Vendors that provide the cruise industry with everything from deck chairs and dinner plates to portholes and Port wines soon will be pitching their goods at Seatrade Cruise Shipping Miami.
They'll be joined by destination representatives, shore excursion outfits, ground handlers, food suppliers, interior designers -- anyone that has something to sell to a cruise line.
But the event, held each year at Miami Beach Convention Center and set for March 14 to 17 this year, is much more than a trade show.
Cruise executives participate in panel discussions about various aspects of their business. They talk about the state of the industry and its niche markets, make predictions for the coming year and tell us what's hot and what's not.
Alaska was in the hot seat at the 2010 conference, when some cruise line executives noted that the state hadn't done itself any favors by voting in a set of ship-related regulations and a cruise passenger head tax. The ballot initiatives approved in 2006 had gone over like a lead balloon with cruise officials. Alaska Gov. Sean Parnell attended last year's Seatrade and left with a mission: to lower the tax and make a related lawsuit filed by the Alaska Cruise Association go away. He did both a few months later.
Back in 2008, Norwegian Cruise Line made headlines with a series of moves designed to shore up its relationship with frontline sellers.
And in 2007, cruise line executives talked up their plans for increased deployment to Europe.
This year, buoyed by a modest but steady economic recovery, perhaps the executives will be upbeat about the cruise market, which is vital to so many agents' business models. And perhaps they will enlighten us about how political changes in the Middle East, and the resulting impact on oil prices, will affect itineraries and passenger costs.
There could be discussion, too, about whether cruise fares ought to stay where they are or begin to inch upward, given NCL's plan to raise fares by up to 10% starting in April.
Certainly, there will be talk about the newbuilds that are set to debut in coming months: Carnival Cruise Lines' Carnival Magic; Costa Cruises' Costa Favolosa; the L'Austral, from Compagnie du Ponant; Seabourn Cruises' Seabourn Quest; Celebrity Cruises' Celebrity Silhouette; and Pearl Seas Cruises' Pearl Mist.