With the cruise industry in Far East Asia far outpacing growth of any other region in the world, more and more lines are opting to send their largest and finest ships there. Norwegian Cruise Line has announced their second Breakaway-Plus-class ship, Norwegian Bliss, which is due to launch in 2017, will mark the line’s entry into China. She will be joined alongside renowned Royal Caribbean ship Quantum of the Seas, as well as future Royal Caribbean ship Ovation of the Seas and Princess Cruises Majestic Princess.
Carnival Corporation, which currently owns ten different cruise brands, announced earlier this week that it would be sending Carnival Cruise Line and AIDA Cruises ships to China in 2017. This will be in addition to vessels from Costa Cruises and Princess Cruises, making Carnival Corporation the first cruising body to have four lines in the region.
These facts may speak for themselves about the level of growth of the cruise industry in China, but the question remains as to how this may affect capacity and passenger behaviours in the UK. Cruise Franchise takes a closer look at a range of statistics that may paint a picture of the foreseeable future for UK cruising.
In recent years, the UK cruise ship capacity has seen a substantial drop, which could possibly be accounted for as a result of major cruise lines deciding to operate ships away from traditional UK ports. Prior to 2014, the number of UK passengers embarking on a cruise increased steadily year on year. Last year saw this figure drop for the first time in over nine years*.
For the first time ever, there were more passengers on cruise ships in Germany than in the UK. Ships dedicated to a German market, such as Mein Schiff 3 and AIDAstella, appeal to the population and 2015 has seen further ships added to fleet of cruise ships in operating out of the country.
Another first for the industry has seen Asia emerge as the third highest continent in terms of passenger source region in 2015. This year will see a predicted 1,891,200 passengers embarking on cruises in Asia – more than any other nation in Europe**.
The UK has fought back though, with the introduction of two new ships in 2015 dedicated to a British market. Cruise and Maritime’s largest vessel, Magellan, and the largest vessel to ever be built for a UK market, P&O Cruises' Britannia, have both proven immensely popular with cruisers.
The growth of the Asia cruise market has been emphasised by leading figures of both Carnival Corporation and Royal Caribbean Cruises Ltd. Collectively, these firms hold some of the industry’s most renowned cruise lines. Carnival Corporation owns lines such as Princess Cruises, Holland America Line, P&O Cruises and Cunard; whilst Royal Caribbean Cruises Ltd. owns Royal Caribbean, Celebrity Cruises and Azamara Club Cruises.
Following the decision by Carnival Corporation to move Carnival and AIDA ships to China in 2017, Carnival president and CEO Arnold Donald stated: “We are at the very beginning of an industry, of building this market. In the long term, this will probably be the world’s largest cruise market.”
Adam Goldstein, president and CEO of Royal Caribbean Cruises Ltd. stated: "The Chinese love cruises and the market's growth rate is the fastest in the world… yet that is only a drop in the bucket in terms of total Chinese outbound travel, so we see much more potential."
The decrease in UK cruise capacity has resulted in passengers looking elsewhere when it comes to embarking on a holiday on the seas. The industry saw a 14% in Caribbean-fly-cruises for UK passengers between 2013 and 2014*.
It is also evident that more cruisers are heading to the rivers of Europe for cruises. Popularity in European rivers, particularly the Rhine and Danube, has increased exponentially year-on-year for the last five years. This could, however, be equated for by the rapid decline in popularity for rivers in other regions of the world such as the Nile – which has seen a decrease of 50,000 annual passengers between 2010 and 2014*.
Following the announcements of new cruise terminals being built, such as those in Greenwich and Hull, strides are being made to make cruising more accessible and better value than any other holiday option. This comes in addition to Fred. Olsen Cruise Lines offering a range of itineraries from terminals around the British Isles such as Newcastle, Glasgow and Belfast. Improving accessibility for cruise holidays may well open up the industry to first-time cruisers and untapped regions.
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* According to CLIA UK and Ireland Cruise Review 2014
** According to Cruise Market Watch