Cruise Industry In Flux
Written by: Kuki
The cruise industry is just coming out of the tumultuous efforts required to deal with the threats from the N1H1 (swine flu) Virus, and prior to that the hullabaloo caused by the outing of Royal Caribbean’s “Royal Champs” viral marketing campaign. And, of course, since last Fall the industry has been dealing with the myriad of issues caused by the sliding world wide economy and its consequences on the industry.
The tremendous discounting on ship’s sailing in Alaska this spring and summer has been most interesting, and certainly beneficial to those who were/are able to take advantage of the situation. As has the discounting on most European cruise itineraries for the upcoming summer season.
Through these early months of 2009 it seems that the cruise industry has sailed its way through some of the most difficult times its experienced since Sept. 11, 2001. Yet, for such a huge industry it has shown itself to be amazingly “light on its feet”; able to adjust policies and practices, and implement them, much more quickly than many other global industries. While not all the adjustments have been widely accepted by cruise enthusiasts, including myself, the success of the changes has been proven by significant increases in the share values of the major lines, and now rather steady results in the increase in future bookings.
And even as a critic of the direction of some of the adjustments I have to applaud the industry’s ability to swiftly react, and redirect their focus in order to survive. It’s particularly impressive because historically this is an industry which lays out its plans years ahead.
In the short run I think those of us who want to see the industry flourish and prosper will have to be a bit more accepting of cutbacks and policy changes that would normally ruffle our consumer feathers, e.g. additional onboard charges, and even slight reductions in levels of services onboard.
The lone problem I see in this attitude of acceptance I espouse is the question of whether the cruise lines will commit to reinstating the product we’ve come to expect when the seas smooth for the industry, or if they will accept the resulting changes as their normal business practice… which they did to some large degree after 9/11.
In just a few months Royal Caribbean’s Oasis of the Seas will debut as the largest cruise ship ever to leave a shipyard. She’ll be almost one half again the size of the next largest, and will likely also be the biggest news in the industry in a very long time. In close proximity to her debut, Norwegian Cruise Line’s Epic will also sail for the first time; debuting their next generation of ships designed to expand further on their “Freestyle Cruising” concept, and their new and different (perhaps controversial) “Wave“ cabins. Yet another new generation of ship will be introduced by Carnival when the Carnival Dream is inaugurated.
On the luxury cruise front – Seabourn Cruise Line will debut their first ever all balcony, all suites ship, moving away from the mega-yacht concept which has served them so well, and Silversea their newest and largest yet all-inclusive uber-luxury ship.
So, along with other new-builds sailing out of shipyards, there’s going to be an abundance of “newsy” and interesting things to watch for in the cruise industry.
In the summer of 2010 there’s going to be many more ships sailing in the Caribbean than has been the case for many years. That should result in lower than normal pricing in that area than we’ve seen for many summers. Yet, there’s some cause for concern there as well, when the industry foresees larger storms off their bow than facing the possibility of problems to face sailing many more ships in an area during traditional hurricane season.
As an “industry watcher” I most certainly see a lot to watch towards the end of 2009 and heading into 2010. As a cruise lover there’s no shortage of exciting developments on the horizon, but also concerns and questions.
As you look forward to the coming months and year, what are your thoughts, questions and concerns regarding the cruise industry? What are you looking forward to the most? What worries you the most about the direction of the industry?
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Posted: May 19th, 2009 under Kuki.