Over 23 million passengers for cruises this year—up over 4%—and almost-daily announcement of new ships and new routes, tell you how popular cruising has become, and the 'specialty cruise' group (super-luxury, elegant liners and some of the newer river cruisers) is up 21%, according to Cruise Lines International Association, representing most of the world's cruise business.
According to CLIA, 62% of passengers are return cruisers,and while member lines cruise to nearly 1000 ports, the Caribbean is still queen, with more than a third of all cruises. Growing areas include the Mediterranean, Asia and Australia. Asian cruises will top 1000 this year, on 52 ships.
While a lot of the announcements these days focus on "biggest," CLIA says that most competition among lines now is on unique amenities, activities and design, including features such as onboard waterparks, upgraded dining and even skydiving.
CLIA boasts about the economic impact of the industry (of course!), giving a 2013 figure of $117 billion in "economic output," including $38 billion in wages for 900,000 jobs worldwide.
While the U.S. cruise market continues to be the world's largest, China's is one of the fastest-growing, and more companies are basing ships there, catering to a new audience with different food and amenity mixes. One of Carnival's recently-announce "largest ships in the world" may be destined for that trade. In Europe, which accounts for about 6 million of those 23 million passengers, Germany has overtaken the U.K. as the biggest market, with 1.77 million. France and Spain make up the rest of Europe's top 4.
Above: Costa Fascinosa at Istanbul, Nov. 2013 Photo: Alexxx1979 / Wikimedia