The Seatrade Cruise Convention In Miami is the largest cruise industry event of the year.
Go directly to the Seatrade Convention Updates.
As I write this article I have just arrived in Miami to attend the largest singular cruise industry event of the year; the Seatrade Cruise Convention. Seatrade is an international organization based in Colchester, England founded in 1970. Seatrade covers all aspects of the shipping world, but the biggest show of the year is the passenger cruise convention held in Miami Beach every March.
All of the cruise media, such as myself, Cruise Critic, USA Today and more are in attendance, and we will be treated to drinks and dinners by the major cruise lines, most of which have been saving up major announcements for press conferences during the show in hopes that their news will be what is on everyone's lips.
I predict this Seatrade will be full of surprises, similar to the one of 2003 when we were finally emerging from the economic recession following the burst of the tech bubble. That year we got news from several cruise lines about new ship orders, including what were to become the biggest and most luxurious new ships in the world.
We just received news from at least two cruise lines in the last month that business is finally picking up after nearly two years in a severe economic downturn. We even had a number of new ship order announcements in the last two months including news of two bigger than ever ships to be built for Princess. It is in exactly this kind of environment that really big news tends to come out at Seatrade.
One the cruise lines who has already called a special press conference this year is NCL, about to debut it first true megaship ever when Norwegian Epic comes online in July 2010. They have already revealed a number of the main aspects of the new ship, so it is just possible this Seatrade press conference will highlight the announcement of yet another Epic-class ship to be built.
The highlight of every Seatrade convention is the "State of the Cruise Industry" panel. This meeting features the CEOs of every major cruise line all on the same stage at once, giving short presentations and then taking questions first from the moderator, Seatrade President Chris Hayman and then from the gallery where there are thousands of people in attendance.
Over the years we have been treated to a number of "zingers" as barbs fly between these friendly but competitive cruise lines. One year we had Bob Dickinson, the former president of Carnival Cruise Lines on stage along with the presidents of Princess, NCL, Royal Caribbean, and MSC Cruises. The question from the audience had to do with what percentage of bookings the company was taking directly, bypassing travel agents. Dickinson insisted that at Carnival the figure was somewhere in the neighborhood of five percent. The former CEO of NCL, Colin Veitch retorted that he believed "Bob was using statistics the way a drunk uses a lamppost, for support rather than for illumination."
Neither one of those cruise line leaders is still on the job. Gerry Cahill is now the president of Carnival and Kevin Sheehan is now the CEO of Norwegian Cruise Lines. But I am sure it will still be a rowdy discussion as this has been a tough year for the cruise industry with a number of influencing factors from the economy to pirates to H1N1.
This year the state of the industry panel includes:
- Gerald R. Cahill, President & CEO, Carnival Cruise Lines
- Adam M. Goldstein, President & CEO, Royal Caribbean International
- Daniel J. Hanrahan, President & CEO, Celebrity Cruises
- Stein Kruse, President & CEO, Holland America Line, Inc
- Kevin Sheehan, CEO, Norwegian Cruise Line
There will be additional sessions for topics like "Cruising for the upscale Consumer," and special discussions on the state of affairs in the Caribbean and Alaska, both controversial in different ways. There will be a panel to explore the role of social media on the cruise industry, and another on the topic of expedition and discovery cruising featuring Silversea Cruises (they have a new expedition vessel called the Prince Albert 2), Hurtigruten Cruises Lines, Cruise West and the International Association of Antarctica Tour operators.
The media will be treated to drinks and dinner by Royal Caribbean, Carnival Cruise Lines and NCL each on consecutive nights of the conference. NCL is going to be giving us a special presentation of the new Cirque Du Dreams show they have planned for Norwegian Epic.
There are acres of exhibition space for vendors to the cruise industry to display their wares including every possible port of call worldwide from Antarctica to Zimbabwe. You can see examples of the state of the art in stages sound and lighting systems, the latest advancements in plumbing fixtures, networking technology, stemware, sheets, engines and best of all, you can almost make a full meal out of sampling the various food suppliers who want to sell their products to the cruise industry, from chocolate fondue fountains to boutique wineries to suppliers of caviar and truffles.
I will be sending you updates from Seatrade in our forums as the show progresses with breaking news as it happens. My CruiseMates colleague, Kuki, will also be at the Seatrade convention for his first time - so it will be very interesting to get his take on the events as well. We will both be presenting our updates as the show progresses at this forum: Seatrade Convention Updates.