By Ernest Blum
MIAMI -- After a strong start, 1997 continues to be a banner
year for many cruise lines, with little fall discounting, strong
winter bookings and firm pricing.
"The fall and winter picture is very good," Jim Godsman,
president of Cruise Lines International Association, said. "Right
now the industry is demand driven, and the pricing is strong."
At the beginning of the year, CLIA predicted passenger boardings
would reach 5 million, about 7% growth following last year's 6%
growth. But with the buoyant sales pattern, CLIA is raising its
sights for the year to 10% passenger growth, Godsman said.
Vicki Freed, senior vice president of sales and marketing for
Carnival Cruise Lines, said, "We don't see the deep fall
discounting of years past." She said the group market was
particularly strong, and "agents have done a good job in explaining
the value of a cruise vacation."
Bryan Rice, vice president of market planning and development
for Royal Caribbean International, confirmed the strong fall
outlook. "I think it's fair to say that we haven't had to do as
much close-in discounting as we had to do a year ago," he said. The
line's load factors for both the fall and winter are slightly ahead
of where they were a year ago, he said, despite the fact that Royal
Caribbean is adding two more megaships to the Caribbean this
Rick James, senior vice president of sales and corporate
relations for Princess Cruises, said, "The fall has been quite
good, and the winter and spring of 1998 are stronger than last year
at this time." He added, "The odds against last-minute fall
discounting are in our favor, so prices should hold and yields
should be up."
According to Jack Anderson, senior vice president of marketing
and sales for Holland America Line, the line is "significantly
ahead of this time last year." "The fall and winter are shaping up
very, very nicely. And we've had some improvements in our per
diems," Anderson said.
Capt. Paris Katsoufis, president of Cunard, predicted his line
will have a resurgence in the second half of the year. "We'll have
record occupancies," he said, noting that the line's projected 90%
occupancy level is high for the luxury market. Because of strong
demand, he said, Cunard has expanded the number of QE2 berths
available in inventory from 1,500 to 1,750.