March 6, 2018
(12:50 p.m. EST) -- Overcrowding in popular destinations, travel security and the future of Cuba were three major themes discussed during the State of the Industry panel at the 34th annual Seatrade cruise conference in Fort Lauderdale. The panel consisted of Arnold Donald, president of Carnival Corp.; Frank del Rio, chairman of Norwegian Cruise Line Holdings; Richard Fain, chairman of Royal Caribbean Cruises Limited; and Pierfrancesco Vago, chairman of MSC Cruises.
Cruising eases the fear of travel.
For those who might be more apprehensive to travel due to safety concerns, cruise line executives highlight the sense of security cruising provides.
"Our customers trust us," said del Rio. "They know we're not going to take them to places that aren't safe."
What promotes this trust is the lines' ability to move around and replace any destinations that experience unrest. Cruise lines continually analyze information about the safety and security of the ports they visit, and take precautionary measures such as communicating with government intelligence agencies and procuring on-ground security assessments.
Added Donald: "There are so many places to go, and the beauty of cruise is still the beauty of cruise -- experienced with loved ones and connecting with people."
Cruise lines are working to reduce overcrowding in popular ports.
Despite the fact that cruise passengers make up only a small percentage of tourists in places commonly viewed as oversaturated, cruise lines are working hard to find new approaches to visiting popular ports that will help ease overtourism.
"What we're talking about is more sustainable tourism, doing it in a better way," said Fain. "It's a question of where people go, how do you protect the environment, how to you bring people in a way that not only protects the environment but also educates them. We want to do a better job of … spreading them out so they're not all coming at the same time."
And it's not just an individual effort. Cruise lines are working together to find solutions. Carnival Corp.'s Donald recently met with the major of Dubrovnik on behalf of the cruise industry to discuss what lines can do to prevent the U.N. from stripping the city's old center of its UNESCO World Heritage status because of overtourism.
There are more opportunities than ever to visit Cuba.
Tightened restrictions on Americans traveling to Cuba had little impact on the cruise industry, as cruising has always complied with the approved categories of travel.
In fact, there are actually more opportunities than ever to visit the island. Del Rio noted that Norwegian Cruise Line has doubled its capacity in Cuba in 2018. Carnival Cruise Line, too, recently revealed it would send a second ship to Havana.
--By Gina Kramer, Editor