Carnival CEO Gerry Cahill acknowledges the importance of Alaska and Europe, but he also wants to remind the trade that the Caribbean region will remain the preeminent North American cruise destination for 2011. “Our deployment of 19 ships there is a testament to the region’s exceptional appeal as a vacation destination,” he told Cruise Week.
The debuts of Royal Caribbean’s Allure of the Seas and NCL’s Norwegian Epic – with a combined lower-berth guest count of nearly 10,000 – will significantly add to deployment numbers in the Caribbean in 2011. But Carnival will remain king of the Caribbean with a whopping 1,225 2011 sailings carrying about 3.5 million pax.
Overall, Carnival will use 13 North American homeports for Caribbean cruises, eleven of them year-round, while New York and Norfolk will be seasonal. Deployment changes are few and mostly in the short cruise market: Carnival Elation will replace Carnival Fantasy in Mobile for four/five-day Western Caribbean cruises in May; Carnival Fantasy will be redeployed to Charleston to operate that port’s first year-round cruise schedule (five/six-day Bahamas/Key West cruises).
NCL will carry close to 800,000 passengers through Caribbean waters next year (30% on three/four-day sailings) or about 20% of Carnival’s total. The line is making several deployment changes however. Norwegian Epic won’t return to the Caribbean in summer 2011, heading instead for Europe before returning to the Caribbean in fall. Beginning in April, Norwegian Spirit will sail year-round to the Western Caribbean out of New Orleans. In October, 2011, Norwegian Star will be redeployed to the Western Caribbean out of Tampa on a seasonal basis. Late in the year Norwegian Dawn will launch 10/11-day Southern Caribbean cruises from Miami.
So far, it looks like status quo for the other mainstream Caribbean players. Princess hasn’t announced its schedule for the second half of 2011, but, like Carnival, the story appears to be consistency, judging by what has been announced for the first part of the year. Princess will have six ships in the Caribbean during the first five months of 2011, same as this year. Homeports will continue to be year-round in Ft. Lauderdale and seasonally in Barbados, San Juan and New York.
Longer cruises of nine to 15 days will account for about a third of the estimated 240,000 passengers sailing with Princess in the Caribbean next year. It’s a similar story at Holland America Line, which is also estimating a total of 240,000-plus passengers in the Caribbean for 2011.
About a third of HAL’s Caribbean departures will be 10 days or longer in 2011, and the line is heavily promoting ‘Collector’s Cruises,’ which combine back-to-back cruises with different ports for 14- and 28-day trips. But HAL Executive V. P. Richard Meadows says the biggest change is in the seven-day market. “There will be 96 week-long sailings including our newest ship, Nieuw Amsterdam, which will be sailing in the Caribbean for the first time during next year’s season.”