With the market for Mediterranean cruises flatlining for the foreseeable future, more and more of the big lines are starting to pull one or more of their ships out of Europe, choosing instead to deploy them out of US ports during the summer months.
Surprisingly, Alaska has not been a big beneficiary of this about turn; nor has New England really benefited too much (though signs are that may change). Bermuda is not slated to receive any more tonnage. Perhaps that’s just as well- the main piers at King’s Wharf are at almost maximum capacity now, as things stand.
No. The real winner will be the Caribbean.
For years- decades, in fact- the idea of summer Caribbean cruises was anathema to expansionist minded cruise lines. Europe, the great draw, could command far higher on board prices, plus much more of a mark up in terms of selling shore excursions and transfer packages. That combination of factors, plus the economy in fuel consumption gained by pottering overnight between not-too-distant ports of call, was a model followed by all the major players in the industry.
But now, the summertime Caribbean is firmly on the map. And I mean the Caribbean proper, and not just the year round succession of three and four day Bahamas junkets.
For our American friends, these trips are good news. They provide them with ‘drive-to’ options in many cases, sailing from ports such as Baltimore, Charleston, Galveston and even New Orleans, and allowing them to avoid the train wreck that is domestic air travel these days. And, of course, the mostly all inclusive nature of even a short cruise can beat any hotel for price and value.
Not forgetting Miami, of course, from where the gargantuan Oasis of The Seas and Allure of The Seas cruise the Caribbean year round. These incredible twin floating cities embark in the order of twelve thousand passengers between them, every week of the year.
And, of course, the region is less crowded in summer. Far fewer ships equals far more space to stroll, stretch, and just chill out. Temperatures are still going to make you smile. There’s less of a strain on the local infrastructures on all the islands; and that’s something that definitely puts everybody in a better, happier frame of mind.
So, availability and accessibility are all well and good. What about the negatives?
The obvious one is the stark fact that the summer months- June through November- still constitute Hurricane Season across the eastern seaboard as a whole. The arrival of the first hint of a storm can mean wholesale disruptions to Caribbean summer cruises, and sometimes a complete change of itinerary in extreme cases. If seeing Nassau is really important to you (though God knows why it would be) then you’re going to be more than a tad upset if you’re diverted to Newport, Rhode Island, instead. Chances are slight, to be fair; but they do exist.
Another factor is that, despite the downturn, many lines still like to showcase their most up to date new ships during high season in Europe. Obvious exception- Royal Caribbean once again. So, if you want to cruise on the latest ship with all the most up to date attractions and diversions, summer in the Caribbean might not float your own personal boat.
For us Europeans, the principal bugbear is now the stratospheric cost of transatlantic flights. Not the flights per se, but the appalling amount of punitive taxes added to each fare. In an age where perception is everything, we see rising fares and diminishing quality in terms of product delivery. And, until those twin subjects are addressed- or at least prevented from going further downhill- that will not change any time soon.