Deployment trends for 2012 are underlined by growth in emerging markets, and an ever-strong emphasis on summer deployment in Europe, where cruise lines earn higher per diems, according to 30 dedicated pages of regional deployment research and market-by-market statistics in the 2012 Cruise Industry News Annual Report.
Nevertheless, the Caribbean is still the hub during the winter, as passengers embrace the warm weather and operators continue to question where else ships can sail.
A once growing South America is starting to plateau as cruise lines battle port fees, regulations and other challenges in the region.
Australia, meanwhile, is the fastest growing cruise market in the world, with more and more ships fighting for space in Australian ports. However, itineraries are long, and the population is relatively small, signaling the fact that this market has a ceiling, which may be touched during the 2012/2013 season, as ships are starting to move to other area in the Pacific Rim.
Alaska has bounced back following the head tax reduction, but is still some 15 percent off passenger levels seen in 2008.
The West Coast continues to see cruise lines move ships away and reduce capacity, driven by negative media coverage of Mexico and a weak Californian economy.
Asia remains a wildcard, with some cruise companies touting China as the next big thing. More ships are plying the Chinese waters than ever before, but changing government regulations hamper operators. Japan, once looked to as the next cruise frontier, never quite developed as many had proclaimed in the 1990s.
An emerging middle class in China could support a more robust Asian cruise industry; however, this market has been a rotating door of operators with second- or third-hand ships for years. For the first time there are major cruise lines with hardware in the region, but few have rushed to chase or match them.
In Japan, three cruise operators each have had a lone ship in service for the last two decades, with little to no growth.
Ships still need to go where passengers want to go, and in some ways, as the fleet is growing, the planet seems to be getting smaller – at least in terms of viable markets and sailing regions.
The cruise lines will move the ships to where the revenue is the highest, but that matrix is based on a complex set of numbers, including fuel costs, geopolitical issues, ticket prices, onboard revenue, environmental regulations, local fees and more, making ship deployment and itinerary planning the key to success.
The Cruise Industry News Annual Report 2012 is the only information resource of its kind -- presenting the entire worldwide cruise industry in 350+ pages, from new ships on order to supply-and-demand scenarios from 1987 through 2015, including a future outlook through 2032, growth projections for each cruise line, and detailed ship deployment by region and market of all the cruise lines.