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The evolution & future of the cruise industry

Written & researched by Jane Archer & Raphael Giacardi

Join the conversation on Twitter: #cruise

Over the past 150 years, the shipping industry has had to reinvent itself several times. Ocean travel started as a means to service the needs of empire. By the early 20th century, it had captured the hearts of the rich and famous as shipping lines built ever more glamorous vessels. As they travelled in first-class luxury, below decks millions of immigrants were given the opportunity to start new lives in countries around the globe.

At the Cruise Lines International Association's UK & Ireland Selling Cruise Convention in Southampton in May, Larry Pimentel, Azamara Club Cruises, President and Chief Executive Officer, told the audience:

My Portuguese grandparents immigrated to the US via Hawaii and took a Cunard vessel for part of the passage. Many years later I became President and Chief Executive Officer of Cunard.

The heyday of the ocean liner ended in the 1950s, when air travel made it possible to fly around the world in a fraction of the time it took to travel by sea. Well, almost. Cunard, an early pioneer of transatlantic crossings, still sails between Southampton and New York, selling the glamorous image to reel in bookings.

Other shipping companies came up with the idea of a cruise holiday -- going on a ship for two weeks or more for pleasure rather than as a means of transport, and the rest, as they say, is history. Over time new companies launched to cash in on the craze, which appealed mainly to wealthy retirees with time on their hands.

But by 1992, cruising was still very much a niche holiday in the UK. Just 273,000 Britons went on a cruise, which was seen as expensive, boring and for old people.

By 2002, following the much-hyped launch of bigger ships with rock-climbing walls and ice-skating rinks, perceptions started to change, and the number of bookings crept up to 940,000. In 2012, the number was 1.701 million.

Mori/Mintel Research in 2012 suggested that 17.5 million people in the UK are considering cruising. That is 10 times the current market, so there is still huge potential for growth -- Nathan Philpot, Fred. Olsen Cruise Lines, Sales and Marketing Director

Over that same period,ships have mushroomed in size, from vessels that hold a few hundred passengers to those with capacity for several thousand. Royal Caribbean International's Oasis of the Seas, launched in 2009 (and was joined by sister ship Allure of the Seas in 2010), tops the charts as the world's biggest cruise ship with capacity for more than 6000 people.

Where are we now?

Worldwide passengers and capacity

  • Total cruise capacity by the end of 2013 = 438,595 passengers
  • 3% growth forecast 2013 vs 2012
  • 283 cruise ships by the end of 2013
  • 20.9 million passengers forecast by the end of 2013
  • Cruise industry worth = $36.2 billion

Source: Cruise Market Watch

The top four cruise lines

  • Carnival Corporation -- 10 cruise brands/103 ships
  • Royal Caribbean Cruises -- 5 cruise brands/40 ships
  • MSC Cruises - 13 ships
  • Norwegian Cruise Line -- 12 ships

Source: Cruise Market Watch

UK passengers and trends 2012

  • 1,701,000 total UK cruise passengers
  • Average age of 56.1
  • 36% are first-time cruisers
  • One in eight package holidays taken is a cruise
  • 807,000 people take a cruise from the UK
  • 894,000 people take a flycruise
  • Value of cruise industry to the UK -- £2.5bn
  • 66,000 people employed in UK cruise industry

Source: Cruise Line International Association

Globally, passenger numbers have increased to 21 million and are on track to hit 30 million within the next 12 years -- David Dingle, Carnival UK, CEO

See other parts of this article:

2014 view on cruise industry booking patterns from 2012

Cruising from the UK

The challenges of cruising

Into the future of the cruise industry

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Tips by

Deal Expert, London
Thursday, 9 January 2014
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Raphael Giacardi