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Cruise lines and ports detail wish lists and 2022 successes

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L-R: At the 2022 International Cruise Summit, Madrid: Mehmet Kutman, chairman & CEO Global Ports Holding; Mario Zanetti, president, Costa Cruises, Jonathan Daniels, chief executive and port director, Port Everglades; Wybcke Meier, CEO, TUI Cruises; Michael Ungerer, CEO, Explora Journeys; moderator Virginia Quintairos, global business development director, Intercruises Shoreside & Port Services.
Florida ports are seeing fresh investment, Global Ports Holding continues to grow its number of managed ports, while Costa Cruises has high hopes for China.

Meanwhile, bookings for the new Explora Journeys brand have come in thick and fast, and TUI emphasises the German cruise market remains healthy.

These were just some of the revelations that emerged at the two-day International Cruise Summit in Madrid, which concluded November 16.

‘Christmas has come early’

‘Christmas came early in many respects this summer for us and for all Florida ports,’ revealed Port Everglades chief executive and port director, Jonathan Daniels. ‘You’re starting to see in Port Miami additional investment and partnerships. Port Everglades is going in a bit of a different direction; we’re seeing significant investment, we’re looking at more of the ultra-high luxury brands coming in. Port Canaveral is taking advantage of Disney…and some larger vessels.’

Load factors have also been ‘increasing significantly,’ according to Daniels, seeing a blended rate of 86-87% for the last fiscal year. ‘We just started the Caribbean season in the last few weeks and we’re over 100% already, and that’s really been profitable.  It’s been awfully nice to see that level of rebound.’

From Oasis-class vessels to around the world cruises, there is a ‘total mix’ of cruising in the South Florida region. Asserted Daniels in earnest, ‘…I will tell you, I will do anything I can to take any cruise line away from Miami if I have that opportunity.’ He went on to say that ‘Ultimately, what we've done is settled on one port complex in South Florida with three distinct terminals that are able to accommodate any brand that comes in. It doesn't matter whether it's [Royal Caribbean’s 236,857gt] Wonder of the Seas or The Ritz-Carlton Yacht Collection, and everything else in between.’

In January next year, Port Everglades will receive a full study from Florida Power and Light looking at how to conduct a two-phase shore power programme over its eight terminals at a cost of approximately $20m each. The chief executive and port director nonetheless conceded that while the ‘$160m investment must be made,’ there is concern ‘that the $160m investment in two to three years down the line is not going to provide a level of return on investment, as the next level of energy demand will be out there which we will have to provide one way or another.’

He further noted that importance of ensuring the port is not set up to ‘draw power from dirty sources.’

China: ‘a great opportunity’

Mario Zanetti, president, Cosa Cruises predicts great potential for China, but to see ‘how it's evolving long-term may be one of my Christmas wishes,’ he stated.

‘I believe that China is a great opportunity. The middle classes keep growing – and have kept growing, despite the pandemic. This will represent the base for our industry to grow there. The timing is going to be challenging.’

Costa has seen recovery ‘basically in all source markets,’ and in each of those markets observed willingness for travel more locally or ‘at least local embarkations.’ Zanetti attributed challenges at airports in Europe over the summer as ‘increasing this willingness.’

He outlined that passengers are ‘tending to delay their decision making and booking much closer to the departure date than they used to do before the pandemic,’ with the same trend obverved by TUI Cruises, whose CEO Wybcke Meier reported an average lead time of six weeks. This stood at nine months prior to the pandemic.

TUI is seeking more cruise passengers

Meier wishes most of all to attract more cruise passengers, ‘The market in Germany is still very healthy. Although, I think the sentiment on cruise is maybe the most challenging [since the pandemic] … 

‘We need to attract new customers. This is my wish for Santa… This is our biggest task.’

TUI is among the cruise lines whose Baltic and Northern Europe itineraries have been heavily impacted by the conflict in Ukraine, with those sailings typically ‘always very important’ to the line, with St Petersburg also key to these itineraries.

Occupancy levels have been at pre-pandemic levels for TUI Cruises since June, making 2022 ‘a successful transitional year’ in Meier’s view.

Explora bags its highest bookings yet

‘Everybody loves something new and shiny,’ asserted Michael Ungerer, CEO, Explora Journeys, whose observation came after the new luxury cruise brand from the MSC Group recorded the ‘two highest booking weeks it has ever had,’ despite there being a delay for inaugural vessel Explora I's maiden voyage next year.

On the founding of Explora, the CEO said, ‘The luxury travel sector is the most resilient… It was the right moment to do it,’ and described creating a brand during the pandemic as ‘a once in a lifetime opportunity, squared.’

He went on to say that sustainability ‘has to be at the core’ of decisions made, and expressed the view that passengers would be willing to ‘pay a little more’ money to take a more sustainable cruise.

Global Ports expands number of managed ports

For Global Ports Holding, the past two to three years have served as an ‘opportunity’ - ‘a blank canvas’ to take control of the ports it manages, Mehmet Kutman, chairman & CEO, Global Ports Holding said. Its quantity of managed cruise ports today amounts to around 30, spread over 14 countries. The company recently signed concession agreements in St Lucia and Prince Rupert Cruise Port in British Columbia, Canada.

Kutman’s wish is for the industry to be better at showcasing itself as the safest way to travel representing the best value for money. He urged Cruise Lines International Association (CLIA) to ‘be more proactive in case of crisis’ where this view is called in to question, such as at the start of the pandemic. ‘Nobody complained about the airlines, nobody complained about the restaurants where everything was much, much worse than on cruise ships. So hopefully we will work together on proper public relations.’

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