Executives pictured during the Ports Summit at SCG
Sunday 4th March
Holland America Line kicked off Seatrade Cruise Global (SCG) proceedings, taking advantage of the arrival of the international industry press by hosting a reception onboard Eurodam. British Airways and the London snow prevented my attendance, but feedback from others motivated me to promote my complaint to the top of my post-event task list. The European Union’s compulsory reimbursement, plus a handful of air miles, provided woeful compensation for missing a busy news day!
During the reception, Holland America revealed it has renewed its partnership with BBC Earth, this time combining live music with the awe-inspiring footage from the award-winning Planet Earth II. The concert will be featured across most of the fleet. Other noteworthy updates included the announcement of a series of new dining experiences created by the seven celebrity members of Holland America’s Culinary Council and the appointment of James Suckling as the line’s new wine curator.
The Baltic Sea cruise community also hosted its regular annual SCG reception at the Hilton hotel on the first day of the event. News from the Cruise Baltic association is always good these days, so it was little surprise that more records have been broken, with both Denmark and Norway hitting all-time highs. The tourism product is exceedingly mature in the Baltic region, and investment in ports and infrastructure is it to keep pace with demand. But Cruise Baltic director Claus Bødker is not one to sit back and wallow in current glory. He has led an initiative to produce a strategy that will direct the next evolution of the association. Sustainability and innovation are fundamental elements of this vision, with achievable goals.
Monday 5th March
Conference proceedings kicked off with the three-part Cruise Tourism Summit. Part one borrowed the current industry catchphrase ‘authentic experiences’ as its title. Attendees were reminded that the cruise lines (with significant support from their destination partners) have pioneered a clever blending of unique experiences to help immerse passengers in a destination, unlike the hotel competition which continues to rely on a file of brochures at the concierge desk. With shorex contributing such a big chunk of revenue to most cruise operations, this is a field that will continue to employ bright minds to envision the next bestseller. Geopolitics took half of the headline for part two of the summit, but it was the promise of simple tips for improving port ratings that filled the room. Two excellent panels guaranteed that the content would live up to the billing and, while it is certainly hard to find new information to share at these events, the Cruise Tourism Summit found sufficient nuggets to ensure my attendance in 2019.
Happy coincidences are commonplace at this event. While chatting to Felicia Zwebner, CEO of FZ Collection, about where the environmental conversation with cruise lines is going for furniture, I cited Hurtigruten as a willing ear. As I was talking, I saw Hurtigruten’s vice president of communications Rune Thomas Ege at the next table and decided it was the perfect chance to introduce the two. It was also a good opportunity to hear about the Norwegian company’s forthcoming new environmental report. Hurtigruten continues to champion greener shipping and its blueprint for excellence in this field will be compulsory reading.
Cruise Europe followed the Cruise Baltic with a party of its own onboard yacht Floridian Anticipation, berthed at the Hilton Marina. SCG has a vibrant social scene and this is one of the mainstays, providing an ideal opportunity to catch up with old friends and new. Under the leadership of Jens Skrede and Michael McCarthy, Cruise Europe is often cited as the benchmark for port association performance – providing easy access to a depth of knowledge and information that is cherished by port operations and planning teams from cruise lines around the world.
Royal Caribbean Cruises Ltd’s cocktail reception took us to the impressive Frost Museum of Science in downtown Miami. This press event provides a genuinely useful opportunity to engage with PRs, but the undoubted highlight is always to listen to chairman and CEO Richard Fain’s welcome remarks. Always candid, Fain continues to be one of the most compelling and engaging speakers. The line is renowned for innovating at an alarming pace, and every indicator is pointing at this trend enduring. But investments are being made across every facet of its operations as the company continues to take passengers to ‘Where Extraordinary Happens’.
Read ICFR's highlights from the third, fourth and fifth days of SCG.
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