Cruise News From SeaTrade 2012

| Tuesday, 13 Mar. 2012

The annual Cruise Shipping Miami cruise convention held by the SeaTrade organization is currently underway and just featured the all-important "State of the Industry" conference this morning. Naturally, much of the discussion centered on the Concordia incident and the sadness felt by many cruise executives and others in the industry for what happened.

But the news many people have been waiting to hear is whether or not the incident has caused cruise prices to "tank" and whether there are plenty of incredible cruise bargains out there.

The answer is "no." Not only have cruise prices not dropped, there is not even that much of a slowdown in cruise sales. If anything, only the rate of growth in cruise sales that the industry had before the incident has slowed down, but it has not gone below the rate of sales the cruise industry had a year ago.

As for cruise bargains - there have been all kinds of speculations. Some web sites (DealNews.com, for example) reported that they were seeing historically low cruise prices since Concordia. It is true that during the month of January, right after the incident, cruise sales did drop off dramatically for about a week and there were a few bargains available. But since January cruise prices have returned to normal for this time of year.

Other web sites have reported that cruise lines often need some time to evaluate whether price drops are needed, and that lower prices could still emerge. Don't count on it; that just doesn't seem to be the case. If anything, people who are not buying cruises now in hopes of steep discounts in the near future are only creating pent-up demand, and even if discounts do materialize they will likely be gobbled up very quickly.

Conference Opening Remarks

Howard Franks, the CFO of Carnival Corp. gave the opening remarks and naturally expressed sorrow and regret for the Concordia incident. But moving to business he noted that 25 new ships will still be introduced to the world-wide fleet of CLIA between today and 2015, bringing the total number of cruise ships in the CLIA fleet to 231 - including 361,000 beds to be filled every week.

Other Seatrade News

Norwegian just announced that it is placing personal phones on Norwegian Epic so parents can track and talk to their kids onboard the ship. These phones are only made for use onboard the ship and can call one another as well as dial other departments on the ship.

One must give kudos to Disney Cruise Line for this idea. Disney will be putting two such shipboard phones in every stateroom starting with the inaugural sailing of Disney Fantasy, so every family onboard will have phones to keep in touch with each other throughout the entire cruise. The phones are based on proprietary IP communications protocols (computer networks) and will not work when not onboard the ships.

Princess Cruises just unveiled some of its dining options for the new Royal Princess ship currently under construction and coming in June, 2013. The ship will have three main dining rooms - the two forward ones will offer "Anytime Dining" and the one in the aft section will offer traditional dining with pre-assigned tables, dining times and the same wait staff nightly.

The traditional restaurant (names not yet revealed) will have as its centerpiece a chef's table surrounded by what is described as "curtain of light" for privacy. The translucent sheet of light will glow between the floor and ceiling and surround the table. The centerpiece setting is called the "Chef's Table Lumiere."

The two Anytime Dining rooms will each have a wine cellar motif as a centerpiece with a private dining table in the center of the wine racks. In addition, the ship will have Sabatini's and the Crown Grill, but they will now be larger and more open. The Crown Grill will be situated as more of an extension to the popular Wheelhouse Bar - a staple watering hole on Princess ships.

The Horizon Court buffet area has been expanded to nearly double the usual size with 900 indoor seats and 350 outdoors. It will feature service stations rather than lines. One new element will be the Pastry Shop where guests will be able to select from a vast variety of pastries in a separate Patisserie setting. Pastry chefs will be making the delightful delights in plain view and offer them up fresh from the ovens.

Already revealed - in the atrium section, are Alfredo's Pizzeria, the Ocean Terrace, the International Café, the Gelateria and "Vines," the wine tasting room with tempting hors d' oeuvres such as tapas and sushi.

American Cruise Lines

The small but classy all-American river boat company American Cruise Lines just announced it will build a brand new steamboat-style riverboat to accompany the Queen of the Mississippi currently under construction in Salisbury, Maryland. The new riverboat will be slightly larger than the 150-passenger Queen of the Mississippi. To date no decision has been made as to where the new steamship will operate.

The Mississippi River is slated to have two vessels operating regular river cruises once again for the first time in years, the first one coming this May when the American Queen reemerges under the Great American Steamboat Company banner.

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