Cruise operators expect steep growth in passenger numbers

The cruise industry has grown in recent years. In 2005, it attracted 13.6 million passengers worldwide, against 10 million in 2000, according to data supplied by Ocean Shipping Consultants, an independent, UK-based research company. The number is projected to grow to 18 million by 2010 and 20 million by 2015. In Europe, the number of cruise passengers is expected to grow from 3.2 million last year to 4.5 million in 2010. Costa Crociere, one of the biggest cruise industry firms in Europe and South America, saw its number of bookings rise 30 percent in December and January, year-on-year. «The year 2006 began with the best conditions, with a significantly higher number of bookings compared to last year, partly due to the successful pricing policy we launched in September 2005. This development shows that 2006 will be a marvelous year for us. In July we shall inaugurate our biggest Italian-flagged ship, the Costa Concordia, while in December we will be the first international company to offer departures from Dubai,» said Pier Luigi Foschi, Costa Crociere’s CEO. The operator carried 870,000 passengers in 2005, up 19 percent from 2004. Separately, Cyprus-based Louis Cruise Lines last week added to its fleet another vessel, the Sea Diamond, which will be deployed in the Aegean. The Sea Diamond, launched as Birka Princess in Finland in 1986, underwent a $26 million refurbishment in 1999 and was bought by Louis for $35 million. It can carry 1,250 passengers in 584 cabins and will begin three- and four-day cruises from Piraeus next month.