PHOTO: The wake behind Carnival Cruise Line’s Carnival Vista. (photo by Mark Leppert)
When it was uncertain that Cuba would remain open to roundtrip cruises from the United States, it was never a worry that the ships on the route would be incapable of redeployment.
Executives like Frank Del Rio, president and chief executive officer for Norwegian Cruise Line Holdings Ltd., repeat that in troubled times, cruise ships can go anywhere.
It’s true. A ship originally slated for the Caribbean can easily end up in Alaska or Europe seasonally, but often that’s the plan all along.
What may not be anticipated are geopolitical tensions or fears of terrorism that warrant ships go elsewhere. The latter has been the reason cruise lines have shied away from Turkey in the Mediterranean, for example.
More recently, cruise itineraries from China have stayed clear of South Korea due to heated relations between the two countries.
It was looking for awhile like the Trump administration would cease permissions for cruises to Cuba, but thankfully Norwegian Cruise Line and Royal Caribbean International were allowed to continue and Carnival Cruise Line has since been able to make its inaugural run as well.
If not, the Norwegian Sky, Empress of the Seas and Carnival Paradise, respectively, would just have had to cruise to lands beyond, likely still in the Caribbean.
In the Caribbean and the Mediterranean, there are plenty of alternative ports to go to when some become off limits, but such is not always the case. For the Chinese cruise market, the loss of South Korea as a destination has limited where local ships can head, particularly on itineraries with short durations.
In those cases, Japan is an option, but port capacity saturation is then a concern.
Once a booming market, cruise lines may have to rethink their long-term Chinese potential. Princess Cruises’ Majestic Princess—partially for this reason, as well as consideration of other growth markets—has opted to no longer dedicate itself to China year-round as originally planned. It also now has intentions for Australia-based cruising in 2018 and 2019.
When a cruise ship is built generically for any market, it is easy to deploy anywhere in the world, but when it is purpose-built like the Majestic, it is more challenging to take away.
Whether or not the ship will see any sort of redesign prior to its Australian deployment is still to be determined.
Still, the vast majority of cruise ships are geared towards the American market and can go pretty much anywhere in the world, catering to our sensibilities just fine.
As ships have aged out of their original brands, they have often gone on to later service international clients for different companies. However, now foreign markets are demanding new-builds as much as the American one, leaving older ships somewhat in limbo.
It’s easiest for the most popular fleets to deploy wherever they need to and still have a following, but mature vessels have a harder time of either competing in high-traffic regions or being handed down to other markets.
That’s why it’s always crucial for the cruise industry to be developing new port and destination options for the wide variety of international vessels to service. As long as they exist, there are plenty of places to go around for them all.
Having movable assets is a freedom that most shoreside industries don’t have. Even with its occasional challenges, including tracking complex global conditions, the international cruise fleet has it good compared to, say, a fixed retail shop with poor sales in a failing regional neighborhood.