Cruise industry poised for stellar 2011

Cruise industry officials, travel agents and an industry trade organization believe 2011 will be the best year on record for cruise lines and their passengers despite a slow rebounding global economy. Regent Seven Seas Navigator is shown here recently departing from Sydney, Australia. Image courtesy Brian O’Brien

By Michael Coleman

Twenty five of the world’s top cruise lines, all members of the Cruise Lines International Association (CLIA), are poised for a record-setting year in 2011.

A December survey of CLIA member travel agents found that 2010 was stronger than 2009 and that 93.6 percent are optimistic about travel sales in 2011 and beyond. Eighty-six percent of agents anticipate cruise booking increases in 2011. Eighty-five percent expect the 2011 Wave Season (the top cruise selling months of the year between January – March) to surpass last year by 16 percent on average. Agents also predict that cruises will outperform other types of travel in 2011 and in the coming years.

Driving the industry’s enthusiasm is the expected impact of 14 new ships in the CLIA member line fleet, continued diversification of global itineraries and new shipboard experiences, and the knowledge that, according to consumers’ perceptions, cruising offers exceptional value. In the December survey, agents reported that cruising has earned the #1 ranking in consumer interest compared to other types of travel largely because of perceived value, past cruise experience, price and excitement generated by new ships.

When final figures are tallied, CLIA expects to report that member lines, carried 15 million people in 2010, including 11.1 million North Americans. The forecast for 2011 is 16 million passengers, an increase of 6.6 percent, with 73 percent of guests, or 11.68 million, coming from North America, and 27 percent, or 4.32 million, sourced internationally.

Since 1980, the average annual passenger growth rate for CLIA member lines has been more than 7.5 percent. In 2010, 12 ships representing an investment of $5.9 billion, ranging in capacity from 101 passengers to 5,400 passengers, joined the CLIA fleet. Between 2011 and 2012, an additional 22 ships are on order, including 14 in 2011, among them:

– Carnival Cruise Lines’ Carnival Magic (3,652 passengers)
– Costa Cruises’ Favalosa (3,502 passengers)
– Celebrity Cruises’ Silhouette (2,850 passengers)
– Disney Cruise Line’s Dream (4,000 passengers)
– Oceania Cruises’ Marina (1,250 passengers)
– Seabourn Cruise Line’s Quest (450 passengers)
– Pearl Seas Cruises’ Pearl Mist (210 passengers)
– Avalon Waterways’ Panorama (166 passengers)
– AMA Waterways’ Amalotus (124 passengers), Amaverde (162 passengers), Amakaterina (212 passengers)
– Uniworld Grand Boutique River Cruises’ Douro Spirit (128 passengers), SS Antoinette (164 passengers) and River Victoria (206 passengers)

In late December, CLIA surveyed its cruise line members to determine 2011 trends and compared them to the predictions made by member travel agents. Both groups agreed that among the “hot” destinations of 2011 will be all regions of Europe, including European rivers, which are currently enjoying increasing consumer interest through a new CLIA product category, river cruising; the Caribbean, South America, Asia, and the Pacific. 

Other trends reported by the cruise lines include:

– Globalization of itineraries, including shorter cruises in Europe and elsewhere.

– Increased choice in dining experiences, with more specialty restaurants, guests chefs and local sourcing of food.

– Continued evolution of onboard spas, including top-branded spa partners.

– A focus on personalized cruise experiences both onboard and on shore, with private or exclusive shore excursions, activities targeting specific demographics, including families, children, sports, active vacationers and special interest itineraries and programs.

– Strong interest in theme cruises, particularly food and wine, music, culture and art.

– Passenger growth among baby boomers, families/multigenerational groups, first time cruisers and corporate/meeting groups.

CLIA is North America’s largest cruise industry organization. It represents the interests of 25 member lines and participates in the regulatory and policy development process while supporting measures that foster a safe, secure and healthy cruise ship environment. CLIA is also engaged in travel agent training, research and marketing communications to promote the value and desirability of cruise vacations and counts as members 16,000 travel agencies and agents.