Last updated: 02:00 PM ET, Tue May 17 2016

Are The Big Cruise Lines Drifting Away From North America?

Cruise Line & Cruise Ship | Carnival Cruise Line | Jason Leppert | May 17, 2016

Are The Big Cruise Lines Drifting Away From North America?

Photo courtesy of Princess Cruises

With so many new international developments in the cruise industry, some may wonder where the North American market stacks up these days. The reality is as ships deploy elsewhere the domestic numbers do, in fact, change, and even one British cruise line is looking to America in reverse.

As part of its annual report, Cruise Industry News indicates where the big three American cruise companies – Carnival Corporation, Royal Caribbean Cruises Ltd. and Norwegian Cruise Line Holdings Ltd. – and others come in as far as marketshare is concerned. Collectively, the main trio makes up 90 percent of North American capacity, but by 2025 that number is expected to drop to 86.3 percent.

By then also, the individual tallies for the top two specific brands are estimated to be neck and neck, with Carnival Cruise Line at 24.8 percent and Royal Caribbean International at 24.3 percent.

READ MORE: The Cruising Tide Rises in China

Aggressive new-building strategies and wider international deployments are causing the shifting figures. Varying levels of fleet expansion and reduction alone would be enough to modify positions, but burgeoning markets abroad – particularly Asia – are changing them even more dramatically, which could mean fewer innovative cruise ships dedicated to North Americans.

Princess Cruises, for instance, ranks with 9.1 percent marketshare in North America, down from 12.1 percent a decade ago. Its existing ships are spread thinner as more cater to Australian, Chinese and U.K. source markets, and even its forthcoming new Majestic Princess is already earmarked for China. Princess could see its domestic marketshare dwindle to 8.5 percent by 2025, accordingly.

Similarly, Norwegian Cruise Line is also building its new Norwegian Joy specifically for Chinese demographics with a ship that may surpass its American-based sister ships thanks to new innovations like the first go-kart racetrack at sea. Royal Caribbean International has also scheduled one of its latest ships – the Ovation of the Seas – for China, but it doesn’t differ as drastically from its sisters as the one planned by Norwegian.

READ MORE: First Look: Norwegian Cruise Line’s New Norwegian Joy for China

In an interesting swap, while local brands stretch farther away, Cruise Critic is reporting that British company Fred. Olsen Cruise Lines is now marketing towards Americans. Although it will continue to maintain a British atmosphere, it has developed a dedicated website – – to attract cruisers from the U.S. to check out its destination-focused fleet of four ships. Nathan Philpot, sales and marketing director at Fred. Olsen indicated a similarity in approach to Azamara and Oceania but at a lower cost.

Where does that leave Americans? With more choice than might initially be apparent. The global cruise industry will surely continue to ebb and flow, and while it may seem that China is getting many of the new toys, some features are likely to rollback to existing vessels or be implemented in future new-builds for America. Plus, domestic and foreign competition is always good at prompting innovations not yet foreseen across the board, and at better price points, of course, too.


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