Working at Sea:  The industry's focus is increasingly on recruitment and retention as the cruise fleet grows larger along with the world's shipping fleet and the competition for qualified people heats up. At the same time, there are efforts underway to improve the living and working conditions on all ships at sea. We are glad to say that the cruise companies are striving to be in the forefront – offering better living accommodations, recreational activities, training and advancement opportunities, health care, pensions and other benefits.

One area, however, that is not under the control of the industry, has been the declining value of the dollar vs. the euro as well as the Philippines' peso. While maybe not an issue for officers and management paid in euros, it is definitely an issue for crew and staff paid in dollars.

We are also hearing that pay is not always keeping up with responsibilities and workload, and our feedback comes from all ranks.

These are issues the industry has to deal with sooner than later.

However, people, who are willing to work, can have a very good and prosperous career in the cruise industry. And like ashore, they can pick the best company for which to work.

Positive Thinking:  As we start on 2008, there is plenty on the industry's plate from challenges to opportunities. One senior marine operations executive told us that challenge is a positive word, and he preferred to consider difficulties and problems to be challenges to be overcome. He may be right. Positive thinking goes a long way.

We are impressed by how the cruise lines are tackling the fuel consumption issue by finding efficiencies in itineraries, operating procedures, equipment and simply by creating awareness. Yet, with the dramatically rising prices of fuel, we suppose fuel surcharges were inevitable.

Operations departments are also dealing responsibly with environmental issues, while managing refurbishment projects and newbuildings.

Hotel operations has become very good at delivering what customers want, as outlined in our special section – whatever country passengers are from, including tailored products for the Brits, Germans and South Americans. The key is to balance the experience, that is, dining, entertainment and other activities, with onboard spending, which is becoming a bigger piece of the revenue pie.

Portside: We are reporting on North American ports, and the developments are staggering – from having 800 baggage handlers undergo customer service training, to building brand new terminals, even rail links from airports to seaports.

And south of the border, Mexican ports are also developing and building to accommodate the industry. We are seeing impressive efforts on the Mexican Riviera as well as on the Gulf side.

Global View:  We want to thank top management at Royal Caribbean Cruises for sharing their view and thoughts with us. Richard Fain, chairman and CEO; Adam Goldstein, president and CEO of Royal Caribbean International; and Dan Hanrahan, president and CEO of Celebrity Cruises and Azamara Cruises talk about their global ambitions. In the fall magazine, Carnival Corporation executives shared their views. Out of the some 70 cruise companies around the world, we are happy to say there is only a handful that we literally have to pull words out of, if they talk at all.

Thank You and A Happy New Year to our loyal advertisers that make this magazine possible; to all that have talked with us and shared their views on a variety of marine and hotel aspects, ports, ship repair, and special service and product offerings; and last but not least, our hardworking staff and contributors.

Angela Reale Mathisen & Oivind Mathisen

Excerpted from the Cruise Industry News Quarterly Magazine: Winter 2007/2008