Pictured: Arnold Donald, Carnival
Travel bans are an issue for a buoyant sector. Lucy Huxley reports from Fort Lauderdale, Florida
Industry chiefs flag up the threat posed by geopolitics
Closed borders and travel bans are the biggest threat to the cruise industry, the boss of Carnival Corporation has warned.
At the Seatrade Cruise Convention in Fort Lauderdale last week, industry chiefs agreed geopolitical events had the greatest influence on consumer demand and company performance.
Carnival chief executive Arnold Donald said: “If people aren’t allowed to travel to parts of the world, that will be a big problem for the industry. Hopefully it won’t happen, but it’s the one thing that keeps me awake at night.”
Donald added: “As an example, China temporarily imposed a travel ban to Korea recently. If the world shifts to a place of closed borders and people cannot travel, then we need to worry.
“There is increasing nationalism in so many places, but as long as countries around the world stay open to visitors then we, as an industry, will be fine.”
MSC chairman and chief executive Pierfrancesco Vago said: “The greatest threat to our industry comes from the geopolitical incidents that affect performance, consumer demand and financials.
“The solution is to have very flexible contingency plans, but we are still impacted by not being able to include certain destinations in our itineraries, such as Tunisia, Libya, Egypt and Turkey.”
Richard Fain, Royal Caribbean Cruise Lines chairman and chief executive, said geopolitical issues aside, the sector had never been in better shape.
“The industry seems to have found its groove. It’s exciting. We have done a much better job at communicating what the industry is about, and our new ships are ever-more attractive,” he said.
“We will never have a purely predictable year, but the general tone of the industry this year must be the most positive we’ve seen – and there is concerted action to do the right thing. So I’m sleeping pretty well right now.
“We’ve been expecting this for some time. Over the past few years things have held us back, but cruise has now taken hold.”
New ships cater to the growing demand for cruise
The global cruise industry has 74 new cruise ships on order between now and 2027, totalling $51 billion dollars.
Out of these, 71 will be built by European shipyards, although some orders are starting to go to new yards in Asia.
Of the ships on order, 23 are under 100,000 tonnes for the “expedition and luxury” segment; 45 are for ships of between 100,000 and 200,000 tonnes for “contemporary cruising”, and six are for
ships over 200,000 tonnes or “mega-ships”, according to MSC chairman and chief executive Pierfrancesco Vago.
Seatrade delegates heard how the global cruise industry will welcome more than 25.3 million passengers in 2017, all demanding greater personalisation.
Clia president Cindy D’Aoust told the audience the demand for cruising had jumped 62% in the past 10 years, and would add another 200,000 passengers to the sector over the next 10.
3D gives Celebrity the Edge
Inside a new Innovation Lab in the car park of parent company Royal Caribbean’s Miami offices, you can find everything from a virtual reality simulator to an app enabling X-ray vision through walls.
Sounds pretty futuristic, but it’s all designed to help Celebrity Cruises’ newest class of ship, the Edge Class, to be the first vessel entirely mapped out in 3D.
In some cases, the tech is almost too advanced either to use or to even know its applications yet, according to group chairman and chief executive Richard Fain.
Speaking as he showed off the X-ray vision app, Fain said: “We don’t always know what we’re going to do with the technology, but when we have something this cool, we know we’ll be able to do something brilliant with it.
“A decision will be made over the coming months, but we believe we can use it to provide a transformational experience for guests. Perhaps they will be able to look through walls into areas they can’t normally gain access to, like the bridge, galley or engine room.
“Or perhaps we’ll use it in our art galleries so guests can look ‘behind’ a painting or piece of art to learn about the artist. The potential is huge.”
Fain acknowledges that although the Innovation Lab has a 32ft ultra-high-definition screen, there is currently very little content available in ultra-high definition. However, he says there will be and that the screen gives the sharpest 3D view of anything currently available.
For Fain, the virtual reality simulator, built over three storeys with projectors on every side of the ‘box’, has been one of the biggest advances.
“In 30 years, I’ve never had an architect show me a bad drawing, because they always show me the best angle. This now democratises the whole process because we can see every single part of the ship from every vantage point that our guests will have, and it’s been really eye-opening,” he said.
“This is the first ship to be created entirely in 3D. We have all used 3D before – none of the tech is new – but we’ve put it together in a new and different way.”
The lab also has 3D printers that create scale models, refining the design to make the ship the most ‘outward-facing’ at sea.
“An outward-facing design was one of the guiding principles for Celebrity Edge,” according to Celebrity president Lisa Lutoff-Perlo. “Our drive has been to better connect our guests with the destinations they are sailing to, as well as the ocean.”
Hence what is normally referred to as the ‘pool deck’ is now called the ‘resort deck’, because the focus has been on creating a double-height vista of the ocean by removing the sundeck over the pool.
Also, sunbeds have been faced out to sea rather than inwards to the pool, and double-storey martini-glass Jacuzzis give a fantastic view over the sea.
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