Cruise lines seek new ports, secure islands to visit

“You can only go to Cozumel just so many times” is a common complaint from frequent cruise travelers, bored with the same ports being offered by cruise lines year after year. As the cruise industry matures and more repeat passengers come back for more, they look to sail in some different directions.

Celebrity Cruises Eclipse will sail from Southampton boasting new destinations such as Reykjavik in Iceland, Genoa in Italy, and Ponta Delgada in the Azores. The 2012 return of the popular ship will bring revised cruise itineraries in response to guest demand including a series of eight and fourteen night cruises.

“Celebrity Eclipse is the most popular ship in the Celebrity Cruises fleet for UK and Irish holidaymakers, and we’ve further enhanced itineraries and destinations to keep guests coming back” explains Dominic Paul, Vice President & Managing Director, UK & Ireland.

New calls will be made to St Lucia in the 2012-2013 season too when Norwegian Cruise Line’s Norwegian Sun makes regular visits to the island.

Cruise line itineraries are chosen based on a number of factors including safety, size of the ships, where other ships are going and more. The decision greatly impacts ports visited, bringing in considerable tourist spending when ships call.

“This is incredibly exciting news for our tourism sector. St Lucians are thrilled to welcome Norwegian,” said St Lucia tourism Minister Allen Chastanet of Norwegian Cruise Lines move to visit the island adding that “the decision to include regular stops to St Lucia was made after the company sampled the island’s offerings with limited calls in 2009.”

Cruise lines seek new ports for other reasons as well. Some not so great for local economies.

New ports, as well as existing ports, must meet and maintain standards demanded by the cruise lines. Don’t meet the standards down the road? Cruise lines will pull out and go someplace else.

When violence in Mexico reached a level of concern, cruise lines, one by one, were quick to divert to different ports. To get them back, Mexican government officials had to prove their ports safe, secure and a good place for cruise ship passengers to visit.

The threat of cruise lines moving their mobile assets to safer waters happens commonly for weather-related issues too. As master of the vessel, the ship’s captain will occasionally skip ports or revise itineraries when weather conditions that day warrant staying out of harms way. That’s part of every cruise passenger contract, the agreement all guests buy into before boarding a cruise ship.

It may be rough seas that at a port requiring a tender operation using smaller boats to ferry guests to and from the ship. An approaching storm, not on the radar when the ship first started its voyage may cause a modified itinerary down the line.

Often discounted by travel purists as a lesser travel experience, there is a lot that goes into a cruise vacation and each sailing is unique. While it may appear that ships run the same routes over and over, these are ocean-going vessels manned by experienced seamen, not a ride at an amusement park. New ports are often planned years in advance and all factors that go into making for a safe, secure and enjoyable experience have to be in place before the first ships visits.

Flickr photo by Loimere