Some final thoughts on this year's cruise industry conference.
This year's Cruise Shipping Miami conference was briefly somber about the past, pleased with the present growth in cruising, and optimistic about the future as the industry continues to thrive in the face of regulatory challenges. Comprised of a series of enlightening panels, events and exhibits, the conference was well presented and received.
At the conference's State of the Industry panel, Howard Franks, the CFO of Carnival Corp., gave a scripted keynote address before segueing into a heart-to-heart where he genuinely expressed his sorrow for the Costa Concordia tragedy and those souls lost with her. His remarks appropriately broached the subject for a final time before the focus was most often redirected.
Royal Caribbean Cruises Ltd. used the conference as an opportunity to feature the positive strides they have been making for years towards safety training with the christening of a brand new state-of-the-art bridge simulator at Resolve Marine Group in Ft. Lauderdale.
As an evolution of their efforts in simulation since the advent of the Voyager of the Seas, this partnership with Resolve takes training to the next level with an aggregate of bridge and fire suppression exercises.
With a physical ship mockup set aflame and flooded paired with an advanced bridge simulator, the officers and crew of Royal Caribbean International, Celebrity Cruises, and Azamara Cruises will be able to practice combined bridge, fire fighting, and flood damage control drills to sharpen their skills and extend shipboard safety to all.
As Captain William Wright, Senior VP of Marine Operations at Royal Caribbean International, exclaims, "safety is not proprietary."
As such new technologies emerge, the cruise industry continues to grow domestically and abroad with industry globalization – especially in emerging markets such as Asia and Australia. "I've never seen business as strong," said Gerry Cahill, President and CEO of Carnival Cruise Lines, in regards to sales in late 2011.
The industry foresees further growth and is optimistic about the future with new ships to look forward to. Just this past week, American Cruise Lines announced a riverboat new build, MSC ordered the 140,000-ton Preziosa, Princess Cruises unveiled more details about its forthcoming Royal Princess, and Norwegian Cruise Line announced revolutionary indoor/outdoor venues aboard its under construction Breakaway and Getaway ships.
There are still challenges ahead. Holland America Line President and CEO, Stein Kruse, remarks, "we're an incredibly regulated industry." And new regulations are afloat, most notably low sulfur fuel requirements around ECA (Emission Control Areas) to come into full effect by 2015. Adam Goldstein, president and CEO of Royal Caribbean International says, "it cannot be assumed that we will be able to find the fuels" as specified. As such, the cruise lines are considering positioning their ships elsewhere if necessary.
Nonetheless, the future seems bright, and the cruise lines have much to look forward to as do we as guests aboard the world's expanding and innovative cruise fleet.