Despite the ash cloud that closed European airports and stranded passengers in April, more Americans intend to travel to Europe this year. Yet many would-be vacationers are considering traveling by ship instead—and reliving the glory days of trans-oceanic travel.
“There’s definitely an upsurge in interest, which is terrific,” says Peter Shanks, president of Cunard Cruise Line which operates the Queen Mary 2’s six-night crossing between New York and Southampton, England. “There’s a feel-good factor about trans-Atlantic travel. It’s back on people’s radar.”
When Iceland’s volcano halted airport traffic, the Queen Mary 2 had 1,600 people on its waiting list, including 80 people for the ship’s top suite costing $40,000–$45,000, Shanks says. Since then, the ship has been filling earlier than in the past.
It’s not just volcano jitters. Nancy Yale, owner of Cruise Resort & World Travel in Fairfield, Conn., says that while she was swamped with calls during the airport closures with people trying to book passage, interest remains high. “Business has picked up tremendously,” she says. “It’s a really good way to travel if people don’t do well with the time change.”
Passage on the Queen Mary 2, even upgraded to a balcony and ocean view, costs less than most business-class airline tickets between New York and London—$2,790 roundtrip in early June. A comparable business class fare on American Airlines costs $3,974.
For some, it’s also about reliving the old days of luxurious ocean liner crossings. Silversea's newest ship, the Silver Spirit (above), which cruised to England on April 23, left New York with 64 additional passengers than planned, even though air travel had resumed by the ship’s departure. About 40 of those had airline tickets to Europe, having boarded the ship in earlier ports and were scheduled to get off, but decided to stay aboard for the remainder of the trip even though flights had resumed, according to Christian Sauleau, the executive vice president of fleet operations at Silversea, which operates the ship.
Guest blogger Sheridan Prasso is a New York–based writer specializing in international issues.