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Cruise industry experts talk forward momentum and catching tailwinds at Seatrade Cruise Global

L-R: Joseph Boschulte, Jonathan Daniels, Stephen Xuereb, Terry Thornton, Russell Benford and moderator Roger Blum at Seatrade Cruise Global 2023
Stephen Xuereb, COO, Global Ports Holding said ‘2023 is going to be the real recovery year’ and, judging from bookings, ‘2024 is going to be the record year,’ with Terry Thornton, SVP commercial development and integration, Princess Cruises, reporting ‘advance bookings are strong for 2023 and 2024, pricing is strong, occupancy is strong.’

The predictions were made on the first day of Seatrade Cruise Global 2023.

Significant reasons to promote cruising

Thornton added there have been ‘amazing, unprecedented’ increases in occupancy rates in the hotel and resort segment, presenting significant opportunities for the cruise industry to prove its value. ‘There has always been a very strong value proposition for cruise compared to land based resort locations,’ he said, noting that the value of a cruise in comparison to a hotel was 40% greater. ‘What an opportunity for cruising to really hammer home the value of a cruise vacation,’ he asserted.

He went on to add that the removal of older ships from service during the pandemic was positive, ‘It has really re energised the existing fleet and made it much more efficient,’ he said. 

Also joining the ‘The State of Global Tourism: Forward Momentum, Catching Tailwinds’ panel was US Virgin Islands Commissioner Joseph Boschulte, who told moderator Roger Blum, principal, Cruise & Port Advisors, ‘Our cruise business is on tap to be back to pre-COVID levels this year; we are happy to report, at least from US Virgin Islands’ positioning, that our ships are coming in at over 85% capacity, which is sooner than we thought.’

St. Croix has experienced a 300% growth in cruise traffic. ‘When you talk about tailwinds, we're very happy now to be moving forward in a great direction because the industry on the cruise side is back as strong as it's ever been,’ he said.

VP government relations for Royal Caribbean Group, Russell Benford, told fellow panelists he was ‘delighted’ at the number of cruise passengers visiting St. Croix, while praising the US Virgin Islands and Port Everglades for their successes. He described ‘trying to get to a win-win’ through closer collaboration with destination partners and said that since the pandemic, there has been ‘more open communication’ and ‘a more tailored approach’ instead of a ‘one-size-fits-all’ attitude. 

Major infrastructure developments 

Delving into the future momentum of the cruise line industry in Port Everglades was its CEO and Port Director Jonathan Daniels. The port is working with Royal Caribbean on the complete redevelopment of Terminal 29: 'The existing facility that we have in place will end up being a debark facility; just south of that will be a new embark facility, and it will be tri-branded: Royal Caribbean International, Celebrity Cruises, Silversea. They will have a 1,500 capacity car parking garage and about 40,000 to 50,000 sq ft of office space for a port administration building.’

Broward County has also committed to building a 4,600 capacity car parking garage to serve the convention center, which will be connected to terminals two and four. Starting in 2024, Everglades will make a $160m investment in shore power by installing eight terminals with shore power at a cost of $20m each.