Caribbean cruise capacity stays flat in 2005, compared to 2004 when it was up 5 percent; 2003, 13 percent; and 2002, 16 percent.

According to estimates by Cruise Industry News, cruise ships will be able to carry 6.5 million passengers in the Caribbean (including the Bahamas, but excluding Panama Canal cruises) this year.

But the Caribbean continues to attract more cruise traffic than any other region and will have 52 percent of the worldwide passenger capacity in 2005.
The North American passenger capacity will approximately 6.1 million passengers in 2005 compared to 6.1 million in 2004, while the European capacity will be slightly down.

Market Leaders

The seven-day and longer sector will be down year-over-year, while the short cruise market will be up.

Overall, Carnival continues to be the market leader, commanding nearly 40 percent of the Caribbean capacity, and boosting its total passenger capacity by nearly 150,000 in the short cruise market.

Royal Caribbean International has grown its capacity in the weeklong and longer market by nearly 70,000 driven primarily by the Legend of the Seas and the Jewel of the Seas.

Royal Caribbean's capacity in the short cruise segment will stay relatively the same. While the line will have four additional ships sailing short cruises in 2005 - the Empress, Grandeur, Rhapsody and Splendour of the Seas - the Enchantment of the Seas will be doing about half as many short cruises this year as she did in 2004.

Princess Cruises is continuing to dedicate all of its cruises in the weeklong and longer market, is only down slightly over 2004, though it will be sailing with the same number of ships as it did last year. However, the Sea Princess will replace the Island Princess, sailing from Ft. Lauderdale this winter on 14-night cruises.

Norwegian Cruise Line will have the same number of ships in the Caribbean this year, although 2005 will mark the line's return to the short cruise sector, after dedicating all of its 2004 sailings in the weeklong and longer market. The Norwegian Spirit will be sailing on eight five-night cruises roundtrip from Miami.

Overall, however, the line's capacity will be down slightly in 2005. Although the 2,400-passenger Norwegian Jewel will be added, as well as the 2,000-passenger Norwegian Spirit - counterbalancing that gain will be the loss of the Norwegian Wind, which will be in Hawaii this year, as well as the Pride of Aloha, which sailed in the Caribbean as the Norwegian Sky for the first four months of 2004. In addition, the Norwegian Sea will be transferred to Star Cruises in July.

Premium Cutting Back

The premium lines have reduced their capacity in the Caribbean - most notably, Celebrity Cruises - by nearly 90,000 overall, due primarily to the Century sailing in Europe and the Galaxy doing Panama Canal cruises.  The Summit will also sail half as many Caribbean cruises as she did in 2004.

However, in the short cruise market Celebrity will see a rise - increasing its capacity from 1,374 - with only one cruise by the Zenith in 2004 - to more than 20,000 passengers this year. In addition to significantly more sailings by the Zenith, the line also added a second ship - the 1,950-passenger Summit.

Holland America Line (HAL) will be reducing its capacity by more than 70,000, and will be sailing with two less ships - the Noordam, which has left the fleet, and the Statendam. The line attributed the drop primarily to expanding its Europe and Alaska seasons. HAL will add a bit more capacity in the short cruise sector, however, by deploying another vessel there - the 1,800 passenger Westerdam.

Radisson Seven Seas Cruises has gone down considerably as well - reducing its overall Caribbean capacity of more than 20,000 in 2004, to 12,000 this year - partially due to the sale of the Radisson Diamond.

On a final upswing note, MSC Cruises has increased its Caribbean capacity significantly, going from 9,600 in 2004 to 32,000 this year - as the line now has two vessels sailing seasonally in the region.

European Market

With Festival Cruises and Sun Cruises gone, European operators have lost four ships and 84,000 passengers - 15 percent of their 2004 capacity. The only significant increase among European operators this year comes from Pullmantur, which will be replacing its 640-passenger Pacific with the larger 1000-passenger Holiday Dream, and will in turn more than double its capacity to 45,000 over 2004.

The market leader among the European operators continues to be Costa Crociere, with nearly 90,000 passengers and 29.5 percent of the market. Costa has five ships in the Caribbean dedicated to European passengers, but the line has replaced the Marina - a ship dedicated exclusively to German-speaking passengers - with the Allegra - which is sailing out of Fort Lauderdale. "We have increased our offer for European guests," Costa Crociere President Gianni Onorato told , referring to the move. Onorato added that in the future, he feels that the Caribbean will become even more of a destination of choice for all Europeans "not only in the winter time, but all year round."

In other European news, P&O Cruises again has four ships deployed in Caribbean waters, however its capacity will be up slightly over 2004, as its newest flagship, the 1,958-passenger Arcadia will replace the 1,800 passenger Aurora. And, Saga Cruises will be sailing a second ship from the U.K. to the Caribbean in 2005 - the 736-passenger Saga Ruby, which will be joining the Saga Rose. 

Excerpt from the Cruise Industry News Quarterly Magazine: Spring 2005