(8:30 a.m. EDT) -- Carnival Cruise Lines has written a letter to travel agents and other travel trade partners in the United Kingdom and Ireland announcing it would be redeploying ships in the region to other ports.
In the letter, Adolfo Perez, Carnival's Managing Director for the U.K. and Ireland, cited "market conditions, increasing air fares, and the fact that most of [the line's] guests are from the U.S." as the reason for the move.
"We have decided not to deploy a Carnival ship to Europe in 2014," Perez wrote, adding, "Carnival continues to be committed to the UK and Irish markets."
In 2013, Carnival has one ship deployed in the region, Carnival Legend, which sails Baltic and Mediterranean cruises from the U.K. and Barcelona. Carnival Sunshine, formerly Carnival Destiny, which underwent a massive refurbishment culminating in the ship being renamed, is also sailing the Mediterranean until November. Carnival announced yesterday that it would be re-deploying Carnival Legend seasonally out of Sydney, Australia, in 2014.
Speaking to Cruise Critic, Perez said:
"We have been really pleased with the growth in the U.K. and Europe this year and the year before. But we never expected the U.K. market to fill up those ships.
"We rely very heavily on the U.S. to fill ships out of Europe and the U.K., and with the pricing for airline tickets being so high, it's been difficult. Our guests are mainstream America and the costs of air fares is pricing them out.
"[So] we made the decision not to be in Europe next year and to base our ships closer to the U.S."
Perez claimed the decision was not based on poor take up of the ships or a poorly-performing U.K. market. He also said that Carnival would continue to have a U.K. office and sell to the U.K. market -- just not on U.K. or Europe-based ships:
"We are not walking away from the U.K market by any means, we are actively recruiting for a sales role," he said.
Perez, however, would not comment on the percentage of North American passengers, but he said it was a "very significant majority."
Asked if the ships might have been "too American" for the Europeans, Perez said: "It's an American product, but we made tweaks for the U.K. and European market -- British comedians onboard, tea & coffee making facilities, Marmite and brown sauce. So no, I don't think that put people off. Breeze is very international and we had great feedback from people who sailed on her."
Perez was brought into the U.K. a year and a half ago to try to establish Carnival as a significant presence in the European and U.K. markets.
Last year Perez oversaw the launch in Europe of Carnival's newest ship Carnival Breeze; and this year he has overseen the delayed launch of Carnival Sunshine. He also oversaw the line's first-ever U.K. television advertising campaign in January.
Carnival has committed to keeping part of its administrative and sales force operating in the U.K. through 2014, and says it will be increasingly reliant on U.K. customers to fill ships sailing from the United States. The line said the majority of its customers in the U.K. choose cruises that depart from the U.S.
Perez added that he hoped that things might change in 2015 and that a ship might return to Europe, but added that no decision had yet been made and would not be made before this summer.
--by Jamey Bergman, U.K. Production Editor, and Adam Coulter, U.K. Editor