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Cruise industry experiences an unprecedented growth

Cruise industry, a world combined with luxury, relaxation and comfort. An industry with great potential according to all forecasts launched in 2006 and in January of 2007. The industry reports a record year ahead with revenues to be up, new ports of call to emerge and more travelers to consider taking a cruise as a travel option.

According to the Cruise Lines International Association (CLIA), 2007 will be a year of formidable growth, with 12.62 million cruise passengers predicted to set sail, an increase of approximately one half-million guests over 2006.

The forecasted 500,000-passenger increase represents a 4.1 percent year-over-year growth commensurate with the planned net increase in 2007 CLIA-member line capacity.

Of the 12.62 million passengers projected to cruise in 2007, more than 10.6 million are expected to originate from North America. CLIA-member lines carried 10.18 million North Americans in 2006 compared with 9.67 million in 2005, and also maintained their high utilization rates, posting a collective occupancy factor of 104 percent in 2006.

All tolled, the increase in ship capacity translated to a steady growth in available berths, from 227,837 in 2005 to 246,759 in 2006.

As Dan Hanrahan, CLIA`s new marketing committee chairman and the president of Celebrity Cruises said, The state of the industry is very, very strong, with CLIA cruise lines stepping up to the plate each and every year with innovative new offerings that continue to bolster cruise sales.

Europe is going to continue its steady course in 2007 as it did in 2005 and 2006 and will be one of the most favourite destinations worldwide. Mediterranean region is going to attract the majority of cruises in Europe and especially during the summer months.

A key issue is that lines are placing more itineraries in less well – known destinations in Croatia, Greece, southern Italy and Turkey.

Another ‘hot’ destination for this year is Alaska with almost every cruise line to enhance its itineraries to this region. It is worth mentioning that many liners that travel to Alaska are launching new green itineraries as a part of their green policies.

Global warming and environment protection is gaining ground in today’s traveler consciousness and in the near future we are going to witness more green itineraries to pop up.

Trends to drive the industry in 2007:

It is always important for the cruise lines, travel agencies and all the entities that are in the cruise business to know what the future holds for them. For 2007 the key industry trends that will determine the sector are:

  • New and refurbished ships
  • Innovative facilities and amenities along with new technology features on board
  • New ports of call
  • Enhanced programs on board
  • Changing of lifestyle demographics (Baby Boomers, Generation Xers, Honeymoons and Weddings)
  • More luxury experiences

30 brand new vessels will enter service between 2007 and the end of 2010 indicating the robust growth of the industry. See more on the right column: New Cruise Vessels

As far as the new facilities and technology assets on board are concerned, many cruise lines along with the launching of their new vessels, they are enhancing their facilities and introduce new technology amenities.

For instance, SeaMobile Enterprises has signed an agreement with Holland America Line. SeaMobile will provide wireless cellular phone and PDA services for Holland America Line’s guests throughout the world. Installations of wireless broadband communications equipment will begin on board Holland America’s entire fleet of 13 ships later this year.

The SeaMobile communications service will allow guests and staff of Holland America’s ships to use their own cellular phones and wireless PDAs while at sea.

Another example of the new technological amenities on board is the the installation of cellular phone technology aboard the 2,974-passenger Carnival Liberty of the Carnival Cruise Lines.

Carnival has completed the fleetwide implementation of cell phone service aboard all 21 of its “Fun Ships.” With the new service, made possible through an agreement between Carnival and Wireless Maritime Services (WMS), a joint venture of Cingular Wireless and Maritime Telecommunications Network, guests sailing aboard the “Fun Ships” can make and receive calls and transmit text and multimedia messages from their personal cell phones, BlackBerrys or similar devices while at sea

Lifestyle demographics are changing

A more growing number of the Baby Boomers generation is turning to cruises as they seek vacations that include active and adventurous elements but are unwilling to sacrifice comfort.

Along with Baby Boomers, Generation Xers will also give a boost to the industry and there is also a growing number of affluent people that is turning to luxury lines.

Wedding and honeymoon cruise vacations aren`t just for the very young and just married anymore. In a recently launched survey by CLIA, 40 percent of travel agents report second-marriage couples are their largest source of business and 32 percent noted they are booking more weddings on cruises along with their family and friends..

As couples are marrying later, they know they will have kids sooner and they are more eager to travel. 20 percent of 460 CLIA-member travel agents said the biggest change in their honeymoon and wedding business came from more couples renewing vows aboard cruise ships, and 8 percent saw an increase in same-sex couples choosing cruises as romantic vacation options.

According to the survey, 56 percent of agents said Generation Xers (ages 28 to 42) now represent the largest group of honeymoon and wedding cruise guests. Generation Y (ages 27 and younger) accounted for 25 percent of honeymoon and wedding business, while Early Baby Boomers (ages 43 to 51) represented 13 percent and Late Boomers (ages 52 to 61) 6 percent.

57 percent of agents agreed that the Caribbean/Bahamas was the most popular cruising destination for couples, followed by Hawaii (23 percent), Europe (9 percent) and Alaska (7 percent).

Fifty-four percent of agents said that, on average, couples pay between $1,000 and $3,000 for the cruise portion of their vacation, while 35 percent said couples pay between $3,000 and $6,000 per couple.

Today’s cruisers are looking for seamless travel experiences that offer a high level of convenience and equal levels of excitement in terms of the onboard experience and itineraries. Cruise vacations enable travelers to explore exotic cultures and landscapes around the globe, all the while returning to Western-style comforts and conveniences aboard state-of-the-art ships.

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