Good News in the Cruise Industry in 2006
Let's start with the good news. First, over 11.7 million vacationers cruised in 2006. These cruisers got to enjoy ships ranging in size from less than 100 passengers to over 3000. Cruise ships added new ports and new shore excursion options. Cruise ships visited all seven continents. Technology got better--many ships now have wireless Internet and/or allow passengers the ability to use their cell phones onboard. Cruises remain a terrific vacation value and a great multi-generational vacation option.
Seven large newbuild cruise ships were launched in 2006.
- Holland America Noordam
- MSC Musica
- Royal Caribbean Freedom of the Seas
- Princess Cruises' Crown Princess
- NCL Pride of Hawaii
- Costa Concordia
- NCL Norwegian Pearl
These ships added thousands of new berths and many new cruise options for travelers. The Royal Caribbean Freedom of the Seas was probably the most anticipated cruise ship since the the Cunard Queen Mary 2 in January 2004. At 160,000 GRT, the Freedom of the Seas is the world's largest cruise ship, carrying 3600 passengers and offering a wide variety of exciting amenities for its passengers. The other new ships are also each special in their own way and have expanded the number and diversity of cruises in Europe, Asia, Hawaii, and the Americas.
All vacationers like to have good weather, and 2006 had very few hurricanes in the Caribbean. (Of course, almost every year looks good compared to 2005!)
Bad News in the Cruise Industry in 2006
Now the bad news. The cruise industry had some rough bumps in 2006, including deaths, freak accidents, and norovirus outbreaks. However, cruising continues to be one of the safest vacation options. If you consider that over 11 million people cruised last year, the number of accidents, injuries, and even deaths is very low.
- Probably the worst cruise-related news did not even happen on a cruise ship. In March 2006, 12 cruise passengers were killed in a bus accident in Chile while on an independent (not ship-sponsored) tour.
- The same week, a fire broke out on the Star Princess. One passenger died of a heart attack, and 13 more were injured.
- In July, the brand new Crown Princess listed sharply, injuring several passengers.
- The year ended with several outbreaks of norovirus. Unfortunately, it only takes a few sick people choosing to cruise rather than stay at home to spread this infectious virus to hundreds of their fellow cruise passengers and crew. I still believe you are just as likely to pick up one of these nasty "stomach bugs" in the office or at the mall, but any outbreak on a cruise ship leads to lots of bad publicity.
The new year is here, and 2007 promises to be a great one for those of us who love to cruise if only because we will have several new ships launched to choose from. I'm sure there will be some "bad" news for 2007, but let's hope this year will be a safer (and healthier) one than 2006 for those of us who love to cruise.