As 2020 passes its halfway mark, with most cruises in the U.S. shut down until mid-September, many avid travelers are looking ahead in their datebooks -- not just by months, but by years.
Even as some 2021 sailings have sold out, through a combination of new bookings and use of future cruise credits from this year's canceled cruises, many cruisers are targeting 2022 and 2023.
Normally, cruise lines release itineraries about 18 months in advance. But with the COVID-19 pandemic and consumer demand for cruises scheduled further out, more lines have made 2023 sailings open for booking. The lines making the leap into the future span the gamut from mainstream cruising (select Norwegian and Carnival ships) and luxury and river cruising (Crystal, Viking, AmaWaterways).
Of course, planning one -- or multiple! -- cruises a few years in advance is nothing new for Cruise Critic's members. A survey of 35,000 readers showed that while the majority of people who said they planned to cruise again -- a full 76 percent -- were going within the next year, 12 percent said that they had sailings booked more than a year in advance.
Still wondering how to get in the plan-ahead mindset? Here are a few tips, with some insight from Cruise Critic members.
Pick a Milestone
While the ebb and flow of travel restrictions might make it seem hard to plan for tomorrow, let alone a few years from now, those milestone birthdays, anniversaries and reunions are going to arrive, no matter what. Now is the perfect time to look ahead to that marker ending in a "0" or "5" -- and plan a cruise around it with friends and family.
"I know it's a hell of a long time into the future, but I will be 40 in December 2023 and would love to be in Australia prior to a cruise from Sydney to New Zealand," said cruisefan2012, who is searching for a Princess cruise Down Under several years in advance.
Holidays, too, make it a little easier to plan ahead for some. "Does anyone know when Celebrity will release end of 2022 and early 2023 Itineraries?" binbali asked. "Itching to book Hawaii to Sydney 2022 and Christmas New Year's 2022."
Fulfill Your Bucket List
After being cooped up for what seems like endless months, you might feel even more enticed by those far-away and exotic places that you're yearning to explore. Think of deferred travel dreams as a chance to make them grow even bigger; having a big trip like the Galapagos or Antarctica on the books reminds you that while the present may be restricted, the future is still open.
"Booked a B2B cruise last night for 2023 to Asia," board member maluhia87 said. "Figured if we were going to travel that far for one cruise, I might as well add another, 9-night and 5-night. Only 926 days until the start of our trip."
Better Deals and Availability Now
Many cruisers are receiving multiple rounds of future cruise credit, often with a boost of 125 percent each time -- which allows you to snag a higher cabin class when you do eventually go back.
Others are lured by current deals, such as Cruise Critic member d-lite-n-cruisin: "Yesterday, we booked a 7-day cruise out of New Orleans for our 10 year Anniversary in February 2022. I know it is a long way away, but the 2 for 1 deposit and all the FREE @ SEA offerings were too good to pass up."
Create Something To Look Forward To
Let's face it: The tedium of quarantine, lockdowns, travel bans and sheer worry have been overwhelming these past few months. Why not look ahead, to keep from imploding?
"I know that this is early to begin a roll call for cruise 18 months prior to embarkation but I need something to do during CV lockdown!" sailorBill3 wrote on a Viking Ocean Roll Call forum. "This will be both my initial Viking Ocean cruise and 1st trip to Holy Land."
Added casofilia, who has a 2023 cruise booked on Norwegian. "My inclination is to live as long as possible so having things to look forward to is what keeps me going; I'm only 77!!"
Try Something New
Before the pandemic stopped cruising in its tracks, the industry was full of plans for expansion, with new ships and new markets. While it's reasonable to expect some delays, Viking is still going ahead with plans to begin Mississippi River cruising in August 2022, and sailings are open through 2023.
Houch is a Cruise Critic board member who has already booked Viking for 2023 -- mainly because of availability.
"My girlfriend and I just booked Viking Mississippi from New Orleans to St Paul for June 24, 2023, 15 days. Unable to do 2022 as everything is full," he said. "We both hope we will still be alive and in good health as we are in our 70s…. Hopefully there will be a vaccine for COVID long before this cruise."