There is no sector of tourism where so many contradictions coexist as in cruising: on the one hand there are increasingly large, sophisticated, incredible ships, and on the other hand routes are cancelled, prices are discounted, and ships are half empty.
Ships tend to become larger and larger, or to address niche requirements; see for example the two latest born ships of Crystal Cruises and Radisson: they are super luxurious, thus creating problems for those that do not respond to such parameters and must survive in a highly competitive market where supply is in excess. Hence deep discounts and lower quality.
As regards routes, due to unpredictable events such as the war or the Asian epidemics, certain destinations have been written off altogether (e.g. the Eastern Mediterraneum), or have been drastically reduced, such as the Caribbean, while others – for example Alaska and Northern Europe – are lucky enough not to be able to meet the demand. Only a couple of years ago, it seemed that the sector would grow indefinitely, with companies becoming larger and larger through acquisition policies and the launching of new mega-ships, in a tumultuously growing industry. After saturating the Caribbean, they were turning themselves to the Mediterranean Sea, which – incidentally – has such a variety of natural and historical attractions, and such a favourable climate, as to be the very best you can think of for cruising. Unfortunately, all the boardroom plans were shattered by the Twin Tower tragedy (in that period, for instance, large companies had to cancel routes between America and Europe and reimburse passengers, because of the limited number of bookings) and now by the war on Iraq, which is having a significant impact..
Cruising plans are long-term by necessity, and companies are now finding themselves with capacities that had been designed during a boom period. The numerous ship launches that are taking place now are the result of this peculiarity, and a great amount of creativity will be necessary to fine a remedy to the current situation, which – let us not forget – is also seriously impacting on employment in our sector. Large companies that were planning to hire personnel have suspended (or cancelled?) their plans, and are now waiting to see how things will develop. Things are moving above all for those who have to launch new ships or actively propose new projects: among whom – fortunately for us – is the Italian restaurant industry, which is a trend setter very much in demand.
Translation of the Italian
editorial by Paola Praloran