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The Effects of Cruising on Europe - Norwegian Epic Debuts - Croisières de France to sell Brazil winter program and the Sovereign in 2011

by Mark Tre' - "The Cruise Examiner"

Having encountered Costa Concordia, Costa Pacifica and Costa Allegra (working for Paquet), MSC Fantasia and MSC Splendida, Louis Majesty, Thomson Dream, Insignia, Bleu de France and Le Levant on a western Mediterranean islands cruise last week, The Cruise Examiner thought now would be a good time to look at the effects of cruising on Europe.
We also have a look at new plans for Croisières de France and initial news on the Norwegian Epic's introduction.


Cruise Industry Has Major Impact on Europe

The numbers of passengers cruising in Europe was outlined in a report last year by G P Wild and Business Research & Economic Advisors that was prepared for the European Cruise Council. The numbers for 2008 have since been updated by the 2009 figures issued by the Council:

These numbers compare to more than 10,000,000 North Americans who now cruise annually, but in a market that is mature and is growing more slowly. Europe is beyond doubt seeing major changes in cruising, in that it builds most cruise ships, produced today, in Italy, France, Germany and Finland, and most of their parts and components as well. But cruising is also having a major impact as European passenger numbers grow while the number of American-based cruise ships sailing in Europe also grows.

Of the Europeans who took a cruise in 2009, some 2,873,000 (or 58% of the total) cruised the Mediterranean and the Atlantic Isles, 1,206,000 (or 24%) the Caribbean etc and 866,000 (or 18%) Northern Europe.

In order of market penetration the UK is the highest, with 23.5 per 1,000 of population, followed by Spain (14.5), Italy (13.8), Germany (12.5) and France at the bottom with only 5.6 of each 1,000 of population taking a cruise. Even landlocked Switzerland and Austria (at about 10 each) exceed penetration in the highly undeveloped French market, by almost double, but the Benelux countries (at 4) still perform worse, even with Rotterdam sailings by the Holland America Line. Spain did have a hiccup in 2008, when the market there actually contracted, however, from 518,000 to 497,000 before recovering in 2009.

There are some other interesting statistics too. For instance, Costa Cruises of Genoa is about to exceed 2,000,000 guests per annum with its own 16 ships but Italy's own market is only about 800,000 passengers, meaning that Costa is getting well in excess of half its own business from other markets, despite competition by MSC Cruises from Naples, with 11 ships of its own.

Equally, yesterday the Croisières de France's Bleu de France was berthed astern of Croisère Paquet's Costa Allegra in Marseilles yesterday while Compagnie du Ponant has just introduced its own Le Boréale, meaning three French operators are now operating ships in excess of 10,000 gross tons for the first time in many years. Whether they will succeed in raising the French market to something near 1,000,000 passengers, or triple its present size, remains to be seen, but while Germany has traditionally been the world's largest outgoing tourist market, along with the Americans, France has traditionally been the world's largest incoming tourist market. France comes third in cruising, however, after Germany and the UK.

And in the UK the market continues to grow apace, with three major new new ships coming into the market this year - Celebrity's Celebrity Eclipse, P&O's Azura and Cunard Line's new Queen Elizabeth, all to be dedicated to the UK market for at least part of the year, the former built in Germany and the latter two in Italy. Disney Cruise Line and Holland America Line will also be running programs from Dover, even though that port will soon be losing both NCL this year and MSC next year.

Germany of course continues with its fleet of Italian-registered Aida trips and TUI Cruises will add Mein Schiff 2 in 2011, adding to product offerings from Delphin, Hanseatic, Hapag-Lloyd, Peter Deilmann, Phoenix, Sea Cloud and Transocean.

Finally, let us look at the impact on ports. Barcelona has now become by far the largest base port for cruise ships in Europe, with 2,070,000 passengers in 2008. Next came Rome's port of Civitavecchia with 1,819,000, and Venice with an estimated 1,250,000, while Athens' port of Piraeus took about the same number. Still in the Mediterranean ports, Palma de Mallorca handled 1,131,000, Costa's home port of Savona 772,000 and Genoa 548,000, having lost more than half its business to Savona.

The first port in the largest European market, i.e. The UK, was Southampton, with 971,000 passengers, while Copenhagen, with 556,000 passengers, for the first time exceeded the count at Genoa. Dover, meanwhile followed with 273,000 passengers, Amsterdam with 226,000 and Kiel with 222,000.

By port of embarkation, Italy led with 1,682,000 passengers (36% of the market) and Spain took second place with 1,038,000 (22%). The UK followed with 724,000 (15%) and Greece took up a poor fourth place with 472,000 passengers, or just 10% of the market.


Croisières de France Announces 2011 Program

The French-registered Croisères de France has recently announced its forward program for the Bleu de France, which is now in her third Mediterranean season. This winter, she will operate 7-night cruises from Brazil and for the first time, CDF will sell into its own ship rather than just charter her to Brazilian operators. This winter program will replace the Caribbean one operated by Bleu de France in 2009 and a part share in Pacific Dream in 2010. An intended CDF 2011 Caribbean program in Ocean Dream has therefore been dropped.

Next spring, while the Bleu de France is still in Brazil, CDF will sell into a part share on Pullmantur's Sovereign, which was the largest cruise ship min the world when she was introduced in 1987.Other news has Croisières de France introduing a second ship in 2011. Whether that would indeed be a second ship or a replacement for the Bleu de France may not yet have been decided.

Norwegian Epic Makes her Debut

No sooner had Norwegian Cruise Line's new 4,200-passenger Nowegian Epic left the shipyard at St Nazaire, where she had become the largest ship ever built by that yard, than rumours started to circulate that Bernard Meyer of the Meyer Werft shipyard in Papenburg was on board discussing with NCL executives what the design of future NCL ships might be. Simultaneously, NCL chief executive Kevin Sheehan announced that no more F3 class ships such as the Norwegian Epic would be built. She will this become a once-only ship with no sister ships.

The acrimony that resulted from the dispute between NCL and the French shipyard now known as STX (earlier Akers) will probably also mean that STX is unlikley to build any more NCL ships and that Meyer Werft, who have built the majority of the NCL "Freestye Cruising" fleet may well see NCL's next order.

This would follow Regent Seven Seas, who left the French yard after difficulties with the Seven Seas Mariner to order the Seven Seas Voyager from the Mariotti yard in Italy. One of the things Regent got from this was single corridors on the Voyager compared to double corridors on the Mariner, which Regent dod not really want because of its large stateroom and particularly bathroom sizes.

Meanwhile, as the Norwegian Epic crosses from Southampton to New York, initial reports from journalists and travel agents who have seen the ship report on her many entertainment venues and their quality. We shall wait to hear the full story when she arrives in New York, where she is due to be commissioned by a relatively unknown (unknown in Europe anyway) country and western singer.

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