Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Cruises Go Global

You're probably thinking the "headline" above is pretty obvious—cruise ships have been circling the globe for decades. There are more World Cruises to choose from today than ever before. However, that's not what I mean. In terms of cruise vacations, Americans often think of themselves as the center of the universe. No offense, but we're not the only ones cruising the oceans. The greatest explorers in history were Europeans and, once again, Europeans are going to sea in growing numbers. No longer do the European fleets consist of aging liners and cruise ships past their prime—their ships are now every bit as fabulous as those Americans are accustomed to. Some are even more so!

While European fleets are growing as citizens there discover the pleasures of cruise travel, the announcement by Royal Caribbean Cruise Lines that they are opening not one, but two, offices in China highlights the growing importance of the China marketplace and its role in the company's international growth strategy.

Don't overlook the Middle East, either. It's not a long flight from most of Europe and the destinations are appealing and warm. With Royal Caribbean Intl’s Brilliance of the Seas homeporting in Dubai from Jan 2010, there will be at least four ships offering Arabian Gulf itineraries during next winter’s season with more on the way. In fact, Costa Cruises, Italy and Europe's number one cruise line, just announced yesterday that it will position the new 92,700-ton Costa Luminosa (2,260 double occupancy capacity) in Dubai for the 2009-2010 winter cruise season in addition to fleetmates, Costa Classica and Costa Victoria. German cruise line AIDA Cruises will almost double its cruise capacity there with the deployment of the AIDAdiva, the largest ship in the AIDA fleet.

With the Caribbean on our doorstep, we Americans don't have to worry about the cruise lines sailing off and deserting us for calmer seas. Yet, we might want to consider looking to the horizon and some unique opportunities in the future. Although not all worldwide cruises are marketed here at home, some itineraries are available to book that offer the chance to meet fellow international travelers if we are willing to get out of our comfort zone. The on board vibe will be different—even the food, currency, and language might be foreign to us—but such a cruise could be the experience of a lifetime.

For details on the items referenced above, as well as other up-to-date cruise industry news releases, check's daily Cruise News.

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