With events as they are we must start to ask the question 'What must the cruise industry do to survive"? Cruise is one of those items that appears to be cashed up and rock solid BUT as has recently been shown this is not necessarily the case. From the late 70s cruise was constructed on the fly/cruise concept, a basis that now has the potential to make them very wobbly.
A fact of life is that many new builds cost around half a billion dollars each and have a useful life expectancy of 25 years, if lucky. Even after construction, the maintenance and operations of these ships is enormous, as someone who used to pay many of these bills, I have an idea just how severe they would now be.
So, a downturn of even 15/20% in pax would make the industry look a extremely shaky, anything higher than this and we could expect to see some drastic changes and I am not referring to ones for the better. Plus we must look at how many ships are under contract or construction, which for major units is around 30. To justify the spending of a further 14 billion you would need to be on very firm ground.
It would be logical to see ships again form liner voyages, long haul transport between continents, to compliment cruise operations. Unfortunately cruise lines have grown away from the true liner voyage operation and I doubt that they could quickly start thinking outside their normal practices.
Perhaps Cruisemates could put together a think tank, it would be logical if a group so dedicated to cruise could now start to have some input into assisting the industry they love. I am sure there are enough of you over there to put a few brains into action.
First, I would like to say that I don't assume to have any remnants of a brain left recently but:
I've thought about this and while we took a transatlantic repositioning cruise this year and loved it, we probably would never do it again. I would be concerned that there is not sufficient volume of demand for such a product.
While it was the state of the art years ago, today travellers have no patience for multiple day travel to a destination. The cruise has to be the destination. I believe that cruising will remain healthy though the new ship schedule may require a bit of tweaking.
There are a lot of cruise ships out there now, but only so many U.S. port cities. The cruise lines could strategically position their ships so that people could cruise without flying, but what good would that do? It might help for the short run, but I don't think it's the answer...and last time I looked, all of the port cities seem to be a substantial distance from our 'heartland.' I can just see a cruise ship going through the locks on the Arkansas River to Little Rock and Tulsa, or up the rivers to Nashville or Louisville, or Omaha and Bismark. Yeah, right. And for most of us, it's a pretty long, wet drive to San Juan. Privately chartered jets are out of the question for most of us, so what IS the answer? Looks rather dismal, doesn't it?
If I were in the cruise business, I might seriously think about not building anymore ships at least until after this war is over. "If you build it, they will come" might not work during this scenario. I would use what ships we currenlty have and make the product about quality. Then when the war is over, all the people who cruised with us during the war will tell their friends what a great time they had, how cruising is so wonderful (kind of like how most of us arrived at cruising in the first place, we had a friend who just loved their trip and gushed to us about it). When the economy is not so shaken up and business is booming again, only then would I as a cruise line owner think about building anew.
I have to respectfully disagree with 'txncruiser'. We would LOVE to have a 7 day cruise to nowhere. I know this is weird, but we really like being on the ship and don't care a whole lot about the destination it may be sailing to. For us, the ship is our destination.
I think the cruise industry's best bet is to disperse it's ships to more varied ports and come up with new and unique itineraries. By doing this, the cruise lines would be building a clientele base of new cruisers. When the right time comes for the cruise ships to be sent back to their normal itineraries, they will have increased their potential passenger base. By then, maybe many of these people will be so enthralled with cruising that they will be willing to fly anywhere to cruise.
Some of my fondest memories are of the time spent on the UK/Australia via Suez run. After doing the Gibraltar, Naples, Marseilles, Port Said, Port Suez, Aden stops we used to point the ship towards Australia and 12 days later arrive in Fremantle. Did anybody get bored? definitely not. Those were strange times when there just was no outside world. Nobody was desperately trying to cram entertainment into every minute of the day, yet there always seemed to be things to do.
So, Ok it was all a bit trivial by todays standard but lazy days were used just enjoying life, good company, good food, simple entertainment where the officers and crew all had a part to play. The ships then were a true community where the distinction between officers and passengers became rather blurred.
The ships are now bigger and have far more professional attractions but I would swap all that for a 30,000 tonner casting off for a five week jaunt to the other side of the world, even if the comedian was the second engineer, the show girls the nursing sisters and Women Assistant Pursers, the singers a mixture of of everybody from the ship's doctor to a greaser and oiler from the engine room. It won't ever happen again but boy, was it fun.
I have to agree with Lady Jag, I love cruising to nowhere. I love those at sea days where you can do whatever you want. UT I must say that even ette is when everyone else is in port and you have the ship to yourself!
The ship has ecome the destination! The nooks and cranies, the liraries and coffee ars, etc.
I would love to see more unique itineraries also. - Angela