The overall theme was “building business back,” and it was noted more than two million passengers have cruised since the restart in August.
It’s expected that ships will be at 80 percent capacity by the end of the year, with 120 ships sailing, providing more than 1.2 million jobs.
MIAMI BEACH, Fla._The banner hanging above the Seatrade entrance at the Miami Beach Convention Center said it all: “It’s Great to Be Back!”
It’s been two years since the cruise industry gathered here in person, and there was a definite joy in the air from seeing old friends and colleagues again.
Even so, this 35th edition of Seatrade was a markedly different experience: Pre-registration health questionnaires, uploading your proof of vaccination and temperature checks on entry — all part of the new COVID world order.
Show officials estimated attendance at around 2,000 — some 10,000 less than last time around. And the giant exhibit floor, normally packed wall-to-wall, was maybe half full. But the show did go on, and we were grateful it did.
The most anticipated session was the Tuesday keynote on “The State of the Cruise Industry.” Panelists included Arnold Donald, president and CEO of Carnival, Richard Fain, chairman and CEO of Royal Caribbean, Pierfrancesco Vago, executive chairman of MSC and Kelly Craighead, president and CEO of the Cruise Lines International Association (CLIA). It was moderated by CNBC’s Global Markets Reporter, Seema Mody.
The overall theme was “building business back,” and it was noted more than two million passengers have cruised since the restart in August. It’s expected that ships will be at 80 percent capacity by the end of the year, with 120 ships sailing, providing more than 1.2 million jobs.
And it’s not just return travelers. Donald noted they are seeing a lot of first time cruisers, with Millennials overindexing on choosing cruise vacations.
The panel was asked what they thought about the new competitors, like Virgin Voyages, entering the market. They all welcomed it. “New players are a benefit,” said Fain. He cited Disney, which increased demand 10 percent across the board after they launched. Donald added, “In 2019, 30 million people cruised, out of a potential 500 million who take vacations.” It’s more about creating awareness that cruising is “an amazing vacation experience.”
Of course, the panelists were asked about the impact of COVID, and Fain talked about creating an environment “where people can feel safe and enjoy their vacation.” The overall message is the cruise lines all have robust protocols in place.
What about the future? Addressing environmental concerns was a big topic of discussion, with more ships powered by LNG (liquified natural gas) and goals set to reduce carbon emissions. MSC’s Vago talked about how they are planning for what people want in a cruise 10 years from now while Fain said their focus remains on innovation.
More than anything, panelists talked about the excitement among both guests and ship personnel for the return of cruising. “Guest satisfaction is amazing,” said Fain, while crew members’ excitement has reached “a new level.”
We can only hope those trends continue into 2022.
Cover photo: “State of the Global Cruise Industry” keynote at Seatrade