2009 has been one of the most difficult years the cruise industry has ever seen, according to David Dingle, CEO of Carnival UK and chairman of the European Cruise Counsel, who spoke at a press briefing in Hamburg today.

Still, he said, “the European industry is in good health, pointing to what he called the indicators: new ships entering the market and even two new brands starting up.

“It is not a secret, however, that revenue and pricing have been down this year”, Dingle said, “but fares in Europe have come down less than fares in North America,” he added. Thus, Europe is holding up better, also when you consider the rate of growth which presently is three times that of North America, according to Dingle.

One thing, Carnival UK has learned from 2009, is to hold out longer for higher pricing, Dingle said. The late booking curve did not mean passengers were holding out for better prices, but were waiting because they were uncertain, he said. “The key is for all the lines to keep their nerve on pricing.”

There are plenty of other challenges too, ranging from port infrastructure to environmental regulations.

The European Cruise Council has released its 2008 report, showing that the cruise industry had a 14.2 billion euro impact in direct benefit on European economies. The report also stated that 150,000 Europeans are directly employed in the industry and another 150,000 indirectly.