The cost of capital makes year-round deployment of vessels a necessity, and speaking of 'winter cruises,' 'slow season' and 'off-season' only works against growth, according to Giora Israel, svp Global Ports & Destination Development, Carnival Corp. & plc and chairman of Cruise Lines International Association's Global Ports Committee.
The barriers to year-round cruising in the Mediterranean are falling, just as the pressure to increase calls outside of peak season is rising, according to Israel.
With more and larger ships, more deployment is necessary, experienced cruisers are demanding new itineraries, congestion is a problem in key ports in peak periods, vacation habits are changing in Europe and airlift is becoming more affordable, Israel told delegates.
'All of these factors support the growth of year-round cruising,' he said.
Israel stressed that year-round cruising was already established in the region, with publicly available data showing 1m passengers visiting the Mediterranean region from November 2014 to April 30, 2015, on 104 ships.
The 4.16m passenger movements and 2,246 calls at MedCruise ports from November 2012 to March 2013 represented 15.7% of the total passenger movements and 15.8% of total calls in the 12 months from November 2012, Thanos Pallis, secretary general of MedCruise, told delegates.
In the three months from December 2012 to February 2013, just 829 or 5.8% of the year’s cruise calls were made, with 6.1% of passenger movements.
Despite the low numbers, the winter months were showing increased numbers of calls and passengers year on year, Pallis said.
Focussing on the area around the forum’s host, Cartagena, Israel suggested the south of Spain offers a diverse itinerary, and cruise lines need itineraries, not just individual ports.
'The south of Spain offers a selection of homeports, transit ports, open leg or three to seven day itineraries, and the countries called offer cabotage [exemptions] and tax incentives for the lines,' he said.
During 2015, seven Carnival brands will call at ports in the southern Spain region, with 443 calls and 993,894 passengers. In total, 36% of these calls will be made in the November-April season.
Israel had a message in his presentation for detractors, arguing that some in the industry previously warned year-round cruising would never work, that year-round cruising out of New York would never work or that cruising in the Arabian Gulf would never work.
All of these projects have become reality, and Israel believes the same will come of year-round—not winter—cruising in the Mediterranean.