Saturday, August 4, 2007

The Caribbean Cruiser... what's up?

Recently I read an article in a well-known national newspaper that suggested the Caribbean is losing its appeal for cruisers. Envision the Cruise Diva's surprise, especially since the first edition of her Fodor's guidebook, The Complete Guide to Caribbean Cruises went into a second printing and a new, revised edition will be on bookstore shelves soon. Someone is interested in Caribbean cruising!

Further, according to statistics from the Cruise Lines International Association, the Caribbean is the most sought-after cruise destination by far, with the region featured on roughly half of all itineraries of North American cruise operators.

So, it was no surprise to hear that Princess Cruises plans to position seven Princess ships to explore all corners of the Caribbean in 2008-2009.

According to Jan Swartz, Princess' senior vice president of customer service and sales, "We've found both first-timers and long-time cruisers love to travel with Princess in the Caribbean." She adds, "Our wealth of itinerary options offers even the most experienced cruisers new Caribbean destinations, particularly on our longer voyages. Combined with our amenity-filled ships, Princess offers perfect escapes to the world's most popular destinations."

In addition, when the new Carnival Freedom begins its winter schedule of seven-day Caribbean cruises from Miami this coming November, it will further bolster Carnival Cruise Lines' industry-leading and record-breaking 2007 Caribbean cruise season during which the line will carry an unprecedented 2.9 million passengers within the region - the most in its 35-year history.

In 2007, Carnival will have deployed 18 ships in the Caribbean with 14 of those offering year-round service. Overall, upwards of 1,150 three- to eight-day cruises will be operated by Carnival, which is the only cruise line to offer the option of departing from 12 convenient U.S. homeports.

"The Caribbean offers everything that consumers want in a vacation - picture perfect weather, gracious hospitality, unique sightseeing experiences, great shopping and, of course, gorgeous beaches," said Vicki Freed, Carnival's senior vice president of sales and marketing. "But there's more to the Caribbean than great beaches - this is one of the most culturally diverse regions in the world, with a rich history dating back centuries, magnificent architecture, and historical attractions and landmarks," she added.

According to Freed, while Caribbean demand the past year or so has been impacted by unfavorable economic factors affecting consumers' discretionary purchasing, it was clearly part of a cyclical trend that the industry has seen many times in the past. "Bookings for the second half of 2007 and early 2008 have shown much stronger fundamental demand and the trend we were previously observing clearly was not a reflection of the Caribbean's popularity or desirability," said Freed. "Consumers are unquestionably responding well to the strong value appeal inherent in a cruise vacation versus other vacation options," she added.

"Many of our other guest metrics also point to the strength of Carnival's Caribbean cruise product, with guest satisfaction levels remaining at exceptionally high historical levels including very favorable guest feedback on Caribbean destinations," said Freed.

So, what does all this mean? Well, to my way of thinking, there's nothing wrong with the allure of Caribbean cruising. And you can't believe everything you read in the newspaper (unless it's in the comics section).

For details on the above news items, see Cruise News From