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BLOG: Cruising finds its place in the sun at Seatrade Europe 2023

Seatrade Europe Cruise & River Cruise Convention and the co-located MARINE INTERIORS Cruise & Ferry Global Expo successfully concluded in Hamburg, after welcoming 3,500 attendees from 80 countries from 6-8 September 2023 to engage in discussions about the future of cruising.

Attending Seatrade Europe were participants from far afield as Australia, New Zealand, and French Polynesia, from Japan, Korea, and various countries across Asia, from the Middle East and India, of course Europe-wide as well as from North, Central, South America and the Caribbean – a truly global gathering.

‘Seatrade Europe is a fantastic community that hosts fantastic events where we can all come together as one, it is a great place just to get everyone together and talk about common interests and common goals and learn more about the industry’ - Darren Smith, Group’s Head of Business Development, The SMS Group

On the exhibition floor, more than 250 exhibitors showcased their products and destinations plus, there were first time appearances in Hamburg at Seatrade Europe by Puerto Rico Tourism Company, Costa Rica Tourism, Uruguay Ministry of Tourism, Guatemala Tourism Board, several Japanese Ports and Destinations, Great Lakes St Lawrence Seaway System, and on the supplier side, BIC Graphic Europe, Shorelink Shore Power Systems, Geniox Services and Unimed to name a few.

Keynote address 

During his keynote address at Seatrade Europe, Pierfrancesco Vago, Global Chair, Cruise Lines International Association, encouraged Seatrade Europe delegates to advocate for cruising and highlight the industry’s achievements at every opportunity, while also calling on governments to set aside funds to support decarbonisation efforts.

He described a ‘growing enthusiasm to cruise’ with this year’s passenger volumes forecast to reach levels higher than before the pandemic. But, he added, ‘… we still face huge challenges. One of these is telling the world what we are achieving. We still face too much unfounded criticism. So please, take every opportunity to speak of our achievements to the public, governments, other stakeholders, guests, and potential guests. We are relying on their support to secure our futures, the future of the blue planet, and the future of cruising.’

The overarching theme of this year’s conference was Scaling Sustainably and in a one-to-one interview, Dieter Janecek, Federal Government Coordinator for Maritime Economy and Tourism highlighted the cruise segment's leading role in driving sustainability in the shipping industry, underscoring the urgency of implementing sustainable solutions.

State of the European cruise industry - Sponsored by Cruise Saudi

During the State of the Industry panel discussion, Marie-Caroline Laurent, Director General, CLIA Europe, detailed some of the challenges surrounding existing and forthcoming legislation and explained that CLIA is working with the EU to find solutions. ‘We'll see next year some of the CII (Carbon Intensity Indicator) ratings coming out from the ships. What is important to us is that the system has clearly been developed for the shipping industry. This is not adapted to cruise or ferry, it is based on the length of mileage. To have a good rating you need to not touch a port.’  

Michael McCarthy, Chairman, Cruise Europe said more ports will be equipped with shore power capabilities in the coming years.

Cruise is ‘outperforming’ other ways of travelling in Europe, according to TUI Cruises CEO Wybcke Meier, with booking strong this year and into next year. She cited ‘really strong bookings for Northern Europe’ and said winter cruises from Germany were taking off. 

Felix Eichhorn, President, AIDA Cruises said ‘demand is really there for the German market’; 2019 was a record year for the country, counting three-million cruise passengers and ‘outstanding’ bookings pre-Covid, and now ‘four years later we are back on track.’

Ponant CEO Hervé Gastinel revealed Europe is in ‘very high demand post-Covid,’ with the region representing around 25% of the destinations Ponant visit.

River Cruise Day 

A special River Cruise Day held on September 7 saw a standing room-only opening session where Arno Reitsma, CEO and President of Scylla and President of IG RiverCruise; Christopher Hackney, MD of Marella Cruises and TUI River Cruises; Lucas Schmitter, Director of CroisiEurope; and Otto Groen, CEO of Rivertech Group agreed 2023 will be a strong year with volumes reaching, and even exceeding, 2019 levels. 

Despite a low number of new ships entering the market in 2022 and 2023, orders are expected to resume. Capacity utilisation is good, without bottlenecks and the sector is keen to optimise the operations of existing ships to support sustainability efforts, in particular. Various speakers said during the event that they had abolished buffets to lower food waste, while the use of plastic and paper is being reduced. 

The river cruise sector intends to cooperate with ocean-going cruise lines more intensely on the research and development of alternative fuels and new propulsion technologies – a point evidenced by the MOU signed between IG River Cruise and CLIA during the show.   

Seatrade Cruise Awards 2023 - Sponsored by Ocean Technologies Group and Oracle Hospitality

TUI Cruises’ Wybcke Meier, Cruise Port Rotterdam’s Mai Elmar, Cruise Gate Hamburg, Atlas Ocean Voyages, National Geographic Expeditions & Intercruises Shoreside & Ports Services, American Queen Voyages, Port of Haugesund, Silverstream Technologies and MSC Cruises were all winners at the 2023 Seatrade Cruise Awards. The awards were announced Wednesday evening at Seatrade Europe's 'Celebrating Cruise Brilliance: The Speakers Reception & Seatrade Cruise Awards' in Hamburg.

Cruise Night party - Sponsored by Espace 

Staying with the social scene, the amazing International Maritime Museum, located in HafenCity, with its collection of model ships, maritime art and maritime memorabilia was the setting for the Cruise Night party, on Thursday evening. Attendees mingling among the interesting exhibits, partook in good food and drinks, great networking, lively music, and dancing and some were even able to sit on the outside terrace and enjoy the warm balmy evening as Hamburg basked in exceptionally good weather throughout the whole event.

Those with time to spare in Hamburg after Seatrade Europe could also take part in the Hamburg Cruise Days, a popular festival which followed on Friday and Saturday.

Seatrade Europe will return on the 10-12 September 2025 Register your interest - Seatrade Europe (