The Mediterranean’s skyrocketing popularity as a cruise
destination, hot new ports, the challenge of crowding and the
potential for more year-round sailings were just some of the key
themes that emerged at this year’s Seatrade Mediterranean Cruise
& Ferry Convention hosted by the booming port of Naples, Italy.
The event included conference sessions with senior cruise
executives, a trade show with nearly 200 exhibiting companies and a
new travel agent training course.
The Mediterranean draws possibly the world’s most diverse cruise
fleet and offers more itinerary choices than perhaps any other
region, said speakers at a Seatrade session on product diversity.
Carnival Cruise Lines, Royal Caribbean and Princess Cruises have
been deploying some of their biggest, newest ships for increasingly
longer Mediterranean seasons. And, Disney Cruise Line will roll out
its first Mediterranean sailings in 2007, offering shipboard
programs and shore-side excursions tailored for families.
“Sales have far exceeded expectations,” said Tom Wolber, Disney
Cruise Line’s senior vice president of operations. “In the
Caribbean, the onboard experience drives the ratings. In the Med,
we expect the ports to drive the ratings,” he added.
With Naples’ Maritime Station serving as the venue for Seatrade
Med, attendees had the opportunity to visit some of the 16 cruise
ships that came alongside during the three-day event. They ranged
from Norwegian Cruise Line’s Norwegian Jewel and Royal Caribbean
International’s Voyager of the Seas to Silversea Cruises’ Silver
Wind, all of which hosted tours for travel agents participating in
the new European Cruise Fair.
Although no U.S.-based line operates year-round in the
Mediterranean yet, lines such as Costa and MSC are continuing their
calendar presence. This year, Costa introduced a ship specifically
designed for year-round Mediterranean operations. Costa Concordia
brings innovations, such as the largest spa afloat, special spa
accommodations and a retractable glass roof covering two Lido Deck
Costa Crociere president Gianni Onorato opined that quality
service, value for money and investments in advertising are
essential to continued industry growth in the region. He also cited
issues of concern, such as port congestion. One recent day, noted
Onorato, Santorini was jammed with 11 ships and 25,000
“We need to have new destinations,” he emphasized.
When it comes to developing new destinations, cruise lines are
definitely looking to Italy. The country appeals to cruisers of all
nationalities, noted John Tercek, vice president of commercial and
new business development for Royal Caribbean Cruises Ltd.
Cruise line executives are especially excited about hot
Mediterranean destinations, such as Croatia, Montenegro and
“Anything with Croatia is sold out,” said Albert Peter, CEO of
At a destination session, Jose Campos, secretary general of the
MedCruise Association, which numbers 68 ports in 20 countries,
suggested lines look beyond the increasingly jammed marquee ports
to discover emerging destinations. Campos urged cruise lines to
consider new alternatives, such as the history-rich port of
Cagliari in Sardinia, the Slovenian gateway of Koper with its
waterfront old city, and beach-lined Castellon on the Spanish coast
between Barcelona and Valencia.
From the looks of things, cruise line executives are taking note.
Carol Marlow, president and managing director of Cunard Line, noted
at one Seatrade session that affluent cruisers are seeking unique
experiences, glamour and authentic experiences; and that
fortunately, all of the above are available in abundance across the