March 27, 2001
Yesterday, the American Society of Travel Agents held its annual “cruisefest” conference and much of what the assemblage of travel agents discussed is of little interest to cruise passengers except for a couple of things: * You may be hearing more frequently from your travel agent about cruise possibilities. According to Norwegian Cruise Line’s Andy Stuart, "The cruise industry's average growth rate in the last 10 years has been 8%, and in the next five years, cruise suppliers will introduce 53 new ships, a 43% increase in capacity." * That incredible 43 percent capacity increase can only benefit cruise passengers, particularly if the economy continues to stagnate, as cruise lines -- despite their pledges not to drop prices as drastically as they did last year -- may, be, well, cutting fares. Keep an eye out for some bargains. * And the miserable airline travel situation may, at least down the road, improve somewhat and we’re not just talking about the solving of labor disputes among some of the nation’s biggest airlines. Carnival’s Vicki Freed says her cruise line is meeting those challenges by expanding availability of charter flights and continuing to broaden the line’s range of embarkation ports; currently Carnival serves 16 in the U.S. That’s good news for regional markets, also known as “drive-ins,” cause passengers don’t even have to set as much as foot into an airport.