Travel Agent is on site at Cruise Shipping Miami this week. The conference usually attracts 11,000 attendees, and this year the organizer is expecting an increase of more than 30 percent in visitors and delegates. Here's a look at some of the news and gleanings from this annual event.
Ukraine & Russia Tensions: At a media reception this week, Edie Bornstein, president and CEO, Crystal Cruises’ (www.crystalcruises.com) told reporters that the line has no voyages in the Black Sea this year and only one cruise next year. So will the “troubles” in Ukraine change the line’s plans to operate that one sailing?
Bornstein said the line continues to evaluate it, that no decision has been made, but that she wouldn’t be surprised to see a change of itinerary for that one voyage. However, she noted that the line has not have any real issues with passengers leery of going to St. Petersburg, Russia on Baltic cruises, and that the Crystal guests understand the differences in the two regions.
Separately, Richard Fain, chairman and CEO, Royal Caribbean Cruises Ltd. (www.rclinvestor.com) said at a media event hosted by the company Monday night that while many customers aren’t concerned, “some customers” booked on Baltic voyages visiting St. Petersburg were indeed calling to express concern or ask to make changes to their booking. At present, there are no changes in his brands’ itineraries, though.
Hong Kong & Taiwan Launch First “Asia Cruise Fund”: Hong Kong and Taiwan have teamed up to launch the first “Asia Cruise Fund,” designed to help develop cruise tourism in the region. The new regional cooperative effort was announced by Philip Yung, commissioner for tourism of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region (SAR) Government, Anthony Lau, executive director of the Hong Kong Tourism Board (HKTB), and Dr. Wayne Liu, deputy director-general of the Taiwan Tourism Bureau (TTB).
Initiated by the HKTB and the TTB, the fund will be comprised of contributions from participating ports and used to subsidize cruise companies to develop and market their cruise products. Taking effect April 1, the fund will operate for at least three years. Asia holds huge passenger potential as by 2030, two-thirds of the world’s middle-class population will be Asia-based, according to a United Nations Development Program report.
|Costa Luminosa docked in Miami // Photo by Susan J. Young|
Two for Costa from Miami: In winter 2014, for the first time since 2009, Costa Cruises (www.costacruises.com) will operate two ships out of Miami. Beginning in December, Costa Luminosa, which began sailing for the first time from Miami this winter season, will sail 10-day roundtrip itineraries.
In addition, Costa Mediterranea, a ship that's also previously sailed from South Florida, will operate new roundtrip seven-day winter itineraries. Costa Mediterranea will begin sailing from Miami Dec. 12, while Costa Luminosa starts its Miami season Dec. 20.
"Having two ships sailing out of Miami sends a message that our cruises are a hit with guests seeking an international experience in the Caribbean," said Scott Knutson, vice president of sales and marketing for Costa Cruises North America. "Now guests can choose a weeklong cruise, or those with more time can join us for a 10-day tour of the whole Caribbean."
Built in 2003, the 85,000-ton Costa Mediterranea features spacious public areas and roomy, comfortable cabins, most with a private balcony. The ship's interiors are highlighted by beautiful Carrara marble and Murano glass accents. Guests will enjoy dining in the Restaurant degli Argentieri or dancing the night away at Selva's Disco. In November 2013 the ship underwent a multimillion-dollar refit.
Costa Luminosa, which debuted in 2009, was the first in a new class of ship. Sixty-eight percent of the ship's 1,130 cabins feature a private balcony - the highest percentage in the Costa fleet. The 92,000-ton ship has four restaurants, 11 bars and a variety of onboard activities.
On two alternating 10-day cruises, Costa Luminosa will call at Nassau or Freeport, Bahamas; Grand Turk, Turks and Caicos; or Princess Cay; Ocho Rios, Jamaica; Grand Cayman, Cayman Islands; Roatan, Honduras; and Cozumel, Mexico. Details about Costa Mediterranea's seven-day itineraries are being finalized and will be announced at a later date.
Return to Historic Growth: Look for the cruise industry to return to its more historic growth patterns this year, the annual Cruise Market Watch (www.cruisemarketwatchanalysis.com) analysis shows. Worldwide the cruise market has an economic value of $37.1 billion, up 2.3 percent from last year.
Passengers carried worldwide in 2014 should be around 21.6 billion, the report said, up 3 percent from 2013. Total worldwide cruise capacity at the end of 2014 will be 453,211 passengers, a 3.2 percent increase over last year.
The analysis also showed that by 2018, 24.1 million cruise passengers are expected to sail globally; 58.8 percent of those will originate from North America and 27.2 percent from Europe.
Portland, U.K., Plans Mega-Ship Berth: Portland Port in the United Kingdom has posted record figures for cruise calls and passengers in both 2013 and 2014. It reports that 2015 is looking good to exceed those numbers.
Portland Port (www.portland-port.co.uk) also planning for a new cruise berth, which it says should be able to accommodate the largest cruise ships expected in the region. Development work has begun and construction will begin sometime this year. When completed the port says the extended berth will put it in a very small group of ports able to handle such large mega-ships.
Continued River Cruise Growth: Plenty of new river vessels are launching, both in Asia and in Europe this year. Among them? In Asia, Pandaw River Cruises (www.pandaw.com) launched the Kindat Pandaw and Kalaw Pandaw in January on sailings in Myanmar between Mandalay and Bagan. Haimark Travel (www.haimarktravel.com) also will operate new sailings with Irrawaddy Explorer in Myanmar and on Vietnam and Cambodia’s Mekong River with Mekong Navigator.
Debuting this year in Europe are Emerald Sky and Emerald Star, both sailing for new brand Emerald Waterways (www.emeraldwaterways.com). Both will boast an indoor pool that converts to a movie theater in the evening. Sister luxury line Scenic Cruises (www.sceniccruises.com) also will welcome Scenic Gem and Scenic Jade on European routes.
AmaReina and AmaSonata also will launch in April on European itineraries for AmaWaterways (www.amawaterways.com). Tauck (www.tauck.com) too has two new vessels, Inspire and Savor, launching this year.
Viking River Cruises (www.vikingcruises.com) will also add another 14 Longships that will be christened in France next week. TravelAgentCentral.com will be present in Avignon covering this event, as well as in Lyon the following week for the subsequent March launch of the Uniworld Boutique River Cruise Collection’s (www.uniworld.com) S.S. Catherine on the Rhone and Saone Rivers.
Royal Upgrades Interactive TV: Allin Interactive said it was selected by Royal Caribbean international (www.cruisingpower.com) to upgrade the interactive television systems on three of its vessels to Allin’s DigiHD high-definition solution. The upgrades will be completed in 2014 and 2015 and are similar to a project the technology firm completed earlier this year on Navigator of the Seas.
Once the upgrade is completed on the additional ships, guests will be able to access on-demand entertainment and integrated services including ship information, restaurant menus and reservations, shore excursion previews and bookings, account review, personal itinerary and room service.
Niche Product News: The 115-passenger Sea Spirit has been chartered by Poseidon Expeditions (www.poseidonexpeditions.com) for polar operations starting in 2015. Currently it’s being chartered by Quark Expeditions. The 4,200-ton ship was built in 1991.
In terms of upcoming one-of-a-kind events, the Sept. 27 sailing of Star Clippers' (www.starclippers.com) Star Flyer will feature an overnight call at Saint Tropez, France to witness the annual “Les Voiles de Saint-Tropez” international regatta. Guests will be able to watch the sailing action as well as explore the destination.
Port of Baltimore Statistics: For the fourth consecutive year in 2013, more than 200,000 passengers sailed on cruise ships from the Port of Baltimore (www.cruise.maryland.gov). “Cruising from Baltimore brings tens of millions of dollars to our state and generates hundreds of jobs,” said Maryland Governor Martin O’Malley.
The total economic value to the State of Maryland for cruising from the port is $90 million; approximately 220 direct jobs in Maryland are generated by cruise activity. Maryland’s median household income of $70,004 is the highest in the nation and Baltimore is located within a four-hour drive of 10 of the wealthiest counties in the U.S.
Stay tuned to www.travelagentcentral.com for more from Cruise Shipping Miami.