Seatrade 2006, the annual cruise industry meeting and trade show,
took place the week of March 13 at the Miami Beach Convention
Center. The industry’s big guns had plenty to smile about as they
joined travel agents, media and representatives of shipyards and
worldwide destinations at the five-day gathering.
CLIA chairman Andy Stuart who is also vice president of
marketing, sales and passenger services for Norwegian Cruise Line,
dubbed 2005 “an extraordinary success.” More than 11.18 million
passengers enjoyed a cruise vacation last year, with cruise lines
reps grinning about a 103 percent occupancy rate.
Ninety percent of those 11.18 passengers sailed on ships
belonging to the “big four”: Carnival Cruise Lines, Royal Caribbean
International, Norwegian Cruise Line and MSC Cruises. The
traditional “State of the Industry” panel featured Bob Dickinson,
president and CEO of Carnival Cruise Lines, Adam Goldstein,
president of Royal Caribbean International, Colin Veitch, president
and CEO of NCL Corporation, and Rick Sasso, president and CEO of
MSC Cruises (USA). Stein Kruse, president and CEO of Holland
America Line, and Dan Hanrahan, president of Celebrity Cruises,
rounded out the panel.
The executives all agreed that last year’s success was largely
due to close work with and support of the travel agent
The panel discussed the exciting news that at least 25 newbuilds
will debut between now and 2009, marking an investment of
approximately of $14.3 billion. A popular topic dealt with the
question of whether size counts. Case in point is Royal Caribbean’s
Freedom of the Seas, launching with a series of consecutive travel
agent events from May 11 to June 4. The 3,600-passenger ship will
feature a surfing program, boxing ring and the line’s iconic
rock-climbing wall. Another Royal Caribbean vessel currently on
order will break even Freedom of the Seas’ record as the world’s
largest. Set to debut in 2009, the 220,000-ton, 6,000-passenger
ship will arrive with a whopping price tag, as well: approximately
$1 billion. Needless to say, Royal Caribbean’s Goldstein answered
the size question with a resounding “yes,” while Dickinson of
Carnival hedged that it might be more feasible to build and operate
two smaller vessels for the price of one extra-large ship.
In addition to newbuilds, the panel also touched on the topics
of higher fuel costs, as well as cruise ship security. On the
former subject, Celebrity’s Hanrahan noted that the industry would
simply have to become more efficient in its operations, utilizing
LED lighting, for example. As for the latter (which has surely been
in the news of late) Royal Caribbean’s Goldstein noted that travel
agents are aware of the industry’s overall safety record and have
been positive in their reaction and aware of many talking points
dealing with the issue.
Another popular session at Seatrade dealt with small ships.
They, too, have a positive outlook. These lines approximately 40
brands such as Regent Seven Seas Cruises (formerly Radisson Seven
Seas), Crystal Cruises, Silversea Cruises, Clipper Cruise Line,
American Cruise Line and Cruise West make up about $6 million of
the global cruise market.
“We predict the small ship market will be a fast growing segment
over the next 10 years,” said Charles Robertson, chairman and CEO
of American Cruise Lines.
Noted Gregg Michel, president and COO of Crystal, “new customers
grew last year by 43 percent.”
Baby-boomer cruisers, who accounted for 20 percent of passengers
on ships in 2004, are expected to number 70 percent by 2010.
In addition to formal sessions, Seatrade annually features the
world’s largest cruise industry trade show. This year’s panoply of
vendors offered an array of goods and services for cruise
passengers, ranging from soup stock in a box to cannoli on a stick;
bed linen to chocolates; mobile phones to bowling alleys. (The new
Norwegian Pearl debuts later this year with a bowling alley on
Once again the top five most popular cruise destinations are
familiar ones: Caribbean, Alaska, Hawaii, Northern Europe and the
Mediterranean. A total of 32 domestic ports will welcome
cruise-ship passengers in 2006. A large array of domestic and
international ports was represented at Seatrade. They ranged from
“tried and true” Bahamas, St. Lucia and Key West, to the more
exotic, such as Oman and Singapore. Newer ports such as Grand Turk
in the Turks and Caicos and new-and-improved passenger terminals
like the Port of Baltimore, were on everyone’s mind. Other ports
generating buzz were the $400 million Portside Wharf at Brisbane,
Queensland, Australia set to open later this year; a $15.6 million
rehab of Prince Edward Island’s Charlottetown Seaport; and a $25.6
million update of the Port of Malaga. A new cruise pier with
terminal is due in 2008 at the Port of Copenhagen.
Overall, Seatrade made one thing clear: 2006 is expected to be
another record-setting year for the cruise industry.