USA TODAY assembled five of the industry’s top executives in Miami earlier this month for a roundtable discussion on the topic: Adam Goldstein, CEO of Royal Caribbean International; Dan Hanrahan, CEO of Celebrity Cruises; Gerry Cahill, CEO of Carnival Cruise Lines; Kevin Sheehan, CEO of Norwegian Cruise Line; and Karl Holz, president of Disney Cruise Line.
With the exception of Celebrity Cruises, the other lines are key components of Port Canaveral’s thriving cruise industry. Carnival, Disney and Royal Caribbean are basing some of their biggest, most technologically advanced ships at Brevard’s port, which is among the busiest cruise ports in the U.S.
The port now hosts three 4,000-passenger ships and millions of annual cruise customers.
Q:What’s driving the growth in cruising, and can it continue?
Goldstein: You get a mix of benefits that you don’t get anywhere else, and people are gradually discovering that … in terms of the entertainment value, the service … the ability to see multiple destinations on a single voyage without having to pack and unpack all the time. Because it’s not an easy thing to sample, it's taken us longer probably than we would all have liked (to gain acceptance), but slowly, but surely … we’re penetrating the vacation population.
Q:Even with the rapid growth, 4 out of 5 Americans have never been on a cruise. For those would-be first-timers, make the case for cruising.
Hanrahan: The quality of the service and the experience, and the variety of experiences that you can have on board (from) dining to entertainment to activities, is just so much broader than most hotels could ever offer. (Also) it’s easy. People are so busy these days, and (with a cruise ship) you walk on and, from there, things are taken care of.
Cahill: If you go to most land-based vacation spots, they’re selling a room. We don’t sell rooms. What we're selling, or creating, is a vacation experience. When the guest goes home, they go home with memorable experiences, whether it’s a simple little thing like a family going back to their cabin after dinner at night and seeing a towel animal on the bed.
Q:What are the most common misperceptions about cruising?
Sheehan: One is (that cruising is for) an older demographic. Each of the brands has really done a good job of trying to show that this is meant for every demographic. For instance, with (Norwegian Cruise Line's new ship) the Epic, with the introduction of (such entertainment as) the Blue Man Group and Cirque Dreams and Howl at the Moon and Second City, we're showing this is really something for (a wide age range).
Q:Is seasickness holding back some of these 4 out of 5 Americans who have yet to try a cruise?
Cahill: I think price is a bigger issue. People have a perception that cruising is expensive, and they're comparing us to a hotel. What they don’t realize is the cruise price includes all the food (and) all the entertainment on board, and we go to all these great places. If they were to compare it (in an apples-to-apples way) to a comparable land-based vacation, the land-based vacation is probably more expensive.
Holz: One of the misconceptions that exists (for) Disney Cruise Line is it’s all kids, all families, and they’re all over the ship, and there's nothing for adults. We work hard to ensure there (are) adult options.
Q:One area that really has taken off is family cruising. How has that affected the way you design ships?
Cahill: I have two daughters, (and) what I quickly learned is when you’re going on vacation, whether or not you enjoy that vacation is dependent on whether or not your children enjoy that vacation. If it bombs for the kids, you’re toast. We very much gear our products now to provide a great experience with the kids. We all have (kids) clubs and activities, and we have these ropes courses and the water parks and things like that.
Holz: I was talking to some guests recently on a ship, and they were complaining because they never saw their children (due to all the activities). (Disney) is first an entertainment company, and so the way we think about things comes from how do we tell the story. So, obviously, the content that we have (at Disney) we put into play (on the ships), whether it's classic movies, contemporary movies or the latest from Disney Channel.
Also made a visit to Florida villas
Also made a visit to Florida villas