As printed in the Fall 1996 edition of the Cruise Industry News Quarterly Magazine

Is real estate magnate Donald Trump ready to bring his competitive spirit to the cruise industry? Having heard rumors of his impending entry into the seagoing market – particularly into the upscale segment – Cruise Industry News (CIN) decided to go directly to the source and ask Trump himself.

The Trump Corporation has its headquarters in the Trump Tower on Fifth Avenue in the heart of New York City. Trump’s corner office, with its two walls of windows, offers panoramic views of Manhattan’s multi-edged skyscrapers.

At the Helm

Trump was sitting behind a curved L-shaped black lacquered desk that was literally covered with piles of paper, which most likely represented deals and projects in progress. The wall running alongside his desk was lined with framed magazine covers on which Trump had been featured. Scattered around the office were drawings and sketches which were propped up against walls, coffee tables and chairs.

At the appointed time of the interview, Trump was in the midst of reviewing plans for a community resort in Westchester county, north of New York City. As he switched gears a few minutes later, he first noted, “You have a very good magazine.”

Needless to say, Trump is on CIN’s subscription list.

It is hard to image Trump at rest, as he exudes abundant energy and excitement. Every opinion or observation that he issued was done so with unbridled enthusiasm.  And, business reputation notwithstanding, he is a seeming down-to-earth and forthright person who truly seems to enjoy his work.

“I’m looking at the possibility (of building a cruise ship) because it (the cruise industry) is an interesting business although it is a remote possibility,” said Trump.

However, here we have to editorialize a bit and counter that Trump must have some degree of interest – whether passing or permanent – in the rumored project as he spent a significant amount of time talking with CIN.

And, as remote as Trump says it may be, it would represent the next logical move for his building empire.

Earlier this year, Trump unveiled the 288-foot Trump Casino in Gary Indiana, on Lake Michigan. The vessel has been reported to be a resounding success.

The Trump Casino accommodates about 2,000 passengers and boasts a yacht-like design. A 50,000 square-foot, land-based extension, through which passengers enter the casino boat, was also built.

“The Trump Casino has far surpassed anyone’s expectations – this is a phenomenal site,” enthused Trump. He added that the casino opening went smooth and the gaming vessel was "extremely well-received from the outset."

The passenger and revenue numbers for June provide ample testimony to Trump’s claim. These figures show that Trump’s gaming boat far outdistanced other casino ventures in both categories. For instance, the numbers indicate that the Trump Casino carried 135,917 gamblers who lost $107 million on slots and table games during the 21 days the Trump Casino was open in June. Translated, this put Trump Casino first at the finish line – as far as reported revenues – well ahead of any other casino boat based in Indiana.

It is anyone’s guess as to whether we will see a Trump cruise ship sailing through the Caribbean or journeying to exotic destinations. However, if a Trump-style cruise experience were to be inaugurated, it would be “a high-end product,” Trump himself noted.

However, the traditional upscale product is probably not in the cards for Trump because an overriding factor in his business ventures, both real estate and gaming, is to make money. To wit, a typical deluxe vessel, which is generally small in size, wouldn't have enough slots and gaming tables – essential to onboard revenues – to provide him with the high revenue returns to which he has become accustomed, for example.

Large Scale

Additionally, Trump “thinks big” – the apparent examples are scattered in Atlantic City and Manhattan.

And, it is reported that big Manhattan real estate projects constitute Trump’s real love.

Indeed, if he is planning a cruise venture, Trump remained coy.

“I haven’t thought of which segment the vessel would be placed in, if I were to build one,” he noted.

And while continuing to deny the possibility of a Trump newbuilding, he did concede that if he did build, it would most likely not be in a U.S. shipyard.

“I don’t think the American yards have enough experience,” he said, although he did listen thoughtfully when told the owners of the United States intend to refit the ship in the U.S. under the supervisions of a European shipyard.

Trump understands the nature of the North American cruise market. And, he would not be intimidated in the least by the industry’s drive to produce a bottom line.

When asked for his observation of the industry, he replied in what can only be deemed Trump fashion. “It is very tight and high competitive, but if I entered the field, I’d get my share of the market.”

As printed in the Fall 1996 edition of the Cruise Industry News Quarterly Magazine