Over the past 10 years, the cruise industry has responded to extensive market and consumer research that has guided the addition of new destinations, new ship design concepts, new on-board/on-shore activities, new themes and new cruise lengths to reflect the changing vacation patterns of today’s market.

According to Cruise Lines International Association (CLIA), the industry will see continued diversification and global expansion. While the Alaska market is shrinking, many CLIA member lines have increased their presence in other parts of the world, including Asia, Canada/New England, the Indian Ocean and Africa, the Amazon and Brazil, the Middle East and the Arctic regions, including Newfoundland and Greenland.

Within Europe there are new cruise opportunities in the UK, Scandinavia and northern and eastern Europe. There is greater choice in world cruises and transatlantic itineraries as well.

Examples of newer or emerging ports around the world include Dubai, Abu Dhabi and Bahrain (the Arabian Gulf); Mumbai (India); Hvar, Korcula, Sarande (Adriatic); Sihanoukville (Cambodia); Iles Des Saintes (Guadeloupe); Sylt (northern Europe); Komodo (Indonesia); Puerto Rico’s “Virgin Islands;” Cooper Island, Coconut Grove, Turks and Caicos (Caribbean); Rovinj (Croatia); L’Ile-Rousse (France); Ischia, Cinque Terre and Puglia (Italy); Bonne Bay (Newfoundland); Itajai, (Brazil); Batumi (Georgia); Maputo (Mozambique); Ashdod and Haifa (Israel); Koper (Slovenia); and other ports along the Dalmatian Coast, in Japan and Korea and Indonesia.

Of particular significance for value-seeking consumers is the fact that CLIA member cruise lines offer cruises from more than 30 domestic home ports along the East, West and Gulf Coasts and major rivers in Canada and New England and the American Midwest and West. Over half the U.S. population is within driving distance of a cruise departure port. These “Close to Home” embarkation ports, providing the ability to drive to a cruise, further represent an opportunity for significant savings by eliminating the cost of airfare.

Some 72 percent of cruisers cite “close to home” ports as a reason they’ll be more likely to cruise, according to CLIA research. Benefits cited include added convenience (74 percent), ability to drive to the ship (71 percent), saving money on air travel (67 percent), avoiding hassles of flying to embarkation points (64 percent) and added vacation value (53 percent).

CLIA says the cruise industry remains the most exciting growth category in the entire leisure market. The industry has had an average annual passenger growth rate of 7.4 per cent per annum and more than 163 million passengers have taken a deep-water cruise of two or more days since 1980. Of this number, 56 percent of the total passengers have been generated in the past 10 years. Thirty-four percent of total passengers have been generated in the past five years alone.

Over the next three years, 51 million North Americans indicate intent to cruise. To date, approximately 19.9 percent of the U.S. population has ever cruised.

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