Those were some of the questions left up in the air Monday after Carnival UK chief executive officer David Dingle delivered the company's 2011 Cruise Report, an annual look at the cruise industry from the perspective of the group's seven brands: Cunard Line, Princess Line, P&O Cruises, Costa Cruises, Seabourn, Holland America Line and Carnival Cruise Lines itself.
"The significant trend emerging is that the ships themselves are increasingly becoming destinations in their own right," Dingle told the assembled media and travel agents. “This is evidenced by the rising demand for the shorter cruises we have introduced from Southampton."
The trouble is, you can't get far from Southampton in seven days, so more ports are needed. People of the Channel Islands, brace yourselves: Dingle said he'd like to see Guernsey and Jersey “develop into the St Thomas or St Maarten of the English Channel." Should the sleepy islands expect a future of massive duty-free shopping complexes and new piers accommodating four or five giant ships at a time?
Here are some of the other high points from the report:
What happened to all those displaced Ocean Village passengers? When the casual budget line was absorbed into P&O Australia, last year, formality-loathing Ocean Village passengers were left high and dry. But a good few have found a new home: Dingle said on the Caribbean voyages of P&O Cruises' Ventura, nearly 20 percent of passengers had previously cruised on Ocean Village. Yet P&O is cutting its Caribbean fly-cruise capacity in future....
Some people never learn. Carnival is offering Mediterranean fly-cruises this summer on the new Carnival Magic and, oddly enough, the volcanic ash cloud fiasco of 2010 seems a distant memory. "We have been surprised that, despite last year's flight problems with the volcanic ash, so many passengers are still choosing to book their own flights, some even using the low-cost airlines," said managing director Lynn Narraway. So when you get stranded or your insurance won't cover you, don't blame the cruise line.
Not all families are units of four. Narraway also reported great demand for the "quint' family cabins on Carnival Dream and Carnival Magic, which sleep five and have two bathrooms. Which leads us to wonder: Why don't more ships offer these?
We're all bluster when it comes to wine. A survey of 2,000 P&O regulars revealed that 85 percent of passengers bought wine onboard but only 14 percent of these claimed to know "a lot" about wine -- and 18 percent admitted to knowing "‘very little." Some 40 percent ordered the house wine on the line's ships because it was endorsed by TV wine personality Olly Smith. If it's good enough for Olly ...
The Brits are discovering boutique luxury. While luxury line Seabourn once attracted almost exclusively North American passengers, this group now represents fewer than 40 percent on some cruises, according to Andrew Magowan vice president, Europe, Middle East and Africa. Two forthcoming round-trip Southampton cruises are “virtually sold out, mostly to U.K. guests." Holland America is expecting a big growth in Brits onboard on its ex-U.K. cruises, from 25 percent of passengers to half. This is based on the success of last year's programme and demand for this year's 11 voyages from Dover and Tilbury.
The Middle East is still hot. Despite the political situation, Costa Cruises has enormous faith in its Gulf programme, helped by the high prices charged by Dubai hotels, says managing director Marco Rosa. “Our cruises are deliberately designed for passengers to overnight on the ship in Dubai at the beginning and end of the itinerary so they can visit the city without having to pay for a hotel," he said. Costa will put its new Costa Favolosa in the Gulf next winter and will take on rival MSC Cruises with departures from Abu Dhabi as well as Dubai.
For more discussion about the Cruise Report 2011, check out the Cruise Critic UK blog.
--by Sue Bryant, Cruise Critic Contributing Editor