News is breaking that there will be no Carnival cruise ships sailing in Europe in 2014. The abrupt pull out- and after the line’s first ever two-ship European season in 2013- is being blamed on the cost of high air fares from America to Europe.
The shock news comes after Royal Caribbean announced that Navigator of The Seas would not be returning to Europe in 2014. Instead, the fourth of the Voyager class ships will operate year round in the Western Caribbean.
Carnival has had a hit and miss relationship in terms of it’s European cruises, although their other core brands- Cunard, Holland America, P&O, Princess and- especially-Costa, will all continue to have a strong presence in both the Mediterranean and Baltic next year. Upscale Seabourn is also heavily committed to Europe, at least for the foreseeable future.
Several factors come into play; the weakened economies of southern Europe are not providing the passenger volumes required to offset the numbers lost from North America and Canada. Fares for all lines are at almost record lows; a sure barometer that over capacity and under occupancy have become unacceptable to Carnival boss, Micky Arison.
The deployment of Carnival Legend to Australia for 2014 had already been announced; she joins her sister ship, Carnival Spirit, in the buoyant and booming market ‘down under’. I thought it ominous at the time that no replacement ship for Europe was announced. Now we know why.
Some negative feedback has started to emerge from the delayed inaugural cruises of the revamped Carnival Sunshine, and this has possibly also been a factor in Carnival’s retrenchment. After a string of bad headlines early in the year, it is obvious that some radical re-thinking is going on over at Coral Gables.
Carnival never did get the same foothold in the European market as Royal Caribbean and, to a much lesser extent, Norwegian. It’s love affair with Europe has been skittish at best over the last decade or so. Time alone will tell whether this is just a brief ciao, or something much more long term.
Let’s hope not. European cruising needs all the diversity it can get.