Carnival Cruise Lines Chief Executive Officer Gerry Cahill has said the line's retreat from Europe and the U.K. next year is only temporary, and Carnival could be back in 2015.
When asked by Cruise Critic whether the line would return to Europe, Cahill replied: “I'm optimistic it will be a year, but I can't guarantee it.”
Carnival surprised the industry with the announcement in May that it would be pulling out of Europe and the U.K. at the end of this year -- after only returning here two years ago. The line also spent a significant amount of money investing in the U.K. and Europe market, bringing in a dedicated managing director and launching its first ever TV ad campaign in January.
At the time, outgoing U.K. managing director Adolfo Perez, who returns to Miami next week, blamed high airfares from the U.S. to Europe for the decision to pull out.
Cahill reiterated Perez's comments: “Carnival caters best for Middle America, so when airfares get this expensive, those families are not going to be able to justify a trip to Europe. Ninety percent of our guests on European ships are from the U.S.”
Perez added: “We have grown the market, but we are newbies in the U.K. and we could not make up the difference in U.S. guests. The U.K. is very competitive price-wise. A lot of people tried competitive pricing, but when the airfare costs more than the cost of a cruise it just doesn't work.”
Cahill was onboard the revamped Carnival Sunshine for a short Mediterranean cruise over the weekend, ahead of flying to Washington D.C., for the Cruise Industry Oversight Hearing.
The $155 million revamp is the biggest ever carried out in the cruise industry, turning the 18-year-old Carnival Destiny into effectively a new ship -- Carnival Sunshine.
Cahill said the project probably cost the company nearer $200 million after man-hours and the time the ship was out of service were taken into account.
When asked if he would consider doing it again on another ship he said:
“It takes a lot of money, but I do feel it's the way to go forward. A new ship costs almost a billion, so even though this was costly, it was cheaper than building a new ship.”
Cahill said he would be interested in revamping ships older than 15 years, which would include the Fantasy Class of ships -- Carnival Ecstasy, Carnival Elation, Carnival Fantasy, Carnival Fascination, Carnival Imagination, Carnival Inspiration, Carnival Paradise and Carnival Sensation.
But he emphasized there were no plans to do so at this stage.
Instead, he revealed the line's new ship, slated for delivery in 2016, would be called Carnival Vista. The 4,000-passenger, 135,000-ton ship will feature Carnival's 2.0 enhancements as well as a number of innovations unique to the ship.
Chief Marketing Officer Jim Berra -- who was also on the sailing -- would not say whether it would be a new class of ship or an addition to an existing class.
Cahill also revealed the delays that plagued the launch of Sunshine in May were caused by vandalism at the shipyard.
--By Adam Coulter, U.K. Editor