Seatrade Cruise Global: Optimism Running High in the Cruise Industry and for Cruise Travelers

The cruise industry and cruise travel is booming. For further evidence, consider the just-concluded conference in Miami Beach, where over 11,000 people from 120 countries came together for four days.

With the pandemic firmly in the rear-view mirror, optimism ran high as over 600 exhibitors showcased the latest in tourism, technology and innovative new products.


This is the 39th edition of the conference, the 29th held in Miami Beach, and, as usually the case, the highlight was the “State of the Global Cruise Industry” keynote, featuring Josh Weinstein, President, CEO & Chief Climate Officer for the Carnival Corp., Kelly Craighead, President & CEO of the Cruise Lines International Association (CLIA), Pierfrancesco Vago, Executive Chairman Cruise Division of MSC Group, Harry J. Sommer, President & CEO for Norwegian Cruise Lines, Jason Liberty, President & CEO of Royal Caribbean Group and moderator Anne Kalosh, Editor of Seatrade Cruise News.

Ms. Craighead started by pointing out a record number of people took a cruise vacation in 2023 — almost 32 million, which beat the previous record set in 2019 by two million. The outlook for 2024 is projected to be 34 million, and in 2025, 36 million, she said.

More stats: Currently, she said there are 300 ships in service, and 56 new ships planned by 2028, with the average age of a guest is 46.

Sustainability and efficiency continue as major points of emphasis, with an industry goal of net zero emissions by 2050. Ports that offer shore power have hit 46 percent, a number that’s projected to grow to 72 percent by 2028.

Carnival’s Weinstein told a standing room-only audience the cruise line is experiencing “unprecedented demand,” with 2024 shaping up to be a record year and 2025 bookings already ahead of 2024. “This is natural demand,” he pointed out, saying the pent-up urge to travel following the pandemic is over.

That was echoed by NCL’s Sommer, who said “new products are delivering exceptional excitement” and the cruise industry as a whole is “on the cusp of greatness.”

This year’s show also saw the second edition of F&B@Sea, showcasing the latest trends in food and beverage. After a “hugely successful debut in 2023,” it had an expanded presence  at the Mana Wynwood Convention Center in Miami’s Wynwood arts district.

Alongside the mixologists and food vendors, conference-goers got to see some of the industry’s newest technology, including a robotic sushi-making machine. And if you looked in the right place, you could find “The Hideaway,” a speakeasy sponsored by Bacardi hidden behind curtains. Once there, you might not want to leave.

The inaugural F&B@Sea Awards, “recognizing excellence and innovation within the global cruise industry,” were also announced. They included, Best Beverage Program: Royal Caribbean International’s Icon of the Seas, Best Restaurant: Crystal Cruises’ Umi Uma and F&B Maverick of the Year: Rudi Sodamin — Princess Cruises.

Photos credit Gerry Barker

  • A packed house listened to the keynote (cover photo)
  • A robotic sushi-making machine
  • The booth that featured “The Hideaway”

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