Cruise Lines Flee Europe, Blame High Airfare, Again

cruise lines
Chris Owen

North American cruise lines really want to be friends with travelers from Europe. A number of times, various cruise lines have scheduled their largest deployment ever to Europe, only to pull back later when demand for their services was less than anticipated. Looking ahead to 2014, that trend looks to be continuing as major North American cruise brands cut back on European deployment. But there is more to this story than simply cutting back the number of ships in Europe, because the price of airfare for North Americans to fly across the pond is prohibitive.

Europe Out, Asia In?
Carnival Cruise Lines announced that it will leave the entire Europe cruise market behind in 2014, blaming the high cost of airfare to the region for its addition to an industry-wide exodus. Carnival will move Carnival Legend to Australia and leave the rest of its fleet in North America. Frankly, Carnival’s European deployment was mostly Mediterranean sailing and mostly in the summer as the line rolled out new ships Carnival Magic, Carnival Breeze and Carnival Sunshine. Those ships were going to be over there anyway because that’s where the shipyard is that built them. I always viewed Carnival’s European deployment as more of a deployment of convenience.

As a bit of a hint as to where Carnival may be headed, Carnival the corporation (which owns Carnival Cruise Lines, Princess Cruises, Holland America Line and others) has officially launched its regional office in Singapore. That move signals a rock solid step towards developing these markets.

Tweaking A Good Thing
Princess Cruises is not entirely abandoning Europe. They will move Pacific and Crown Princess to Alaska in 2014, leaving five ships in Europe. This is where Princess’ long history of being destination focused is paying off for the line of the Love Boat. Princess has garnered a reputation for sailing around the world, to some of the most exotic destinations on the planet.Princess mixes it up every year to keep things interesting; they have drawn on experience from their many long-serving employees at various stops along the way. This year, Princess is featuring reduced-pricing airfare to offset objections by cruise travelers over the perceived high-cost of flying.

Royal Caribbean plans on sending eight ships to Europe next year, including sailing giant Oasis of the Seas to sail three times out of Barcelona while the ship is over there for some routine maintenance. That’s down from nine ships sailing European waters this year and 12 ships in 2013.

This year, families with children 12 and under who book a 2013 Royal Caribbean Europe cruise aboard Navigator of the Seas, Brilliance of the Seas or Serenade of the Seas can enjoy free shore excursion tours for children when two adults in their stateroom purchase the same tour during May 2013.

Unlike Carnival Cruise Lines, a North American brand that has their trademark FunShip experience producing a fabulous cruise vacation like clockwork, Royal Caribbean is a truly international brand. Sending nine ships to Europe says one of two things, maybe more:

  1. They have been at it long enough that they figured out which ships are the right size to make money in Europe.
  2. Royal Caribbean just really has their act together and has the ability to sail around the world, all the time, year after year.

Oh, should I have sailed in Europe last year then?
This is not the first time North American cruise lines have pulled back on plans to offer what they do for European cruise travelers. Cruise lines were looking for more profitable waters to sail in when the economic depression occurred several years ago. Boasting their “biggest European deployment ever,” cruise lines were quick to turn back when Europe sailings did not fill up as they had anticipated.

The good part of all this is that cruise lines have the ability to move their mobile assets (floating hotels) to different parts of the world when economic issues, safety concerns or other reasons say repositioning is a good idea. Hotels that do not float cannot really do that.

Thinking about a European/Mediterranean cruise vacation? Now would be a good time to either go or begin planning. North American cruise lines want to sail there, but they need passengers to do that.

How to Plan an Affordable European Vacation

Good Winter Travel Season Deals Still Available

Winter Travel Season

Before, during or after winter travel season, the nation’s regions offering ski adventure travel options have something for everyone. The idea of climbing, hiking, camping or trekking through diverse areas had many travelers planning a 2013 winter vacation about this time last year. But those with no plans have options too.

“Put in now for end-of-January trips, but don’t expect deals around Presidents’ Day weekend,” says travel expert Pauline Frommer in a Reuters article.

President’s Day, like many other holidays, is a popular time for leisure travel and a peak booking of snow and cold-related adventures. The best hotel and resort rooms and money-saving packages, offered far in advance to jump-start bookings, are gone. Other discounted promotions will be few but some suggested sources can help.

“Check ski package deals from Southwest Airlines and Alaska Airlines,” says Frommer. “They both offer good lift ticket and lodging deals – especially if you’re willing to go mid-week instead of weekend.”

Looking to go away from the snow and cold? Land-based resorts, some all-inclusive, are a possible choice along with cruise vacations where unpacking once, we see several destinations on our floating hotel. The winter season brings cruise ships from Europe and around the world to luxuriate in the Caribbean sun. Still, the Caribbean is not the only warm place open for business over the next few months.

“I’ve found some of the best values to be in Central America,” suggests Frommer. “There are fairly decent air fares there. They’ve risen less than other parts of the world. Guatemala and Belize have some good hotel deals and there are some great adventures to be had there.”

Want to find specific ski adventure locations? This video may help:


Cruise lines slash prices, buyers cash in

Cruise lines slash pricesMaybe its a bad news spotlight or maybe just some last-minute bargains but cruise lines are slashing prices on everything from short 2-night sailings to longer 7, 10, and even 16-night cruises . Make it a quick getaway or long, relaxing escape, cruise lines have some of the best vacation values around right now.

“With a bit of flexibility, you’ll likely be able to snag a good rate, and maybe even a few added bonuses, such as onboard credits, prepaid gratuities and cabin upgrades” reports CruiseCritic.com.

Short sailings to the Bahamas like 2 nights on Celebrity Century from Miami on January 15th go for as low as $115 per person or do 4-nights January 21 starting at $279. In the Caribbean, 7 nights on Crown Princess from Fort Lauderdale January 15 start at $379 per person and Ruby Princess starts at $449 on the January 16th sailing.

Longer sailings are available too like Princess Cruises Ocean Princess 16-day South China Sea Holiday sailing December 22nd with prices starting at $899 per per person or a 10-day sailing to the Mexican Riviera on Sapphire Princess from Los Angeles for $599 per person on January 5th.

Check with your travel agent for additional savings which might include discounts for residents of certain states, active or retired military members, seniors, past guests, Canadians, or other special promotions which could get you reduced airfare, onboard credit, complementary upgrades or special gifts.

Flickr photo by Tom Mascardo