The worldwide cruise capacity is estimated at 13.4 million passengers in 2004, according to Cruise Industry News (CIN), following several years of dramatic expansion in North America and Europe.
But from growing 10 percent in 2004 over 2003, the future growth pace slows down to an estimated 4.5 percent in 2005, 6.2 percent in 2006, 4.1 percent in 2007, and 2 percent in 2008 when the worldwide fleet will be able to carry approximately 15.8 million passengers.
With an estimated annual passenger capacity of 9.9 million, the North America market continues to be the driver with 4.6 percent capacity growth in 2005, 6.2 percent in 2006 and 4.4 percent in 2007 for a total annual capacity of 11.5 million passengers. While there are not yet any orders on the books for 2008 or beyond, contracts are expected.
In addition to newbuildings by the established North American operators, MSC Cruises is also focusing on North America, including seasonal deployment in the Caribbean, and has plans to deploy ships here year-round.
The capacity growth will be tempered somewhat, however, by the planned withdrawal of the older and medium sized ships of Norwegian Cruise Line as well as the expected withdrawal of older Carnival Cruise Lines and Royal Caribbean International ships. In addition, Royal Caribbean has also dedicated a ship to the European market.
The European fleet can carry an estimated 3.1 million passengers in 2004, up 17.3 percent from 2.6 million passengers in 2003. Capacity will continue to grow at a pace of 2.4 percent in 2005, 7.4 per cent in 2006, 3.3 percent in 2007, and 8.7 percent in 2008, when the European fleet will be able to carry 3.8 million passengers. Carnival Corporation brands and MSC Cruises are expected to be the drivers in Europe, including two ships for Carnival in 2008 which have not yet been assigned to a brand.
Cruise capacity dedicated to the Asia/Pacific market has been decreasing from 1.6 million passengers as estimated by CIN in 2000 to 419,000 in 2004.
With older NCL tonnage transferred to Star Cruises, capacity will grow by 17.9 percent in 2005, and continue to grow in 2006 and 2007, pending more ship transfers.
Additional growth may be generated by Princess Cruises deploying more tonnage in the region.