MarAd: Cruise Occupancy Rates Rise

Thursday, October 19, 2006
During the second quarter of 2006, occupancy rates on North American cruises rose to 112 percent, the highest second quarter occupancy over the last 4 years, according to figures released by the U.S. Department of Transportation’s Maritime Administration report, “North American Cruises” (Table 1).[1] The report found that 15.7 million passenger nights were booked on North American cruises, up 2 percent from the same period a year earlier. About 2.4 million passengers were carried on 1,065 cruises by the seventeen largest cruise lines, Growth figures (year to year) were lower than in recent years, due in part to a lull in new ship deployments. “The cruise ship industry is one of the fastest growing marine transportation sectors in the world and is very important to the American economy,” said Maritime Administrator Sean T. Connaughton.

The report also found that the North American cruise market is highly concentrated, with three companies, Carnival, Royal Caribbean and the Star Group accounting for 96 percent of the North American passenger nights (Table 2). By itself, Carnival accounted for 7 brands and 53 percent of the passenger nights. The top five departure ports in terms of passengers accounted for 55 percent of the North American departures during the second quarter of 2006, down from 60 percent 4 years earlier (Table 3). The cruise lines have been expanding the number of home ports for their fleets, thus reducing the cost of cruising by eliminating air fares to major cruise ports. Cape Liberty, Houston, Mobile and Jacksonville have emerged as formidable cruise ports.

The significant seasonal variation in cruise departures from Florida ports reflects the repositioning of cruise vessels to/from Alaska trades (Table 4). Departures from Miami and Fort Lauderdale declined by 336 thousand passengers from the first to second quarter of 2006, while departures from Seattle, Vancouver, Whittier and Seward increased by a combined 337 thousand passengers over the same period.

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