Last updated: 06:27 PM ET, Thu March 19 2015

Cuba and China Dominate the Conversation at Cruise Shipping Miami

Cruise Line & Cruise Ship | Cruise Lines International Association (CLIA) | Theresa Norton | March 17, 2015

Cuba and China Dominate the Conversation at Cruise Shipping Miami

PHOTO: The State of the Industry panel included, from left, Pierfrancesco Vago of MSC Cruises, Arnold Donald of Carnival Corp., Frank Del Rio of Norwegian Cruise Line Holdings, and Richard Fain of Royal Caribbean Cruises Ltd. (Photo by Theresa Norton Masek)

Cruise Shipping Miami, the cruise industry's biggest annual conference, officially kicked off Tuesday with an upbeat assessment by the Cruise Lines International Association and an entertaining panel discussion with top cruise line executives.

How is the cruise industry faring?

"In a couple of words, very well," CLIA Chairman Adam Goldstein, president and COO of Royal Caribbean Cruises Ltd., said in the opening of the State of the Industry panel.

Globally, CLIA member cruise lines are expected to carry about 23 million passengers this year, up from 22.1 million in 2014 and 17.8 million in 2009.  The global economic impact is $117 billion.

"The outlook is very, very bright," Goldstein concluded.

The executive panel was moderated by Richard Quest, the entertaining CNN International correspondent, who fired questions of his own and some from the audience via Twitter.

Much of the discussion focused on two C-words, as Quest put it — Cuba and China.

"Yes, we're ready," to enter Cuba once it's legal to do so, said Frank Del Rio, chairman and CEO of Norwegian Cruise Line Holdings. "We're ready to move at a drop of the hat."

Some object that Cuba doesn't have the infrastructure to handle a huge influx of American tourists, but Del Rio said that's not a problem because "we bring our own infrastructure."

Pierfrancesco Vago, executive chairman of MSC Cruises, got a laugh when he quipped, "I'm European. We're already there."

In China, the challenge is educating travelers who are not familiar with a cruise vacation. Carnival Corp. CEO Arnold Donald said some passengers from Mongolia not only had never seen a cruise ship before, but had never even seen a swimming pool.

"The Chinese have no idea was a cruise is," he said. "It's a blank sheet of paper" with the potential to grow into the world's largest market within a few years.

Richard Fain, chairman and CEO of Royal Caribbean Cruises Ltd., noted that the industry is still working in the U.S. to dispel myths about cruising but in China has the chance to create an industry.

Challenges that remain include trying to raise prices to reflect the value of a cruise vacation and attracting first-timers. "Cruising offers a higher level of satisfaction yet it's cheaper," Fain said.

Donald noted that Carnival Corp. placed a TV commercial during the Super Bowl for the first time. "We footed the bill for the industry in the Super Bowl," he said with a smile.

A consumer contest to vote for their favorite commercials generated 5 billion impressions before the big game and the ad itself generated another 5 billion once it aired, Donald said.

UBM, the company that operates CSM, also announced that it will change the name of the conference back to Seatrade, the name that was abandoned a few years ago but which some people still call the show. UBM has acquired Seatrade, which publishes the maritime industry bible, and so is reviving the name. The show, which has been held in Miami Beach for 31 years, now will be called Seatrade Cruise Global. It will move to Fort Lauderdale for the next three years.

Organizers expected about 11,000 people to attend CSM Miami.


You may use your Facebook account to add a comment, subject to Facebook's Terms of Service and Privacy Policy. Your Facebook information, including your name, photo & any other personal data you make public on Facebook will appear with your comment, and may be used on Click here to learn more.

Journey on an Avalon River Cruise

Cruise Lines & Cruise Ships