We are covering a range of subjects in this issue – which are all important to the industry – and would like touch on some of them.

The Cruise Experience:  Cruising is evolving on many levels and in many directions, depending on the product and the market. Most important for the industry, perhaps, is its ability to develop products that appeal to a broader vacation market.

Recruitment:  The industry needs to recruit a mind-boggling 50,000 new crewmembers over the next five years.  This is in contrast to the general news headlines that mostly report on companies in other industries laying off or reducing their work forces.

Food & Beverage:  We have come a long way from the traditional seatings in the dining room. We never liked being grouped with the same strangers for seven days or longer, unless we could have played “musical tables.” Tables for our family only, or tables for two, were always a struggle to come by. Not so much anymore. On another note, it seems to us that cruise lines have cut back in the dining room. We recently noticed that instead of offering appetizers, soups and salads, one line offered “starters,” combining all three. Of course, the motive may also be to encourage passengers to dine in the alternative restaurants. Regardless, there is no lack of good food on cruise ships.

European Opportunities: As more Europeans are discovering cruising, the cruise lines are growing their capacities in the Mediterranean and in Northern Europe. In addition, European passengers are venturing further – to the Middle East and the Far East. Cruise line executives are also telling us that more Europeans are traveling to the Caribbean and to North America to cruise. While the ships in the Caribbean are usually dedicated to European passengers, ships sailing from North American ports usually carry a mix of Americans and Europeans. Not so in AIDA’s case, however, which will be sailing two cruises from the East Coast in 2008 with German passengers. Costa and MSC sail seasonally from Southern Florida with a mix of Americans and Europeans, but we could very well imagine more Europeans coming to North America.  Italian or French passengers, for example, could feel more comfortable cruising on Costa or MSC along the East Coast than on an American brand. We can imagine the same concept extended to Alaska. Costa used to sail in Alaska, of course, but that was a long time ago. And, MSC has been talking about deploying a ship year-round in North America for some time. And there could be more opportunities as the U.K. and Germany-based lines offer world cruises along with some of the American brands. But there are no world cruises on French or Italian ships anymore.

Design:  In this issue, we would like to compliment Joe Farcus for his work on the Costa Serena. Except for the casino, every room was made interesting and fun down to the minute details.

In Person:  We would also like to thank Bob Dickinson for sharing some of his experiences with us after 35 years with Carnival Cruise Lines.

Angela Reale Mathisen & Oivind Mathisen