Cruising’s New Center of Gravity? | TravelResearchOnline

Cruising’s New Center of Gravity?

Holland America Line recently announced that it would bump up the number of sailings in Europe for 2011, but reading between the lines of the press release indicates that the increases are aimed primarily to serve source markets in Europe rather than significant increased demand from North America.

The press release cites increases in “sailings from the homeports of Dover, England and Rotterdam, the Netherlands.”

Indeed, Holland America Line reports that it is “greatly expanding its brand awareness overseas–specifically in the U.K., the Netherlands, and Australia. We have dedicated sales, marketing, and PR personnel in each country and have seen a dramatic jump in bookings from these countries.”

Two years ago, the upward momentum prompted David Dingle, chairman of the European Cruise Council and Carnival U,K,’s CEO, to proclaim Europe to be “cruising’s new center of gravity.”

As more Europeans take to cruising, Americans are no longer the dominant demographic on cruise ships operating in Europe. “We’ve seen a shift from 95 percent North American passengers to 50 percent in the past 10 years,” says Valerie Dubuc, cruise coordinator for the Port of Le Havre, France.

In Copenhagen next year, German passengers will outnumber Americans for the first time ever, according to Ole Andersen, senior director sales & marketing for Wonderful Copenhagen.

And few, if any, Americans were passengers on Vision of the Seas’ sailings last summer from Oslo, Stockholm and Copenhagen, where Royal Caribbean sourced 100,000 Nordic passengers on those cruises. 2010 will see an expanded season, says Michael Bayley, senior vice president, international for Royal Caribbean.

Aside from Brits and Americans colliding in stairwells (as with driving, each nationality walks on opposite sides), the international mix usually goes smoothly. But even if there is a harmonious convergence among passengers, cruise lines are struggling to adapt to international customs. Automatic tipping is a significant issue for cruise lines outside of North America, where in many countries tipping is not customary.

Citing passenger protests, Carnival Corp. announced that it would stop adding $7 per day automatically for passengers on its P&O Cruises Australia brand. Royal Caribbean is struggling with how to handle tipping in the Nordic countries.

The implications for Americans? Expect cruises in Europe to have even more Europeans onboard in the years ahead.

What do you think? Does having an international mix on board cruise ships enhance the experience or detract from it?

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