Seatrade Cruise Global took place in Fort Lauderdale, Florida (Image: Greater Fort Lauderdale BCCC)
As the dust settles following an almighty week at Seatrade Cruise Global (SCG), it’s time for me to reflect on the biggest bash in the cruise industry calendar. My week comprised four distinct elements (excluding the evening entertainment) and my review will follow the same format, starting with the exhibition itself.
Now in its second year in Fort Lauderdale, the exhibition had a more familiar set-up this time round. Footfall was noticeably higher on the second and third floors of the convention centre and delegates were rewarded for exploring all corners of the exhibition spaces. Although my time was at a premium due to the heavy conference schedule and my multiple interview and press event commitments, time spent walking the floors gave me new knowledge, interesting opportunities and the chance to renew old friendships and make many new contacts. SCG always delivers.
Discovering destinations old and new
Visitors to the Cruise Norway pavilion could have guessed that the representatives hailed from the happiest country in the world (few more so than managing director Sandra Bratland) before the release of the United Nations report earlier this week. Norway continues to find favour in the cruise industry and the packed stands of the many ports in attendance suggest further growth can be expected – particularly if winter cruising continues to grow and one or two of the ports can develop their homeporting credentials.
Two passes of the Cruise Ireland and Dublin Port stands did not yield an opportunity to connect with any of the Irish contingent – a little frustrating as I had particularly hoped to catch up with Eamonn O’Reilly and Pat Ward to get the latest scoop on the Masterplan 2012-2040. Celebrity Cruises’ November 2016 decision to homeport a ship in Dublin from April to May 2018 was presumably followed up by meetings with other major operators during SCG – a trip to Waxy O’Connor’s on St Patrick’s Day (17 March) would likely have yielded a good clue about the success of these discussions!
Mediterranean ports from the MedCruise association were also well represented by a motivated contingent eager to encourage a greater commitment to the region. MedCruise’s statistics presentation revealed that passenger numbers for 2016 were down 1.4% and cruise calls down 0.49% on 2015. The trend towards bigger ships being deployed in the Mediterranean mean that passenger movement records will be made first (previous best of 27.8 million in 2013 and 2015) – cruise calls in the year totalled 13,500, still some distance from the 15,500 achieved in both 2008 and 2011. Civitavecchia in Italy topped the calls list with 833 ship visits, while Spanish port Barcelona topped the passenger count with more than 2.6 million cruise travellers. Also noteworthy was the increase in traffic at Ceuta and Huelva in Spain. While both ports have grown from a modest base, their successes are evidence of the rewards that can be achieved by smaller ports with good facilities and hard work. The full report can be downloaded here.
Cruise Baltic and CruiseBritain also took to the SCG stage to announce their statistics. Copenhagen in Denmark and Rostock in Germany took the headlines in Cruise Baltic’s Market Review 2017, but the overall 1.2% year-on-year growth is a sustainable performance with turnarounds increasing by over 14%. Meanwhile, chair of CruiseBritain Angie Redhead reported an impressive 19% growth in the association’s new figures – 1.2 million passengers from 52 different cruise operators.
Elsewhere in Europe, I enjoyed hearing from Piet Vandenkerkhove about the €4 million terminal development that will open at the Port of Zeebrugge in 2018 and watching the French sabrage ceremony. On the stand and at a later press conference,French port Le Havre showed why it will be a stand-out destination for 2017 with its multiple 500th anniversary celebrations. Cruise Europe also had a strong presence and remains a great resource for support in building European itineraries.
The Florida-Caribbean Cruise Association pavilion probably boasted the greatest number of itinerary planners in one place – aside from the outstanding Planners Lunch organised by Seabourn Cruise Line’s Timothy Littley and hosted by the Port of Dover. Development activity in the Caribbean continues to keep industry media busy. I was fortunate to have the opportunity to pay a flying visit to Tortola Pier Park in the British Virgin Islands in February, just 12 months after the US$83 million facility opened, so it was particularly pleasing to witness the buzz around the booth at the show. The music, laughter and vibe in Hall D were a constant draw throughout the week.
Edmund Bartlett, Jamaica’s Minister of Tourism, was at the event this year to launch the island’s Cruise Jamaica initiative. “With the Cruise Jamaica initiative we are setting forth a vision that will improve and impact our country for decades to come and expose more of the world to the captivating culture, people and traditions of Jamaica,” he said, adding that SCG was the ideal place to promote his country. “Jamaica is experiencing monumental growth as a cruise destination and this is an invaluable opportunity for us to meet with key industry influencers.”
Further south, Acapulco in Mexico and Buenos Aires in Argentina both had the opportunity to celebrate at SCG this year. Acapulco used the occasion to proudly confirm Holland America Line’s return to the port and reveal two of its ships will call there in 2017. For Buenos Aires, the future looks bright again as the port has been able to report a 100% success rate in resolving the 16 challenges set by cruise lines at SCG 2016 – more to come in my interview with Gonzalo Mortola in part four of this SCG highlights series.
Exploring interior design
My wanderings among the interior design community started with a cab ride to Miami on Tuesday night for Tillberg Design of Sweden’s (TDoS) anniversary party. TDoS’s approach to hosting a celebration is as colourful as its professional endeavours. The partners took to the stage and Fredrik Johansson spoke about his dreams while his audience was distracted by silver sci-fi dancers. A full house celebrated with the team until the early hours before retiring to enjoy their own inevitably less bizarre dreams. TDoS is a classy company with a stellar future.
Having spent many enjoyable hours chatting with Bjorn Storbraaten – including during my first visit to this show 25 years ago – it was a great pleasure to spend time with Anne Mari Gullikstad and Jan Krefting, two of the partners of the company that has been reborn from the business that Yran and Storbraaten founded in 1985. Take a look at the article in our recent issue of International Cruise & Ferry Review to learn more about the company’s transformation.
I also enjoyed chatting off the exhibition floor with Kevin Paintin from 20.20 and Dylan Wills from Wilson Associates (see part four of the series for more about my conversation with Dylan) and Stephen Mills from McCue Marine.
Almaco had plenty to cheer about at the show with news of a new contract to deliver provisions stores and thawing chambers for AIDA Cruises’ 2018 and 2021 newbuilds. Here was another company that was too engrossed in conversation to give me an opportunity to say hello on my sweeps past their booth – small wonder as we posted news of yet another contract, this time for Saga Cruises, on this site only yesterday.
Interior suppliers were likely rewarded by the organisers’ decision to continue to emphasise design and refurbishment in the conference programme and their success in attracting a strong contingent of cruise line buyers. First-time attendees from the supplier community included Dauerflora, Gerflor and Richloom, while returning favourites included Adventure Golf Services, GTF Freese, Glamox Aqua Signal and Lindner Group.
Technology companies have interesting times ahead. Big cruise companies have evolved from modest starts and many still operate technology from their early days. Now that organisations like the US Coast Guard are implementing cybersecurity measures and other regulations, the technology world can smell a big opportunity. HPE Enterprise Services (soon to merge with CSC to become DXC Technology) and Cisco are both well placed to guide companies through a technology infrastructure rebuilding programme. The former (and likely the latter too) has some interesting projects in the pipeline that we’ll aim to share with you when further information is available for public release.
Few know more about the software scene in passenger shipping than Anders Rundberg, president of Carus, one of the many industry technology specialists exhibiting at the event this year. It will be interesting to follow how cruise lines and the big systems integrators draw on the vast experience available to them from within the industry to implement their new strategies.
The smart technology on show this year made a walk round the entertainment zone on level three pleasantly slow going as a number of demos provided a welcome distraction. I have already been online since returning from Fort Lauderdale to have another look at Velimo from Lufthansa Industry Solutions, DigiPublic from Allin Interactive and on-demand programming from Global Eagle (more to follow in part four).
Equipping the industry
My equipment stand visits included TTS Marine, Viking and SEA/LNG. I’m never disappointed by the first two and SEA/LNG was a new company for me, so it provided a good conclusion to a productive exhibition visit. The company’s LNG insights are particularly relevant today as the cruise and ferry markets both seek cleaner fuel alternatives – see more in its report on Accelerating the Adoption of LNG.
A short stop at the Katradis booth to say hello to Nicholas Arapis provided surprising insights into marine ropes. Only an expert perspective can articulate the importance of making an informed choice when selecting rope products. Price is a short-term, but key, factor, while safety attributes merit more than a cursory review of the options. Furthermore, Arapis will quickly point out that the purchase price can be misleading given that a premium product will have an extended life and may therefore significantly reduce the lifetime cost.
All good things come to an end, but for me it happened rather too soon as I left myself far too little time to enjoy the exhibition at a leisurely pace. I’ll try to remind myself of this for 2018, but will inevitably follow a similar path!
Part 2: Cruise line news
Part 3: State of the Global Cruise Industry