Industry Holds Up Post 9/11

September 18, 2002

Michael Crye, president of the International Council of Cruise Lines (ICCL), gave a talk at the U.S. Maritime Security Expo in Manhattan explaining why the cruise industry has pretty much held its own despite the devastating impact of September 11 on travel. He credits the cruise lines' survival -- well, most lines, with the exception of American Classic Voyages and Renaissance Cruises, are still sailing today -- with two successful strategies: security programs that were already in place and the ability to make rapid change.

Specifically? The cruise industry, in conjunction with U.S. government agencies such as the Coast Guard, continues to upgrade security onboard and in port. The efforts go beyond screening checked luggage and issuing high-tech photo ID cards/room keys; on a recent Mediterranean cruise, for instance, a Cruise Critic contributor reports that passengers were required to put cameras, purses and shopping bags through airport-style screeners at every port, not just at the beginning of the trip.

Beyond that, onboard security upgrades are a shadowy topic for cruise lines. Executives are less mysterious, however, about relatively immediate operationally-oriented changes made in the wake of last year's disastrous day. Cruise lines, anticipating that long-haul destinations would be deserted in droves by cruise passengers, completely overhauled itineraries, emphasizing closer-in destinations  -- Alaska, New England/Canada, Bahamas, Caribbean and the Mexican Riviera. The embrace by cruise lines of drive-to ports, in regional parts of the U.S. ranging from Norfolk, VA to Galveston, TX -- a concept pioneered by Carnival some years ago but which had not necessarily spread-like-wildfire elsewhere also got a big boost. And let's not neglect to mention the help of new pricing strategies -- the oft-extreme discounting whereby passengers were snapping up $399pp week-long Caribbean cruise fares -- in helping many assuage fears.