With new tonnage entering the industry, several of the major cruise lines are moving ships around, breaking with traditional patterns.
In light of the industry's much debated overcapacity, it appears that ships are moved not only to maintain load factors, but also to preempt what may become self-defeating competitive situations, and in other cases, because older tonnage is forced out of prime markets.
This development, which is part of the industry's natural growth cycle, is beginning to alter the traditional structure of the industry, offering new itineraries that may broaden the overall passenger base and may also generate more repeat passengers.
The movements of ships also provides new opportunities for ports that previously have been bypassed and for new ports that have been outside the traditional cruising lanes.
Carnival Reinforcing Positions
Carnival Cruise Lines' ship repositionings may have the strongest impact. Next winter, the line will be moving the 1,500-pax. Jubilee to Los Angeles, where she will be replacing the 1,000-pax. Tropicale.
Moving the Jubilee out of Miami, will make room for the new 2,600 pax. Fantasy, while the Tropicale will be repositioned in San Juan, joining the 1,146-pax. Festivale.
The moves will increase Carnival's capacity by about 50 percent in the seven-day markets out of San Juan and on the West Coast/Mexico, and by about 30 percent in the three/four day market out of Miami and Fort Lauderdale.
Seven-days out of Miami Reduced
Meanwhile, Carnival's capacity in the seven day market out of Miami will be reduced by 50 percent - at least until the arrival of a second new ship in late 1990.
The cruise line has not yet announced its plans for the Carnivale, which will be be repositioned. Speculations flourish, however, ranging from three/four day cruises on the West Coast to one-day sailings from Tampa to the exploration of new itineraries in the lower Caribbean.
NCL Moves Out or Miami
In April, Norwegian Cruise Line will be moving the 728-pax. Skyward to San Juan, where she will be joining the 750-pax. Starward, which started sailing from there last spring.
NCL will thus only have two ships left in the seven-day market in Miami, the Norway and the Seaward, where the line once had its entire fleet, reducing its present capacity in this market by a further 20 percent.
This also means that the cruise line has moved its entire so-called white fleet out of the traditional seven-day market. Only the Sunward II will remain in Miami on three/four day sailings.
RCCL Committed to Miami
Traditionally the most conservative cruise line, Royal Caribbean has so far only moved one ship permanently out of Miami, the Song of Norway, which is sailing year-round from San Juan. The Nordic Prince will spend the summer season sailing from New York to Bermuda.
The rest of its fleet remains on a program from seven to 10-day cruises out of Miami, although industry insiders speculate on ship moves to the Mediterranean with the arrival of the first of two sisterships to the Sovereign of the Seas in 1990.
Cunard Squeezed Too?
Cunard, which has operated the Cunard Princess in the Caribbean and on the West Coast, will be moving that ship to New York for midweek sailings to Bermuda this summer season, but next year the Princess will be repositioned to a year round program in the Mediterranean/northern Africa.
Chandris Gambles on San Juan
Chandris Fantasy Cruises has announced that its new ship, the 1,400-pax. Horizon, which will sail from New York to Bermuda in the summer seasons, will sail from San Juan during the winter.
The cruise line's overall capacity in the American market may be reduced, however, as the line has stated that it will move the 570-pax. Victoria to Europe on a year-round basis, and it is reported that it is trying to sell the 1,100-pax. Britanis, the oldest vessel in its fleet.
The ship moves reflect the changing structure of the industry. This is most evident in the at least temporary reduction of traditional seven-day cruises from the Port of Miami.
While both Carnival and NCL are moving ships out as well as into new sailing patterns, the slack will only partially be filled, at least for the time being, by Dolphin Cruise Line's Seabreeze. In 1992, Commodore's new ship is also expected to enter the seven-day market from Miami.
In the meantime, it remains to be seen if Carnival and RCCL will add berths to the traditional Miami seven-day market or merely maintain the supply by moving older ships out as new ships enter service.
Miami has traditionally been the strong cruise port and only time will show whether other ports can support their newfound added capacity. The Mexico market has previously been very sensitive to plummeting consumer interest and overcapacity. Cruise line officials also express concerns about the infrastructure in San Juan being able to support the increase.
While no one doubts that Miami will remain the largest cruise port, industry executives and observers are carefully following the moves of the major lines, while trying to forecast where tomorrow's mass cruise market and the viable niches will be.
The present ship moves and development of new itineraries are significant because it is no longer only the small niche lines that are exploring virgin out of their traditional milk routes. They also have the passenger base and marketing muscle to get airlift and help build their new cruise ports.
But the development also indicates that the basic cruise market is changing and that with the berth increases, the major lines can no longer rely on the traditional seven-day market to fill their ships.