Cruise industry on course for good year

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As the cruise line industry continues to strengthen its global presence and with the economy in an ongoing recovery mode, they are expecting the industry to do well and, according to industry reports, the first few months of 2014 have been positive for the industry. “The global cruise industry is at an exciting juncture with strong consumer interest in cruising and significant cruise line investment in a diversity of exciting ships that travel to the most exotic locations in the world and offer one-of-a-kind vacation experiences,” said Christine Duffy, president & CEO of Cruise Lines International Association (CLIA), the world's largest cruise industry trade association with representation in North and South America, Europe, Asia and Australasia. According to CLIA findings North America remains the dominant source for cruise passengers, however international source markets are demonstrating accelerated passenger demand for cruising. As for cruise ship deployment the leading cruise destination remains the Caribbean, accounting for 37.3 percent of all global itineraries. Some of the significant cruise industry trends include improved technology to lower the cost of onboard communications and provide more efficient passenger servicing. And if you think cruises are for those elderly and retirees, think again, there is a new trend of first-time passenger growth coming from younger generation travelers — especially millennials. Richard Branson of Virgin Group has revealed his plans to launch his own cruise line by 2019. According to a report in The National, Branson said he would start the $1.7 billion project with two new-build ships, operating in the Caribbean and the Mediterranean initially. The line would be based in Miami. The ships would be aimed at a younger market, offering more entertainment and leisure, according to a spokeswoman for the Virgin Group. "When I was in my 20s I thought about a cruise ship for the under 20s, when I was 30 I thought about one for under 30s,” Branson told The National. It is generally believed that going on a cruise has to begin and end with a plane ride. However, in reality, it is becoming more common now that more and more cruise lines are launching from smaller cruise ports that may be closer than you think. Most people know that cruises sail out of Miami to go to the Caribbean or out of Seattle to get to Alaska. But there are lots of secondary — also known as drive-to — ports that are within driving distance. For example, beginning next year, Carnival Cruise Lines is returning to Norfolk, Virginia, with the Carnival Splendor sailing to Bermuda. Also, the Carnival Pride will sail from Baltimore year round, instead of re-positioning to Florida for the winter. That’s convenient for anyone in the Maryland/Washington, DC area. For those in and around Texas should keep their eyes on the Port of Galveston. Over the last few years, the global cruise industry has adeptly managed a great recession. Looking forward to 2014 the industry is expected to begin its normalisation towards historic growth trends. According to industry estimate for 2014, the worldwide cruise market is estimated at $37.1 billion, up 2.3 percent from 2013. Cruise passengers carried worldwide in 2014 is forecast at 21.6 million, a three percent increase over the previous year. The top three cruise companies — Carnival Corporation, Royal Caribbean Cruises and Norwegian Cruise Line Holdings — account for 79.4 percent of worldwide share of passengers carried and 71.8 percent of worldwide share of revenues. The top two ports will be Port Miami and Nassau Bahamas; while the former for embarkations and the latter for destination. The total worldwide cruise capacity at the end of 2014 will be 453,211 passengers (a 3.2 percent increase over 2013) and 292 ships. It is said that by 2018, 24.1 million cruise passengers are expected to be carried worldwide of which 58.8 percent will originate from North America and 27.2 percent from Europe. While at the lower end, the cruise holiday sector has grown thanks to budget conscious tourists’ desire for all-inclusive breaks; the luxury end of the cruise market is also steaming ahead. When the Cunard flagship Queen Mary 2 leaves Liverpool for New York next July, recreating the historic first Cunard voyage 175 years earlier, those on board for the 10-night cruise will have paid between £2,250 and £15,500 a head. According to latest reports tickets from Liverpool sold out within hours. According to reports, last year, UK ports welcomed a record 866,000 passengers, of all nationalities, on day calls — a 20 per cent rise on 2012. Moreover, a record number of passengers, exceeding one million for the first time and 10 percent up on 2012, embarked on their cruise at a UK port. Britain has a taste for cruising; it is Europe’s number one market with 27 per cent of passengers and second globally only to North America. This year, it is expected that more UK passengers will start their holiday cruise from British ports — for UK or overseas destinations — than from an overseas port. For embarkation, the biggest UK ports are Southampton, Dover and Harwich. For 2014, CLIA has created a Global Ports Committee comprised of itinerary planning and port development executives of the cruise lines and chaired by Giora Israel, Senior Vice President of Ports and Destination Development for Carnival Corporation. The committee will focus on creating opportunities to develop dialogue with port operators, port authorities, government, and port-related service providers on issues of mutual interest. “Ports are making major commitments to the success of the cruise industry with significant capital improvement in modernising existing ports and building new ones that are technologically and environmentally advanced, while also being very cruise and passenger friendly,” said Duffy. “This committee will help to more fully integrate port development and operations with the larger picture of the cruise industry.” 
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