FORT LAUDERDALE — To keep up with ship growth and attract new passengers, the cruise industry has to focus on destination and innovation, cruise CEOs said on a panel at CLIA’s Cruise3sixty show.
Several executive said the bowling alleys and self-leveling pool tables the industry has installed on ships are critical to portraying cruises as fun to those who haven’t tried them.
"All of that conveys what cruising has to offer. It says something about what the industry stands for,” said Richard Fain, CEO of Royal Caribbean Cruises Ltd.
Norwegian Cruise Line CEO Kevin Sheehan said features of his company’s latest ship class, such as a ropes course and the indoor/outdoor dining area called the Waterfront, are critical in “getting that massive group of people who have not considered cruising in the past to consider us.”
Carnival Corp. CEO Arnold Donald speculated about a fantastical Star Trek-type cruise with warp drive and a holodeck, before concluding that the real future for the industry is to better understand guests and improve prices.
"And the only way that happens is if we wow them every time," Donald said. "When that doesn’t happen, we’re always chasing the new to cruise and trying to incent them to book."
Donald also said that destinations ranging from South Africa to Antarctica are big selling points for cruises.
"Our planet is the Garden of Eden. You just have to open your eyes and experience it,” he said.
MSC Cruises Chairman Pierfrancesco Vago said cruise ships have a major advantage over other travel modes. "To arrive by sea in Barcelona is a totally different experience than arriving by plane,” he said.
But the executives said destinations have to keep fresh to stay relevant in an increasingly competitive environment.
"The cruise industry does go where it is wanted," said Fain. "Particularly in Asia-Pacific, they’re just so hungry for the kind of jobs we provide and the kind of tourism we bring."