When Costa Concordia grounded one year ago, 32 people died and a big, modern ship was declared a total loss. This mind-boggling event triggered wide-ranging changes, from 10 new safety policies to the unification of nine key industry groups into a global Cruise Lines International Association.
Snow fell in the Centrum of Grandeur of the Seas on Wednesday evening in Miami as aerial acrobats transformed the space into a show named ‘Seasons.’ The new Izumi Asian-fusion restaurant in the Viking Crown Lounge was busy, and the retro R Bar at the base of the Centrum was packed.
Carnival corporate vice chairman and coo Howard Frank has given another ringing endorsement of Costa Crociere, describing it as ‘an iconic brand not just in Italy but throughout the world.’
Speaking in Venice on Saturday at the delivery ceremony for Costa’s latest flagship, Costa Fascinosa, Frank’s statement was intended to quell speculation over the future of the Costa brand, which chief executive Pier Luigi Foschi suggested was in question as recently as March.
Not surprisingly Costa Concordia dominated Cruise Shipping Miami’s State of the Industry panel but the discussion—about safety, environmental practices and corporate citizenship—seemed targeted at a more general audience than those in the room.
Cruise lines were clearly eager to present a responsible and capable united front to the public and regulators at this time, more than ever before.
The ITB Berlin travel trade fair had a stronger cruise presence than ever before, including a new Cruise Executive Panel and a Hamburg Cruise Day on Friday that drew 250 industry representatives to activities including an 'Operators' Talk' featuring interviews with Hapag-Lloyd Kreuzfahrten's Sebastian Ahrens and AIDA Cruises’ Michael Ungerer.
Also, Stefan Behn was honored as Hamburg's Cruise Personality 2012, acknowledging his pioneering work in cruise tourism. Behn is the chairman of Hamburg Cruise Center.
Operators on the German cruise market expressed optimism about 2012, adding that they do not expect lasting impacts from the Costa Concordia and Costa Allegra incidents.
In contast, in the river cruise segment, the VAT rate hike to 19% in Germany is expected to have lasting impact. Nicko Tours has announced it will reduce the number of cruises on German rivers. Some capacity will be switched from the Rhine River to the Danube and to the rivers of the Netherlands and Belgium starting in 2013. Also, the number of sailings on Portugal’s Douro River will increase.
In the ocean cruise segment, AIDA Cruises took the opportunity of ITB Berlin to announce it will deploy one of its Mitsubishi newbuilds from Germany on a year-round basis. Various northern ports are competing for the business.
The German daily newspaper Die Welt reported the ship would operate from Hamburg, news that AIDA’s Ungerer, svp operations, would not confirm. He told journalists at ITB that a decision had not been made. Other possible candidates include Bremerhaven, Warnemünde and Kiel.
It also emerged at ITB Berlin that travel agents remain a key distribution channel for the German source market. Norwegian Cruise Line, for example, used the fair to unveil details of its ‘Partners First’ program in Germany. The program, in place in the US for many months, aims to boost agent sales through a number of trade-friendly initiatives.
ITB Berlin had 113,000 travel industry visitors, including 44,000 from outside Germany, and 55,000 consumer visitors, according to Messe Berlin GmbH. Christian Göke, md of Messe Berlin, said the number of trade visitors increased by about 2,200 over last year.
There were 10,644 exhibitors from 187 countries.
In response to the Costa Concordia tragedy and the resulting increased public awareness regarding maritime safety, the German Travel Association (DRV) has released a Cruise Safety Q&A-Guide for travel agents. The 15-page file made available to DRV's members intends to support them in answering specific customer enquiries.
Several major US cruise retailers told Seatrade Insider reaction to the Costa Concordia tragedy has been surprisingly subdued so far.
‘We haven’t had one cancellation yet and minimal inquiries,’ said Vicky Garcia, evp sales and marketing for the large home-based travel agent network Cruise Planners/American Express.