Deals are likely to abound throughout the season, said Colleen McDaniel, the editor in chief of Cruise Critic, a leading cruise review site. “You can cruise the Caribbean for less than $60 a night, or the Mexican Riviera for less than $80 a night,” she said. Before the pandemic, bargains on trips like that would have been under $100 a night, she said.
The aggressive discounts began in late spring and continued into the summer, as late bookings and a glut of cruise ships created a situation where ships were less than 100 percent full.
Travelers should take advantage of deals to take cruises to areas they might not have considered before, like Portland and Bar Harbor, Maine, or Halifax and St. John in Canada, Ms. McDaniel said. They are destinations with great dining, beautiful vistas and scenic mountain trails that nevertheless “sort of slip under the radar,” she said.
The discounts may not last as restrictions ease and bookings increase, however, said Ms. McDaniel. “We’re seeing more and more people getting on board ships,” she said. “People are really, really excited to get back to sailing.” — Maria Cramer
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An earlier version of this article misstated Elena Rodríguez Blanco's title at the Barcelona-based Authenticitys company. She is the founder of the company, not a co-founder.