Cruise Lines looking at new ports, carefully

Cruise lines sometimes seem to get in a rut on where they send ships. Many ports vie for their attention but long-established relationships with the governments and port authorities of existing ports set the bar high, often out of reach for new would-be ports of call. Still, many repeat passengers want to see new ports and if one cruise line does not offer them and another does, that repeat passenger may jump ship and sail with a different line. While most travelers have still never been on their first very cruise, many have been on a bunch of them and as the industry matures, ports are becoming more important all the time.

In the olden days of maybe 10 years ago, Eastern or Western Caribbean sailings were what mainstream travelers thought when they heard the word “cruise”. But those “tried and true” itineraries are becoming more “been there, done that” all the time so these days new ports are in clear focus.

Cruise lines try new ports for other reasons as well though. Carnival Victory, for example, has called on Antiqua from time to time in the past.

Antigua was dropped from the ship’s itinerary last year, after six American tourists, who’d arrived on the vessel, were arrested after a dispute with a taxi driver in 2009. The company said at the time that its decision was unrelated to the arrests and it had been contemplating moving the ship away from Antigua for some time because it had not modified its Southern Caribbean itinerary in four years. St Maarten replaced Antigua.

This is a big deal to Antiqua. They want that ship and all the passengers and all their money and their reputation as a safe place to call back. In fact, at the Cruise Shipping Miami show earlier this month, Antigua officials met with representatives of Royal Caribbean and Norwegian cruise lines to increase calls at the island by any ship. When Carnival Cruise Lines announced that Carnival Valor would be making monthly calls to Antigua starting in February 2012, that was big news.

Ok so chalk that loss up to security concerns, much like Mazatlan Mexico has been experiencing. Once branded as being unsafe, it is difficult for ports to regain the confidence of cruise lines who rabidly go after security issues, making sure ports are safe to visit.

Industry-wide, new ports are being considered and itineraries for existing sailings altered for other reasons as well. Recent turmoil in the Middle East and North Africa caused temporary changes by a number of lines causing hundreds of itineraries to change. That, no one can predict.

One thing seems certain though: Cruise vacations are still gaining in popularity and not going away any time soon. Look for new ports on the horizon as the industry matures, security issues are addressed or resolved and passengers look for new off-the-ship experiences.

Flickr photo by CircumerroStock