On the week of the cruise industry’s big annual convention in south Florida, industry leaders are uniformly upbeat.
“The state of the industry is really in the best place I’ve seen it in a long time,” says Celebrity CEO Lisa Lutoff-Perlo. “Things always happen that are out of our control, but I see a thriving industry, a growing industry, an optimistic industry.”
The Celebrity boss cites factors ranging from ship orders to positive responses to the cruise product in new markets.
There are issues of course, ranging from troubles in Turkey to concern about China. As for the U.S. itself, execs say they didn’t foresee the “crazy nature” of this year’s election cycle. Some industry leaders say that is creating uncertainty, which is never good for business.
Concerns about stock gyrations are waning. The Dow Jones is up past 17,000 again, and the scary slide in cruise stocks appears mostly to be in the rear-view.
“We’re getting pretty good at dealing with the small shocks,” says HAL’s Stein Kruse. “When it is sustained, that’s a different story. The major cruise companies are off their highs, but they are still doing well, and valuations are there.”
During the State of the Industry discussion at the Seatrade conference, Pierfrancesco Vago, Executive Chairman of MSC Cruises, pointed out that the company has 2 ships in Cuba and that they have found the infrastructure to be challenging.
Vago loves Cuba as a destination, but cautions no line is going to be able to bring in big ships at this time due to lack of infrastructure.
On a separate panel, Fathom President Tara Russell said she remains optimistic that Fathom will receive approval for Cuba. But, Russell doesn't expect any changes to the current situation until after President Obama’s visit to Cuba later this month.