European (and BRIC) Cruise Markets
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European (and BRIC) Cruise Markets

Last week saw the annual Seatrade conference taking place in Hamburg to catch up on recent developments in ocean and river cruising in Europe, of which there are plenty. TUI Cruises is the newcomer to the scene while Ocean Village is about to leave. Meanwhile, new ships continue to be delivered for the European market, primarily to Carnival Group companies but also to MSC. And despite a world recession, new brands are appearing for this market that now numbers 4.4 million cruisers a year and growing.

The European Cruise Market

The European cruise market has seen remarkable growth in recent years and continues to grow, with four countries accounting for 80% of its 4.4 million cruisers in 2008. The UK continued in the lead with 1,477,000, or a third of the market, followed by Germany with 907,000 (actually 1.3 million when river cruises are included), Italy with 682,000 and Spain with 497,000.

This market now accounts for more than a quarter (27%) of the world's 16.4 million cruisers, a number which has more than doubled in the past decade. North America accounts for 64% of the market and the rest of the world, including markets such as Australia, Brazil and China, the remaining 9%.

European Country and Port Benefits

In terms of overall spend, a recent study prepared by G P Wild International Ltd for the European Cruise Council indicates that cruising had a €14.2 billion impact in Europe in 2008, including €5.2 billion in shipbuilding and repair, €2.7 billion in cruise passenger spend and €1.1 billion in cruise industry payrolls. Italy, with its shipbuilding industry, was the largest recipient, with €4.3 billion (30%) followed by Germany, again an important cruise ship builder and repairer, €2.35 billion (16.5%) and the UK at €2.26 billion (15.9%).

In terms of employment, Italy benefits from 97,000 jobs, the UK from 49,000 and Germany from 41,970. The total of European jobs generated by the cruise industry is estimated at 311,500, of which 150,000 are direct employment, 55,000 with cruise lines and 50,000 in manufacturing, of which 37,000 are employed in shipyards.

UK ports have benefitted heavily from cruising, with Southampton now able to boast four cruise terminals, Dover two and various other ports, including Harwich and Tilbury as well as Liverpool, Newcastle, Hull and Greenock, benefitting from the growth of the cruise business. In Germany, Hamburg is now able to boast two cruise terminals while other ships leave from Bremerhaven, Cuxhaven and Kiel.

Major Italian cruise ports include Genoa, Savona, Livorno, Civitavecchia and Venice and Spanish embarkation ports include Barcelona, Palma de Mallorca, Malaga and Valencia. European cruise ship embarkations in 2008 numbered 4.7 million, with 75% of these being Europeans. Some 573,000 passengers boarded at Barcelona, 530,000 at Venice and 500,000 at Civitavecchia. Southampton came fourth with 485,000, followed by Savona with 309,000 and Palma with 300,000, with most of the latter being fly/cruise passengers from the UK and Germany.

Cruise Line Changes

The major changes in the European context this year, apart from the delivery of foru newbuildings AidaLuna to Aida, Costa Luminosa and Costa Pacifica to Costa and MSC Splendida to MSC, are new lines and operators. TUI Cruises' Mein Schiff is now in service in the German market and 2010 will see the introduction of Cruise & Maritime Voyages in the UK, and Celebrity basing its new Celebrity Eclipse in Southampton for an ex-UK program, as well as Voyages to Antiquity introducing a new upmarket product in the Mediterranean.
As well, the new Queen Elizabeth and Azura will enter service for Cunard and P&O, respectively, in 2010, while the AidaBlu, Costa Deliziosa and MSC Magnifica will enter service ion the Continent.

On the Mediterranean fly/cruise side, Ocean Village will be ending its operations out of Palma but Thomson will be expanding its own offerings with a ten-year charter of the Costa Europa, to be renamed Thomson Dream. And in the niche markets, All Leisure is reported to be seeking additional tonnage for Hebridean, Swan Hellenic and Voyages of Discovery.

BRIC Cruising

Much has been made of the term BRIC, representing the emerging economies of Brazil, Russia, India and China, and cruising development has also been taking place in these markets, most particularly in Brazil.

It is a little-known fact that the Brazilian cruising market is the equal of the burgeoning Spanish market. In 2008-09, for example, 520,000 cruisers left from Brazilian ports, including 445,000 Brazilians. This compares to a Spanish market count of 497,000 in 2008. During the 2009-10 season, 18 ships will be operating in the Brazilian market, offering over 900,000 berths.

As well as Costa and MSC, Pullmantur, and Louis send ships to Brazil during the Mediterranean winter to join other ships cruising for Holland America, Oceania, Princess and Royal Caribbean and the more upmarket ships of Crystal Cruises, Regent Seven Seas and Silversea Cruises. Royal Caribbean bases both the Splendour of the Seas and Vision of the Seas at Santos during the Brazilian season, which now lasts from October to May, while other ships come and go on cruises to and from Argentina, Chile and Florida.

In Russia, one might have expected to have cruise ships sailing from ports such as St Petersburg, Odessa and Vladivostok, but while more Russians have gone cruising, there is still no real Russian cruising fleet other than on its rivers. This is slightly surprising in a way as at one time the Soviet Union could boast the largest cruise fleet in the world, although much of it was admittedly aimed at raising much-needed hard currency in the west.

In India, Louis Cruise Lines last week announced that it will base its 1,200-berth Aquamarine in India starting this December, after her 2009 Aegean season. Based in Cochin, she will operate 3-night cruises Cochin-Maldives-Cochin and Cochin-Colombo-Cochin and well as 1-night cruises to nowhere.

Indian Ocean Cruise Line left the market last year and its 250-berth Ocean Odyssey, which operated between Goa and Cochin, has since been scrapped.

Star Cruises had also been active in the Indian market and has operated the Superstar Libra on short cruises from Mumbai to Goa in the past, while the newest addition is Aida, which will be turning some cruises at Cochin, as early as next month with the AidaCara.

In China, the growth has started, but the market is still a long way from being as developed as Brazil, or even Australia. Carnival Group member Costa Cruises was the first to enter the Chinese market in 2006 with its 1,000-berth Costa Allegra, adding the 1,697-berth Costa Classica just this April. Next June, the Costa Classica's sister ship Costa Romantica will replace the Costa Allegra, thus more than trebling the number of berths Costa operate in the Chinese market in not much more than one year.

Cruises leave Shanghai for Japan and Korea and from January 2010 from Hong Kong for Taiwan. Costa conducted three trial cruises to Taiwanese ports this spring. Other than Costa, a number of westen companies are also active in river cruising on the Yangtse River, but these are primarily aimed at incoming travellers.

News from Elsewhere

Meanwhile, the Alaska Cruise Association, representing Carnival Cruise Lines, Celebrity Cruises, Crystal Cruises, Holland America Line, Norwegian Cruise Line, Princess Cruises, Regent Seven Seas Cruises, Royal Caribbean International and Silversea Cruises, finally announced on Thursday that it was going to sue the State of Alaska over the subject of the Alaska head tax, or at least $46 of this $50 levy, claiming it is unconstitutional.

No longer able to make money on the Alaska route, Holland America, NCL, Princess and Royal Caribbean will reduce capacity to Alaska in 2010 by a total of 140,000 berths.

Meanwhile Crystal Cruises will return to Alaska in 2011, with the Crystal Symphony operating cruises from San Francisco, while Disney Cruise Line, on its first Alaska season, will introduce the Disney Wonder from Vancouver. Both these lines tend to be higher priced than the usual mass market lines.

(Source: By Mark Tré -

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