There is no official 1994 passenger count yet from Cruise Line International Association (CLIA), possibly because some member lines are reeling from what may be a dismal fourth quarter.
According to CLIA Chairman Al Wallack, "We are trying to decipher," the softer-than-usual fourth quarter. Some lines, he added, are recalculating their final quarter numbers, mostly because of juggled or sold ships, resulting in capacity decreases. In fact, the fourth quarter was inundated with deep discounts, including two-for-one deals, that seem to have found their way as far into 1995 as May and June.
And, following a year where repeaters outstripped first-timers, cruise lines will have to find passengers for the almost 9,000 new berths coming on line, translating into a 3 percent capacity increase for 1995.
However, the first half year and the third quarter of 1994 were "pretty good and generally strong." respectively, said Wallack.
Unofficially, some industry forecasters anticipate that the final 1994 tally will fall short of CLIA's estimated 4.8 million passengers, citing about 4.5 or 4.6 million as more realistic. Given this scenario, the North American cruise market will have grown somewhere around 2-1/4 percent, maximum, over 1993's figure of 4.5 million.
Wallack said cruise buying for the fourth quarter was stymied by various events in 1994, such as the failure of health care reform and talk of social security benefits reduction early last year, which made senior citizens. big buyers of fourth quarter cruises, cautious with discretionary spending. Other contributing factors included the elections and low interest rates.
However, when final figures are in, Wallack believes, "the (passenger) growth will end up covering the additional 1994 capacity" of about 3,900 berths. But this may not take into account that some ships, including the Southward, FiestaMarina, American Adventure, and Crown Monarch, left the marketplace, lowering the actual number of additional berths to fill.