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CLIA Cruise Lines Ride Wave of Unprecedented Growth
The good news just keeps getting better for the 19 cruise lines and 16,500 travel agencies that are members of the Cruise Lines International Association (CLIA). Spurred by a strong upsurge in cruise travel, the tally for passengers choosing to sail last year surpassed -- by far -- all previous booking records. In all, a record 10.5 million people took a cruise in 2004, it was announced at the 20th annual Seatrade Cruise Shipping Convention. CLIA predicts just over 11 million travelers will cruise in 2005.
The numbers break down as follows: 8,870,901 North American passengers sailed on CLIA-member line ships in 2004, compared with 7,990,246 in 2003 -- which represents a year-to-year increase of 11 percent. In 2004 1,589,936 international passengers sailed on CLIA lines, compared with 1,536,714 in 2003.
"Bookings for 2005 are coming in at a fast and furious pace, far in advance of departure dates," said Terry L. Dale, President and CEO of CLIA -- the cruise industry's chief marketing organization and North America's largest travel industry association based on agency membership. "Many of the positive trends we saw emerging in January are becoming firmly entrenched. The booking window continues to narrow, consumer demand continues to rise, and travelers are flocking to more far-flung destinations like Europe and Asia."
Although there are more cruise departures and itineraries than ever before -- 68 vessels will have debuted between 2000 and the end of 2005 -- CLIA's member line ships are sailing at a remarkable 104 percent occupancy rate. Furthermore, CLIA-member lines report that the robust bookings generated during this year's Wave Season -- the period from January to March during which cruise lines capture their largest share of annual bookings -- is bringing record numbers of new passengers into the cruise fold.
"Bookings are so robust that some of our member agencies are scrambling to find staterooms on certain itineraries requested by their clients," Dale said. "While there are still exciting itineraries and a choice of staterooms available on many sailings, consumers should act fast." To ensure that passengers obtain the ship, stateroom and itinerary of their choice, Dale suggests travelers book at least six months in advance. Booking further out also entitles consumers to attractive early booking opportunities typically unavailable to cruise guests who reserve space closer in to sailing dates.
Travelers are flocking to Europe in droves -- and choosing to cruise to insulate themselves from the sticker-shock of European land vacations. Cruise vacationers in Europe pre-pay in U.S. dollars, which protects them from the effects of the weak dollar abroad. In fact, the high cost of the euro against the U.S. dollar, coupled with extraordinary early booking opportunities, is transforming 2005 into a banner year for cruising in Europe.
Cruise vacations offer the travel industry's greatest inherent value. One price covers everything -- accommodations, all meals, snacks and entertainment. Furthermore, CLIA cruise lines constantly up the ante on features and amenities. Today's ships have cutting-edge facilities that equal or surpass those found at the best land-based resorts. Guests can revel in a host of cutting-edge nightclubs and discos, find tranquility in state-of-the art spas, or gaze at the stars while watching a movie on a 300-square foot poolside screen. CLIA member line ships feature multiple dining venues and unlimited activities - from ice-skating to acting classes to scuba diving. All the while, cruise guests have the opportunity to travel to ports across the globe.
Since CLIA's inception in 1975 the number of North American "homeports" -- cities from which cruise ships offer regular departures -- has nearly tripled. Vacationers now have a staggering 30 homeports from which to choose because CLIA's member cruise lines recognized North Americans' desire for departure ports within driving distance, which eliminate the expense and hassle of flying and reduce the overall price of a cruise.
CLIA Celebrates 30 Years of Excellence
The Cruise Lines International Association (CLIA) is marking its 30th anniversary this year - and there's plenty to celebrate. To wit: cruise vacations have reached a level of popularity few industry observers believed was possible 30 years ago.
Thanks to the joint efforts of CLIA's 19 member cruise lines and 16,500 member travel agencies, 10.6 million people are expected to sail in 2004 - the industry's highest-ever total - and 30 million Americans expressed an intent to cruise within the next three years (according to CLIA research commissioned in June, 2004).
Although much has changed since CLIA's founding in 1975, the goal remains the same: to generate new cruisers by promoting the value and benefits of cruise vacations and by supporting the travel agents who are the primary sellers of cruises. In fact, CLIA was formed by approval of the U.S. Federal Maritime Commission (FMC) in response to that very need. The association became the cruise industry's pre-eminent marketing organization of in 1984 when the FMC consolidated other industry organizations into CLIA.
CLIA has consistently communicated the benefits of cruising, and vacationers have responded: since 1980, cruise guest totals have grown at an 8.4 percent annual rate, with an average of 50 percent of those guests representing new vacationers. In recognition of these successes and many others, CLIA is conducting a year-long celebration of leisure cruising that includes a number of new marketing, agent-training and promotional activities.
"CLIA and the cruise industry have come a long way since the association's inception in 1975," said CLIA President and CEO Terry L. Dale. "In this anniversary year, CLIA will pay tribute to the cruise sellers and operators whose partnership has driven our present-day success. At the same time, we will define our goals for the future."
Industry Predicts Cruising
Leisure cruising will continue to ride a wave of unprecedented passenger growth and popularity in 2005 buoyed by strong customer demand, an emphasis on ship introductions and innovations, more U.S. homeport availability, a renewed demand for exotic ports, plus strong brand marketing and attention to quality and service standards, predicts the Cruise Lines International Association (CLIA).
According to CLIA, the cruise industry's chief marketing organization, comprising 19 leading cruise lines with more than 150 ships and 16,500 member travel agencies, 2004 was a banner year for the cruise industry in terms of newbuilds and passenger growth. Last year CLIA cruise lines capped a record- setting, five-year building boom that introduced 62 new ships to the North American market. Although in 2005 capacity growth will be reduced compared with previous years, in the long run, cruising's building boom will continue, as several CLIA lines are planning new vessels for 2006 and beyond.
With the new ships have come a new generation of guests. When the numbers are tallied, CLIA expects more than 10.6 million people will have sailed on its member-line ships in 2004, including approximately 9 million from North America -- the industry's highest-ever total -- with 30 million predicted within the next three years. Moreover, during the past 15 years, guest totals climbed by an average of 8 percent each year, and in recent years as much as 15 percent, with 2004 growth expected to be at least 11 percent.
In 2004 12 new or reintroduced ships were added to the CLIA member line fleet. In 2005, there will be six. With fewer ship introductions, all signs indicate that, with continued demand, and the decrease in capacity introduced, travelers wishing to cruise will need to plan earlier and act fast to secure their cabin preference at today's cruise fares. CLIA-member cruise lines and travel agencies report that, unlike the last several years, post 9/11, when passengers booked cruises at the last minute, as late as 30 days prior to sailing, many are now making reservations three to six months prior to departure -- and even longer for luxury and exotic itineraries. Vacationers will likely find it more important than ever to book their cruise early in 2005, and also benefit from an array of early booking incentives.
Responding to consumer demand for closer-to-home vacations over the last several years, the cruise lines responded by moving ships within driving distance of more customers. These "homeport" cruise itineraries drive down the total cost of taking a cruise (by about $500), and also make cruising more convenient and accessible. This year, CLIA ships will sail from more than 30 North American and U.S. territory ports, from Mobile, Ala., to Galveston, Tex., to San Diego, Calif.
With the homeport phenomenon firmly entrenched, cruise lines are enhancing traditional itineraries with new and exciting destinations -- including 15- plus-day cruises out of North American ports that sail to South America, and 10-plus-day voyages that explore the lesser-known islands of the deep southern Caribbean. These complement the popular Eastern and Western Caribbean programs.
CLIA-member lines offer cruise guests 1,800 worldwide ports of call, and those ports beyond North American waters are again in heavy demand -- with some ships offering 50- to 100-plus day world cruises to exotic locations. All factors also point to a decidedly exceptional cruise season in Europe, with advance bookings coming in at a fast and furious pace.
Because the dollar is in decline against other international currencies, particularly the euro (by as much as 30 percent), vacationers cruising in Europe will realize significant savings because they prepay for their accommodations, dining and entertainment in U.S. dollars rather than paying separately for these costs, as on a land-based tour.
Exotic destinations including the entire Pacific-Asia region plus Antarctica, South America and even the Middle East are also poised for growth as increasing numbers of CLIA lines incorporate these regions into their itineraries.
Although multi-generational and family cruising has always been supremely popular, this travel segment is soaring to new heights as families place a stronger emphasis on spending quality time together. Cruise ships, which offer activities and amenities for every age group, are an ideal environment for multigenerational family vacations.
CLIA estimates that more than 1 million children under the age of 18 sailed on CLIA's member line ships in 2004. This trend is expected to accelerate in 2005 and beyond, as cruise lines continue to add amenities and activities for the whole family -- from toddlers to grandparents. Virtually all lines feature extensive, highly supervised children's programs where kids are placed in age-appropriate groups. Teen lounges, video arcades, computer learning centers, toddlers' play areas as even special shore excursions for children are all a part of the mix.
"At the end of the day," said Dale, "CLIA's 19 member lines can virtually guarantee that there's a cruise that's tailor-made for virtually any type of traveler -- and that's one of the many very important reasons 2005 will be another stellar year for the cruise industry."
Single at Sea: 5 Tips for the Solo Cruiser
Whether the aim is adventure, camaraderie or romance, sailing solo continues to grow in popularity. According to Cruise Lines International Association (CLIA), as many as 15 percent more singles are sailing this year over last.
"Independent cruisers get to meet fellow travelers from around the world," said Travelers Advantage Vice President Julia Ryan. "Many single cruisers become lifelong friends, some become more. Some solo cruisers even make such fast friends, they begin to plan their next cruise together, before they even disembark." Here are five tips for solo cruisers:
Cruising Suits Lifestyle, Demands
Today's retirees are more fit, more adventurous and have more time to spare than their predecessors. In their quest for ways to enrich their lives, members of this mature segment of society are discovering that cruises offered by the members of the Cruise Lines International Association (CLIA) are ideally suited for this new phase of their lives.
Members of this growing segment of society -- the Census Bureau projects that by 2007 the number of Americans age 55 and older will grow six times faster than the rest of the population -- tend to be vibrant, active adults, many of whom have retired early, are very health- and fitness-conscious, and want to make the most of their retirement years. They have the time, the ability and the desire to do things they have always wanted to do, whether it is visiting a far-off land, learning a new skill or trying something "adventurous."
"Retirees are not merely observers; they are participants -- whether they are exploring Alaska by helicopter or taking an in-depth sightseeing tour of the landmarks of ancient Rome," says Terry L. Dale, president and CEO of CLIA, the North American cruise industry's non-profit marketing and training organization which represents 19 cruise lines and 16,000 travel agencies. "The traditional view of retirement has changed and the cruise industry provides numerous exciting options for these new retirees."
"Because many of these individuals have worked many years and saved a lifetime for their retirement, they are very aware of the need to spend their money wisely. That's why a cruise is a great option," adds Dale. "When you compare the cost of a seven-day cruise to a less-inclusive seven-day land option, you likely will find the cruise is less expensive. Many of the items that would be 'extras' on a typical vacation -- such as Broadway-style entertainment, meals, snacks, transportation, enrichment classes and other activities -- are generally included in the cost of a cruise."
In addition to the value, cruise lines offer options that make a cruise a perfect fit for retirees. The health-conscious traveler will appreciate the healthy dining options and fitness programs that are tailored to individual ability levels. Those who have a "to do" list for their retirement years can accomplish a great deal during one cruise. With more than 1,800 ports of call in the world from which to choose, a cruise provides the thrill of exploring new places. Shore excursions and pre- and post-cruise packages enable guests to do in-depth sightseeing in some of the world's most exciting and interesting locales.
Onboard enrichment programs allow them to expand their knowledge of such subjects as computers, art, music, politics, literature or take an in-depth look at the destinations they are visiting. The cruise lines also offer opportunities for guests to be adventurous - from very active to "soft" adventure and everything in between. They can choose to engage in active pursuits or relax. They can also try something new, whether it's an activity, a fitness program or even a culinary experience.
"With the 19 CLIA-member cruise lines, the CLIA fleet of nearly 150 ships, the more than 1,800 worldwide destinations visited by cruise ships and the ever-expanding list of amenities available to travelers, it is important that travelers find the cruise that is right for them," says Dale. "The easiest way is to contact a travel agency that is a member of CLIA. By matching consumers with the cruise that is best for them, CLIA agents help ensure they don't come home disappointed."
Cruise Vacation Offers Something for All the Family
Recognizing the importance of "family time" and the need for consumers to make the most of their travel dollars, the Cruise Lines International Association (CLIA) member lines offers amenities and activities that make cruising the ideal family-friendly vacation. It's no wonder that nearly 1 million children sailed aboard CLIA ships last year.
"Cruises treat both kids and adults like VIPs," says Terry L. Dale, CLIA's president and CEO. "Because a cruise vacation has something for all ages, it is no surprise that multi-generational groups are one of the fastest-growing segments of the cruise market. The all-inclusive nature -- plus special children's pricing that may be available -- make a cruise a great value, particularly as rising gas prices increase the cost of road trips," says Dale.
To ensure that Mom and Dad enjoy their vacation without worrying about the youngsters, the lines have developed activities tailored to the interests of each age group. Activities, including treasure hunts, crafts, movies and parties, are under the direction of highly trained counselors who ensure the children are in a safe and secure environment. Even teens find plenty to enjoy in their own "clubs."
Plus, with more ships departing from ports within driving distance of many North Americans, cruising is more accessible. Following is a sampling of family-friendly programs available from CLIA member-lines:
Europe/Mediterranean Continues to be a Top Cruise Destination
More than ever, North Americans are finding cruise ships are the way to visit Europe. As the current strong Euro makes land vacation options more expensive, cruising in Europe this year is great value and a great way to discover the history, mystery and romance of Europe and the Mediterranean.
"Cruising has always been dollar for dollar the best value in European travel and that's even more obvious this year," says Terry L. Dale, president and CEO of Cruise Lines International Association (CLIA), the non-profit marketing and training association representing the North American cruise industry and nearly 16,000 travel agencies. "It is clear that people still like to travel to Europe; in fact, the region continues to be the second most popular cruise destination, behind the Caribbean."
"Cruises in the Europe/Mediterranean region enable travelers to visit several historic destinations within one vacation, without having to re-pack their suitcases each night or worry about how or when they are going to get to the next city," says Dale. With so many magnificent cities and historic landmarks to experience, cruise passengers have the added convenience of being able to return from their daily explorations to a luxurious ship, from which they can view spectacular landscapes as they set sail to their next destination.
"A cruise to Europe can be a trip back in time, as passengers visit the roots of civilization in ancient Rome, take a soft-adventure expedition along Europe's northern-most fjords or step on the beaches of Normandy on the anniversary of D-Day," says Dale. "It is a wonderful way to absorb the various cultures on shore excursions that enable you to mingle with the locals or attend the Grand Prix of Monaco, the Cannes Film Festival, a Russian ballet or the continent's greatest museums."
And for those who want to extend their stays, cruise lines offer numerous opportunities for pre- and post-cruise experiences.
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