Ongoing instability in the Mediterranean region is prompting
cruise companies to trim capacity there, with the latest example coming from
Celebrity Cruises, for summer 2017.
Celebrity said it will keep the 2,850-passenger Celebrity
Equinox in Miami next spring after it completes its winter cruise schedule,
instead of returning to the Mediterranean, where this summer it will operate
cruises out of Athens and Barcelona.
The move will draw down Celebrity’s Europe deployment next
summer from five ships to four and give it a year-round ship in the Caribbean
for the first time since 2010.
Other companies also plan to move capacity out of the
Mediterranean and into the Caribbean.
Carnival Corp. in a June 28 conference call said it expected
a 10% capacity reduction in the Mediterranean region next year, and a 5%
increase in Caribbean capacity.
“We are rebalancing our portfolio to optimize the current
demand environment,” Carnival Corp. CEO Arnold Donald said.
The moves come as the Mediterranean was again rocked, this
time by a failed coup attempt in Turkey and the truck massacre in Nice, the
third major terrorist attack in France in the past nine months.
Cruise lines had already largely stopped calling in Istanbul
after a series of terrorist attacks there this year. After the coup, many
cruise lines also suspended calls elsewhere in Turkey, such as Kusadasi.
Most are in a wait-and-see mode, such as Carnival Cruise
Line, which replaced the Carnival Vista’s calls in Kusadasi on July 17 and 20
with sea days and said it will evaluate future calls there “in the coming
Some travel agents said client demand for Europe remains
“For us, our European business is still very strong,” said
Jeffrey Bateman, vice president of operations at Crown Cruise Vacations in
Bateman said most of his clients on Equinox cruises that had
been scheduled for Europe next summer had rebooked other Celebrity European
Prices have been softening for Europe, according to a
survey by SunTrust Robinson Humphrey
analyst Patrick Scholes, who said advertised prices for cruises in southern
Europe in June fell 1.3% year over year, compared to a 7.4% increase in May.
Frank Del Rio, CEO of Norwegian Cruise Line Holdings, said
cruise lines remain reluctant to drop Europe in the summer.
“Analysts ask me, why don’t you put the ship in the
Caribbean in the summer instead?” he said. “Well, because even a bad year in
Europe is better than a good year in the Caribbean, especially in the summer.”
In 2014, a mass migration of ships from Europe to the
Caribbean led to a pricing bloodbath. Donald said that’s unlikely in 2017, when
Carnival’s expected Caribbean capacity
growth will be 5%. In 2014, it was 20%.
The Equinox will add to the overall capacity in the
Caribbean, but several travel agents liked having more itinerary options for
Celebrity in the summer.
“I view the year-round vessels in the Caribbean as a plus,”
said Valerie Harris, a CruiseOne franchisee in Atlanta. “They lend a hand with
creating and maintaining a cruise line’s presence in the region, which in turn
may establish brand loyalty.”